A well known farmer from South Petherwin said he was “surprised and honoured” to discover he was to receive Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the New Year’s Honours for his work on the Prince’s Council.

Queen Victoria set up the Royal Victorian Order, separate to the Empire Medals, as a means of honouring people for their services to the monarch.

Mark Thomas, of South Petherwin, formerly the High Sheriff of Cornwall and a familiar face at the local agricultural shows, said it had been a wonderful surprise to receive this title shortly after retiring from a job he couldn’t have been more passionate about.

Mark was a member of the Prince’s Council, which provides advice to the Duke of Cornwall with regard to the management of the Duchy.

Explaining how he got involved, Mark said: “I was privileged to have a seat on the Prince’s Council for 14 years from 2006 to 2020.

“I never went looking for anything like that, I was very happy farming and then out of the blue Jenny [wife] and I were invited to a dinner, which was attended by His Royal Highness.

“His staff were down on a sort of recce ahead of a Royal Visit and it became an opportune time to vet me for a position on the council.”

Later that year he and Jenny were invited to the opening of the Duchy Originals Pasty Factory in Launceston, which is now the Bridge Church on Pennygillam. To their surprise they were ushered over at the end to meet the then Prince for a ‘quick chat’.

Mark joked: “We were introduced and the first thing he asked me was could Jenny make a pasty... It was shortly after this discussion that I was offered a place on the council.”

Mark enjoyed his work with the council very much, which was clear from the enthusiasm with which he spoke.

Talking more about his role on the council, Mark elaborated: “The Prince of Wales doesn’t receive much from the national purse so his income is derived wholly and solely from the Duchy of Cornwall — which is in effect a business.

“My role on the council was as a tenant farmer, however, I had never been a tenant of the Duchy, which was vital in a sense as I had to remain independent.”

This independent view allowed Mark to visit the local farms on the estate and report back with a grassroots view of tenant’s and rural life to His Royal Highness.

“The Council would meet twice a year and His Royal Highness would always chair that meeting.

“In the first few years there were very few changes in farms, like new tenants, but as time went on more farms became available to let and so myself and Lady Arran at Castle Hill near South Molton would travel together as we were on the rural committee together. His Royal Highness would expect us to be at the viewing days of farms to meet interested parties and narrow them down.

“Once the new tenants were in His Royal Highness would like to visit them within the first two years and it was part of my job to escort him to those farms.”

Mark never got involved with tenant/landlord disputes but he was a friendly face the tenants could come to with their issues.

After many enjoyable years working on the council, soon came the time to retire. In 2020 he stepped down and into a new role as High Sheriff.

Mark concluded: “I was surprised and honoured. To be honoured for something you have enjoyed every minute of doesn’t seem right but it’s a huge honour.”