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Champion of county... from Spanish Armada to Jools

PUBLISHED: 16:43 06 May 2009 | UPDATED: 11:45 12 August 2010

LORD Lieutenant Allan Willett can trace his ceremonial role back to the days of the Armada. Not bad for a man who today counts among

LORD Lieutenant Allan Willett can trace his ceremonial role back to the days of the Armada. Not bad for a man who today counts among his deputies the musician and TV favourite Jools Holland.

The office is undoubtedly historic but it has certainly changed with the times.

The businessman and former - and founding - chairman of the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) will serve as Lord Lieutenant until he is 75 in 2011.

He defines the aims of the modernised lieutenancy as being to provide "a focus for county identity, unity and pride, give a sense of stability, recognise achievements, success and excellence, and promote service to others".

Mr Willett adds: "Our aspiration is to celebrate Kent, its unique history and culture, serve its communities - and contribute positively to its future."

The Lord Lieutenant's Support Our Armed Forces campaign has involved taking a lead in encouraging all the county's local authorities to demonstrate their support with welcome home receptions and parades.

This is one of many examples of how, perhaps uniquely owing to its totally apolitical status and because it has no axe to grind, the lieutenancy is able to bring all manner of organisations together in a spirit of cooperation to further the interests of Kent and its communities.

This year's lieutenancy theme is celebrating the mosaic of communities that make up the county - and especially the work of the voluntary sector.

Other important lieutenancy duties include looking after members of the royal family and heads of state when they pay official visits to the county.

The Lord Lieutenant also chairs the County's Advisory Committee on Justices of the Peace and their appointment - and there are more than 850 JPs in Kent.

His deputies, who come from all walks of life and all parts of Kent, are selected by an appointments panel and honoured for their positive contributions to the county and the nation.

Lieutenancy appointments carry no pay and the deputies meet all their own expenses, including buying their distinctive Invicta-motif badges of office and uniforms - if they choose to wear one for appropriate duty occasions.

Why do they do it? Simply for love of the county and the satisfaction of being able to put something back into its communities.

Encouraging volunteering in the community is one of the lieutenancy's key roles.

As well as being a Deputy Lieutenant, Peter Hardy, from Shorne, is a trustee and chairman of Kent Community Foundation. The foundation raises funds from philanthropic individuals - including the Lord Lieutenant himself - and organisations and has distributed almost £11million to more than 3,500 projects since its formation eight years ago, benefiting tens of thousands of people in Kent.

He says: "The impact of all the hard and dedicated work volunteers do in Kent's communities is immeasurable and the lieutenancy is active in thanking them - and encouraging others to volunteer."

The lieutenancy's annual civic service is a happy occasion and a large contingent from north Kent attended this year's event at Rochester Cathedral.

The Lord Lieutenant also presents Queen's Awards for voluntary service - and for enterprise.

Highlighting all the positive achievements of our young people, representing as they do the future of our county, is another priority for the lieutenancy.

Spearheading the lieutenancy's youth initiative is Godfrey Linnett, chairman of Kent Youth. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, although he lives in Bromley, which now - like Bexley - is part of the Greater London Lieutenancy.

He said: "Two years ago the lieutenancy held a major celebration of youth achievement at the County Showground.

"We are currently planning a similar event there on May 15, 2010, and will be encouraging many youth organisations from north Kent to take part."

For more information on the Lieutenancy of Kent, visit www.lord-lieutenant-kent.info.

Clifftop show of strength as warships passed

CENTURIES ago, when invasion or insurrection threatened, the English monarch would appoint a lieutenant to organise the defence of each county.

But in Kent, as elsewhere, these were temporary appointments - for the duration of the threat only. It took the might of the Spanish Armada to make Elizabeth I, and her Privy Council, realise that a more consistent chain of command was necessary.

And so she appointed William Brooke, Lord Cobham, of Cobham Hall, as the frontline county's first permanent Lord Lieutenant.

His deputies performed efficiently. Within 48 hours they brought 4,000 men of Kent's trained - and untrained - bands to make a clifftop show of strength as the Spanish warships passed by.

This was quite a feat in the days before mobile phones and other modern means of communication and travel.

English fireships and storms scattered the Armada and the first news of its downfall was relayed to the Queen by the Kent lieutenancy.

When Cobham died, his son Henry became Lord Lieutenant, but ended up in the Tower for plotting to overthrow James I - not very clever when you are the sovereign's representative in the county.

Edward, Lord Wotton, took over and his surviving letter-book is full of fascinating insights into lieutenancy duties at that time.

It includes references to surveying royal woodland, disarming suspect families and organising the watch against wrong-doers on Shooters Hill.

Over the centuries the lieutenancy continued in its defence role, organising and commanding the militia and other volunteer forces.

But the changing face of warfare eventually made it necessary for all defence forces to come under national control, although today the lieutenancy still has close links with the armed forces and the cadet movement.

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