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Jersey cows: A right Royal love affair

Jersey cows: A right Royal love affair

Sunday 18 September 2022

Jersey cows: A right Royal love affair

Sunday 18 September 2022


As well as dead mallards, among the more unusual gifts offered by islanders to the Queen were Jersey cows - the result of a Royal relationship stretching back nearly 200 years.

After a failed attempt to set up a body to celebrate and communicate agricultural and horticultural innovation in Jersey in 1790, more than half-a-century was to pass before the idea became a reality.

It was, in part, thanks to Major General Thornton – the monarch's official representative on the island – that Jersey's first Agricultural and Horticultural Society eventually emerged.

On 26 August 1833, the Lieutenant-Governor chaired a meeting in St. Helier during which it was agreed that forming such a society would be "highly desirable".

This was during the 19th century, following the agricultural revolution, when many society's with similar ambitions were being set up.

In Jersey, the exact aims were to foster "a spirit of industry and emulation, to offer premiums for the improvement of agriculture, breeding of cattle, improved domestic economy, cleanliness and comfort in cottages", as well as encouraging "good behaviour among servants and labourers in the employment of members or subscribers of the Society".

Bolstering the Society's Royal connections early on was the appointment of Colonel John Le Couteur, who was elected Connétable of St. Brelade in 1826 and later Jurat in 1835, as Secretary.

At the time of the Society's foundation, he was Aide-de-camp to King William IV – a position renewed when Queen Victoria ascended the Throne in 1837.

Painting of Colonel John Le Couteur (1794–1875) by John Boeden, held in the Royal Court House, Jersey. CREDIT: Art UK.

Pictured: A painting of Colonel John Le Couteur, who later became President of the RJAHS and was knighted in 1872, by John Boeden, held in Jersey's Royal Court. (Art UK)

King William IV set what were later to become the tractor wheels in motion, conferring the first Royal patronage just one year after the Society was founded in 1834.

When she came into power in 1837, Queen Victoria shortly after granted Patronage upon the Jersey cow-promoting Society once more.

More than three decades later, the Queen's own farm at Frogmore House in Windsor – then home to around a dozen Alderney cows – was to welcome its first Jersey, a Pretty Polly.

16 years later in 1887, the now Royal Jersey Agricultural marked the occasion of Her Majesty's 50 years on the throne – and passion for the island's breed – with a Golden Jubilee combined cattle show. It was the first time the judging of cattle had taken place in public.

His Majesty King Edward VII continued the tradition of granting a Royal Patronage to the Society, as did his successor, King George V, who was presented with 'La Sente's Miss Bronzemine' at the Society's Springfield showground in 1921, and King George VI after him.

Queen Elizabeth II happily continued the tradition.

After unveiling a Royal Coat of Arms at the Royal Square, next stop on Her Majesty's first visit to Jersey after becoming Monarch in 1957 was Springfield, which was then the RJAHS' headquarters.

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Pictured: A postcard, featuring a Jersey cow, was created to commemorate the occasion of Her Majesty's first visit as Queen.

There, the Queen inspected 50 local cattle, gave an award for best specimen on show, and was presented with Beauchamp Oxford Lady, a five-year-old pregnant cow.

The expectant calf, the Queen was told, had been "sired by one of Jersey's most promising young bulls".

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Pictured: The Queen being presented with Beauchamp Oxford Lady, a five-year-old pregnant cow. (Jersey Heritage)

The Queen said the cows would be joining her Jersey herd at Windsor.

More than 20 years were to pass before her next visit – and another Jersey en-cow-nter.

Video: A news report about the 1957 visit to Jersey, including the Jersey cow presentation. (British Pathé/YouTube)

In the afternoon, 5,000 Islanders were at Le Petit Câtelet, St. John, for a specially arranged Country Show which the visitors attended.

The Royal couple were greeted by owner Anne Perchard, who presented them with Ansom Designette.

Pictured: The Queen enjoying the country show in St. John. (Jersey Heritage)

The Ansom herd had been carefully bred by the Perchard family for many generations, and it was estimated that the gifted prize Jersey cow was worth an estimated £1,000.

But Ansom Designette wasn't the only cow to be gifted to the Queen that day.

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Pictured: Anne Perchard presents the Queen with prize cow Ansom Designette. (Jersey Heritage)

Having recently become grandparents to Peter Mark Andrew Phillips, Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh were presented with a soft Jersey cow toy by St. Helier Girls' School students, Lesley Smith and Kerry McIntosh.

Incidentally, perhaps inspired by this early toy, in 2020, Mr Phillips was spotted fronting an advert for a Jersey milk brand in China.

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Pictured: Students from St. Helier Girls’ School presented the Queen with Jersey cow toy for her new grandson. (Jersey Heritage)

As with previous visits a special agricultural show was put on for the Queen to visit when she returned in 1989, this time at Howard Davis Farm.

Again, she was given a cow to add to her herd at Windsor.

Her Majesty was less fortunate during her 2001 visit, however.

Queen-Cows-HowardDavisFarm-1989-CREDIT-JerseyHeritage.jpg

Pictured: A special cattle show was put on for the Queen at Howard Davis Farm during Her Majesty's 1989 visit.

At the time, there was an outbreak of Foot and Mouth, a highly contagious viral disease that cattle are particularly prone to.

As a result, like all visitors to the island at the time, as the Queen alighted from the Royal helicopter at People's Park on 13 July, she had to clean the soles of her shoes by walking through a tray of disinfectant.

In the afternoon, the Queen officially opened the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society's new headquarters in Trinity.

The society apologised that, because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, they could not stage a cattle show as they had on most of Her Majesty's previous visits, but did promise, as they had done in the past, to gift a cow once the pandemic was over.

In the meantime, the Queen seemed happy to make do with a pen and ink drawing of a Jersey cow sketched by five-year-old Charlee Hutchison, the winner of a local competition held to present the Queen with a work of art.

The Queen also came face-to-face with another work of art, the first in a series of bronze cows being cast to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the World Jersey Cattle Bureau, which were to be unveiled in West's Centre in the centre of town later in the year.

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Pictured: The bronze cows, which were first shown to the Queen a the RJHS before being installed at West's Centre, remain a much-loved fixture of town today. (RampArts)

Another mark of the special relationship with the Jersey cow came in 2018, when Buckingham Palace granted permission to the Jersey Society of the UK to hold its 135th AGM at Windsor Herd. More than 100 members were welcomed into the rarely seen grounds, and given a special tour of what is now one of the oldest pedigree Jersey herds in the UK.

In another demonstration of Her Majesty's lasting love of Jerseys, a photograph of the gifting of Beauchamp Oxford Lady was chosen to represent the year 1957 in the Palace's '70 for 70' photo series marking the Platinum Jubilee.

Following Her Majesty's passing on 8 September, the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society said it was with "great sadness" that they had learnt of the death of their Patron.

The organisation subsequently wrote to King Charles III to express their condolences.

While it remains to be seen how our new Monarch will rule, it's likely that His Majesty will continue the tradition of passionate support for the Jersey breed.

Beyond his lively backing of agricultural and small-scale farming, a search of the Royal Warrant Directory – a list of all products regularly supplied to Royal households – suggests that he holds the products of Jersey cows in high esteem too.

Beckington-based and family-run "supplier of organic Jersey dairy products" Ivy House Farm holds a Royal warrant by appointment to Charles III.

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