Prince Charles makes Arun District Council leader an OBE: 'it is a memory I shall treasure forever'

Arun District Council leader Gillian Brown from Bognor Regis is made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire.
Arun District Council leader Gillian Brown from Bognor Regis is made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

The leader of Arun District Council said being made an OBE by Prince Charles was a ‘memory I shall treasure forever’.

Gillian Brown went to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, November 21, and was made Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to local government and the community in West Sussex.

She said: “I was both thrilled and honoured to have been awarded an OBE for my service as a councillor for the past 27 years.

“It was a huge privilege to go to Buckingham Palace for my investiture with HRH Prince of Wales last Wednesday and it is a memory I shall treasure forever.”

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She described the heir to the throne as a 'really sweet and really kind, nice person' who took an interest in her work.

The grandmother asked him if he had ever been to Bognor, to which he replied he had not. So she told him the tale of how King George V and Queen Mary, his great-grandparents, stayed in the town so the king could recuperate from lung surgery and agreed to bestow the suffix of Regis to Bognor - but not before allegedly saying 'bugger Bognor', which Mrs Brown said caused the prince to 'burst into laughter'.

Prince Charles is not the first royal to be entertained by Bognor in recent months; his son Harry, Duke of Sussex, was fascinated by Butlin's during an official royal visit to the town with his wife.

The veteran politician did not have far to travel for her royal appointment, as she stayed with her son-in-law Philip Hammond, the chancellor of the exchequer, at his home at 10 Downing Street the night before and drove up The Mall to Buckingham Palace. Here, she was given a sticker allowing her to park in the centre of the palace grounds.

Accompanied by her daughter Susan Hammond, her son Nick Williams-Walker and daughter-in-law Alison Williams-Walker, Mrs Brown arrived at 9.30am, where she was shown how to curtsy by the Lord Chamberlain William Peel, the Earl Peel, who is head of the royal household, ahead of the ceremony at 11am. She said: "It really lightened the atmosphere, seeing a 6ft 4in man showing us how to curtsy.

"Everyone laughed and relaxed - we were all quite tense, as you can imagine."

Among the group was actor Hugh Laurie, who was made a CBE, and happened to be one of Mrs Brown's favourite actors. While she did not get a chance to speak to him, she was stood behind him in the queue to be honoured by Prince Charles, describing her close encounter as 'really exciting'.

After she was made an OBE, Gillian went back to 10 Downing Street for a celebratory lunch with family - and her son-in-law, after he had finished Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

Mrs Brown has been leader of Arun District Council for 12 years and a district councillor since 1991. She represents the ward of Aldwick East. She has been a board member of the District Council Network since its inception in 2006 and speaks on planning matters on behalf of the 201 district councils.

She has also been a long serving member of the Local Government Association and is also a member of the Councillors Forum and South East England Council.

In 1978, the Conservative councillor co-founded the Aldwick Preservation Society and became the first treasurer. She continues to actively support the society, championing the maintenance and upkeep of the environment in Aldwick village.

She said: "I love politics; I come from a political family and I have always been taught by my parents that everywhere I live I should give something back. I have always tried to do something for the community."