Royal Charter 400 was the climax of the year-long festival commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England in March 1603.
Almost a year later, in April 1604, King James VI/I granted a royal charter to Berwick-upon-Tweed which enshrined many of the customs and institutions that make the town so distinctive today.
The Festival was organised by Derek Sharman for the Friends of Berwick & District Museum & Archives with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Royal Charter 400 -30th April to 3rd May 2004
The Freedom Parade & Beating Retreat- 30th April
The programme began on Friday 30th April with a parade of the three regiments that had the Freedom of the Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed. This was the first and only occasion when the three regiments exercised their rights to march through the town with “drums beating, Colours flying and bayonets fixed”.
Taking part were the Regimental Band and soldiers from 1st battalion, Coldstream Guards, Corps of Drums of 1st Battalion and soldiers of 2nd Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the Pipes and Drums and marching detachment of 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers. A Guard of Honour for the Mayor, Civic Party and other guests on the Saluting Dais in Marygate was found by the crew of HMS Northumberland.
Later in the day, the Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards and the Pipes and Drums of The King’s Own Scottish Borderers performed the Ceremony of Beating Retreat in the Barracks Square.
Riding The Bounds - 1st May
Each year, on 1st May, a cavalcade of over 100 riders gathers at The barracks then processes through the town before following a circuit round the ancient boundaries of the Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Before the riders leave the town, the Chief Marshall s given a stirrup cup by the Mayor, who wishes the cavalcade “Safe Out and Safe Home”.
The Royal Charter 400 Riding of The Bounds featured a troop of cavalry in 17th century costumes and representatives from Berwick’s twin towns of Saarpsborg in Norway and Trzcianka in Poland.
Charter Re-enactment & Living History - 2nd & 3rd May
A re-enactment of the arrival of King James’ Charter in 1604 was attended by the Mayor and Sheriff of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Freemen of Berwick.
Throughout the weekend, members of the English Civil War Society recreated life in Berwick in the 17th century, including a quayside market and demonstrations of crafts of the period.
The River Tweed Festival - 3rd May
Royal Charter 400 ended with a Bank Holiday Monday programme of displays, drama, dance and entertainment celebrating Berwick’s river and maritime heritage.
The River Festival was sponsored by Northumbrian Water and featured the 17th century quayside market, a visit by the three-masted ketch “Silvery Light” and marquees on the green in Tweedmouth containing a variety of display stands and an exhibition of historic boats provided by Eyemouth Maritime Museum..
The programme also included children’s entertainers Captain Bullock and Bosun Bell, a dramatic retelling of the story of local heroine Grace Darling, and music, song and dance with a nautical flavour performed on stages beside the River.