His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales visited Jesus College today to mark the appointment of our new Jesus Chair of Celtic and to learn about our student access initiatives in Wales.
His Royal Highness first visited College in 1971 to open the Habakkuk Building as part of our 400th anniversary celebrations and was welcomed back by current Principal, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, and Lord Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford. He was greeted by sixty primary school children, all holding bunches of daffodils, from three Welsh schools which form part of our Welsh Access Programme. He also met Dr Matthew Williams and Shelley Knowles, who oversee all the College’s access programmes.
Jesus College is known as ‘the Welsh college’ - it was founded in 1571 by Queen Elizabeth I at the request of a Welsh lawyer and clergyman, Hugh Price. We continue to maintain strong links with Wales today. For example, our Welsh Access Programme reaches out to young people in underserved communities across the country to encourage them to think about applying to Oxford. The College’s inclusive ethos means we aim to attract and select the very best applicants based on their academic potential rather than their socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion or school-type.
His Royal Highness then attended a private reception in the Principals Lodging where he met Jesus College alumnus and supporter Oliver Thomas and his family. Mr Thomas, a managing partner at Grafton Capital which he founded in 2014, has recently donated £1m to support our flagship Welsh Access Summer School. The Summer School is a collaboration with the Welsh government’s Seren Network and enables sixth formers in Welsh state schools to experience life at the University of Oxford in order to encourage more applications from a cohort that is often underrepresented.
His Royal Highness then moved to Hall where he met a specially-invited group of College alumni and members, including the newly-appointed Jesus Chair of Celtic Dr David Willis. The Jesus Chair of Celtic has been entrusted to support the scholarship and preservation of Celtic languages, literature and history at the University of Oxford since 1877 and is the only Professorship in Celtic at an English University. Dr Willis’ appointment comes following an eight-year hiatus and a £3.25m fundraising campaign to permanently safeguard the role.
While in Hall, His Royal Highness also enjoyed a recital of the Gweddi Coleg Iesu, a Welsh Prayer sung by members of the student consort choir directed by Peter Parshall, Chapel Music Coordinator. He viewed the Red Book of Hergest, which is owned by College and kept at the Bodleian Library. The book, one of the most important written in Welsh, is a compilation of chronicles, mythology, romances and court poetry. College Librarian Owen McKnight, who had the honour of showing His Royal Highness the book alongside Thomas Charles Edwards, Emeritus Professor of Celtic, said, “The Red Book of Hergest was written shortly after 1382 and is one of the most important medieval manuscripts written in the Welsh language. The Prince was shown a page that details the herbal remedies of the legendary Physicians of Myddfai.”
Principal Nigel Shadbolt said, “It is a huge privilege to welcome back His Royal Highness to Jesus College to join us in marking the appointment of our new Chair of Celtic and our schools access programmes in Wales. His support for Wales and the people of Wales reflects our own passion for creating a College community that celebrates Welsh culture through its research, activities and people. We also share his values around sustainability and the environment, which echo the views and concerns of our Fellows and students.”