The Community Secretary has proposed old county names (39 in all) be restored to champion English history.
It annoyed me 40 years ago when the Isle of Ely, roots entrenched in pre-Conquest England, was binned in favour of the sterile title ‘Fenland’. For more than a thousand years, the historic region was agreed with the original title, the oldest title in the land I think. It played a pivotal role in shaping our national history, greater than any other rural area: a place of rebellion, the last area to fall to invading Normans opposed by Hereward the Wake, who almost ruined William the Conqueror’s ambition to rule the land. Fenman Oliver Cromwell lived at Ely for 11 years and dragged the country from the depths of royal neglect and set it on the pinnacle of world respect. Then there’s the inspirational drainage story declared impossible by foreigners. The Commonwealth of Nations was conceived in the Isle of Ely, a strong Puritan stronghold.
Resurrecting county titles to champion the rich tapestry of England would be a fine thing and educational too. The Isle’s importance has been wilfully neglected. It was a rare palantinate governed by the Prince Bishop of Ely. His authority was absolute and even the king dared not interfere with the bishop’s jurisdiction.
The Isle possessed a fine state sword carried before the bishop in processions. It should never have been buried with Bishop Sparke at Ely Cathedral in 1846 when, by law, the ancient palatinate ceased to exist.
Re-establish our national identity blazonet in our county titles and enhance our pride in the county’s achievements. Bring back the living history of our achieved Isle of Ely which contributed so much to national and international history and more important, teach it at our schools.