Prince Charles visits Oxford

Image Description: Prince Charles joins EU leaders at Low Carbon Prosperity Summit.

On the 8th of June, Tuesday, the Prince of Wales visited Somerville College as it celebrates its 140th anniversary and marks 100 years of Oxford degrees for women.

Prince Charles was greeted on arrival by Somerville’s Principal, Baroness Janet Royall. Baroness Royall accompanied His Royal Highness through the college gardens to the oldest part of the college, to view an exhibition celebrating the centenary of women being awarded Oxford degrees. The Prince was then introduced to the Directors and scholars of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD) to discuss their work advancing research on the complex challenges and opportunities posed by sustainable development in the Indian subcontinent. OICSD is a ground-breaking Oxford-India partnership created to advance knowledge on the complex challenges and opportunities associated with sustainable development in India. His Royal Highness then met with students and staff involved in Somerville’s Sustainability Working Group before planting a tree to commemorate the visit.

Somerville was picked as it was created for women at a time when universities refused their entry, and so was an important step in leading to allowing female students to enrol at the university. Following dedicated work lasting many years by Principal Emily Penrose (1848-1942) and others, the University of Oxford finally granted women the right to matriculation and to all degrees in 1920. Furthermore, Somerville was the first Oxford College to be founded as nondenominational and it remains religiously non-aligned to this day. This is an issue close to Prince Charles’ heart, as he has voiced his intention to be crowned defender of the faiths rather than that of only the anglican faith when he succeeds Queen Elizabeth II. It also leads in sustainability initiatives that include the adoption of locally sourced or sustainably produced food (including more plant-based options) and, as of March 2021, a full divestment from fossil fuel. Under the guidance of its Sustainability Working Group, the college is implementing a subsidised scheme to encourage academics and students to reduce their carbon footprints by avoiding air travel. 

After his visit to Somerville, the Prince of Wales went to the Oxford Botanic Garden to mark the Garden’s 400th Anniversary. As patron of the Garden since 1991, he looked at the Garden’s work in research, conservation, education and inspiration for a new generation of botanists. The Prince was greeted on arrival at the Garden by Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Simon Hiscock, Director of the Botanic Garden and Arboretum and Mr Mark Brent, Botanic Garden Curator and Head of Horticulture. Prince Charles has always been interested in horticulture as shown by the royal gardens of Highgrove whose creation he was heavily involved in. As is said on his website, “The garden at Highgrove embodies The Prince’s environmental philosophy: that it is better to work with Nature than against it.”

After the visit to royal botanical gardens, Prince Charles visited the famous Mini plant in Cowley Oxford where he was greeted on arrival by members of MINI UK’s senior management team. Again, sustainability and environmental work were of key importance to this visit, as his royal highness heard about the importance of electric cars in helping to reduce CO2 emissions and BMW Group’s ambitious targets in this regard. The company has committed to reducing CO2 from its production operations by 80 percent by 2030, compared to 2019 and by 40 per cent for its cars over the same period. The Plant in Oxford features one of the largest roof-mounted solar power plants in the country with enough power to supply 850 houses.

According to the Palace, Prince Charles has taken many steps personally to live in a more sustainable way. Around half of his office and domestic energy use comes from renewable sources such as wood chip boilers, air-source heat pumps, solar panels and “green” electricity. Their Royal Highnesses’ Household “strives to minimise its environmental impact across its activities, including travel, energy use and the indirect impact of the products and services it uses.”

Image credits: European Parliament via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0