Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal on Friday 20th May 2016 opened the Kennel Club's new headquarters in Clarges Street, Mayfair, exactly 100 years after the Club purchased offices a stone's throw away at 84 Piccadilly.
Her Royal Highness, who was representing the Club's Patron, Her Majesty The Queen, met past Kennel Club chairmen, vice-presidents and current General Committee members. Also present were members of the various building project teams who oversaw the Club's move from 1- 5 Clarges Street, on the corner of Piccadilly, which had been its home since 1956.
The Kennel Club has enjoyed the Royal patronage of the Monarch ever since the Club's inception in 1873 when the role of Patron was taken on by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. At this time, the Club was located in Victoria Street; it later moved to seven other London locations including Regent Street and Savile Row before settling in Mayfair a century ago.
First to arrive at today's special ceremony was the Princess's cousin, HRH Prince Michael of Kent, the Club's President who is active and supportive of the Club and who regularly attends Crufts. The Prince spent time chatting with attendees and appeared particularly impressed by the Club's various paintings which adorn the new club rooms. He later made an impromptu visit to the Club's art gallery where he greatly admired an exhibition on the Labrador Retriever - a breed he has owned and is particularly fond of, as are both the Queen and the Princess. Among the paintings in the exhibition is one of the Prince with two of his dogs in front of Kensington Palace.
After about half an hour, the Princess arrived and was greeted by a guard of honour comprising six members of staff and their dogs. The Princess made a particular point of stopping to speak to each owner, as well as to everyone present before the serious business of the day began.
Simon Luxmoore, the Club's chairman, opened proceedings by welcoming Their Royal Highnesses and everyone present. He explained that the sale of the previous building had been agreed by the General Committee three years ago and had enabled the Club to secure this new freehold building as well as additional funds to invest in the work the Club does. "It has also enabled us to fulfil what we see as our primary responsibility - the health and welfare of dogs", he said, at which point one of the dogs in the room barked as if in complete agreement, much to the amusement of the Royal party and of everyone present. He ended by thanking everyone involved in the building project and especially British Land, Laing O'Rourke and MCM, as well as the Club's own team.
The Princess then took to the lectern and began by passing on the best wishes of Her Majesty The Queen to both the Club and to the Prince as Club President. "The Kennel Club has been key to our understanding of dogs", she said. "Having a solid base of knowledge is very important - we would lose that at our peril."
She went on to stress the importance of education and training for new owners. "This is something you share with the equine world", the Princess said. "People who are not brought up with dogs do not understand the basics."
She ended by wishing the Club well in its important scientific work and said she hoped everyone would enjoy the new building. "I must admit I am feeling a bit guilty as I am enjoying it already", she quipped to spontaneous laughter at which point she unveiled the plaque commemorating the occasion to much applause.
Next the Rt Hon David Conner, the Dean of Windsor, blessed the building. He is not without his own royal connections, as he has been private chaplain to the Queen for 18 years and lives at Windsor Castle. "We ask God's inspiration and guidance for all who work for the welfare and protection of dogs, that they might always hold in their hearts a sense of compassionate responsibility for the animals entrusted to their care," he said.
Closing the official proceedings, the Princess presented the Prince with a signed photograph of the Queen as a gift to the Club. The image portrays Her Majesty - whose Windsor line of Pembroke Corgis is the oldest not only in the UK but also the world - seated with two of her beloved dogs by a waterfall on the Balmoral Estate. "The photo was the Queen's choice - and is very appropriate, I feel", said the Princess. "It is very symbolic of the Queen as well as of the important work the Kennel Club does."