Duchy of Wildflower Meadows
|Country||Principality of Wildflower Meadows|
|Founded||12 May 2016|
|• Duchess||HI&SH Princess Hannah|
|• Total||0.2554 km2 (0.0986 sq mi)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+1 (BST)|
The Duchy of Chester Meadows is one of the original two realms of the Principality of Wildflower Meadows, claimed on 12 May 2016. The Meadows were the site of the Principality's foundation, and as such are the highest in ceremonial precedence amongst Wildflowerian realms despite Deva Victrix (the other original claim) being the official capital.
In Roman times the Meadows were a plot of low lying boggy ground on the flood plain of the River Dee. The medieval names for the area - King’s, Earl’s, and Newbold’s Eye ("eye" meaning island) - suggest that part of the land spent periods under water, although archaeology conducted in 1993 found evidence of arable farming on the higher land in the north-western corner of the Meadows.. The individual field names also indicate the wet nature of the land with names such as Bog Field, Bottom and Gorsty Bottom Meadow ("bottom" meaning water meadow).
Over the last two hundred years the Meadows have become less wet, with the flow of the Dee controlled and the building of a substantial embankment and drainage ditches on the field margins. Although many of these ditches have silted up, their outline can be seen on modern aerial photographs. Georgian and Victorian engravings show cattle grazing on the Meadows and that they were also a popular venue for sporting activities, with the Chester Regatta based both on the Meadows and on the opposite bank.
In the tenth century the Meadows belonged to the English crown, but from 1071 were administered by the Earls of Chester. When the seventh earl died without any heirs in 1237, the land was reclaimed by the crown. In 1285 Edward I sold almost half of the Meadows - some 29 acres - to a Surrey nobleman, Randle of Merton. The land remained in the hands of the Mertons and their heirs, the Gleggs of Gayton, until the middle of the nineteenth century. Ownership of the other half is less clear, but it is known that a part was owned by a Gerrard family in the mid-1500s. In about 1850 both halves of the Meadows were bought by the Fielden family, wealthy owners of a cotton spinning business based in Todmorden. On 5 June 1929, Harry and Phyllis Brown bought the Meadows for £5000 from the Fieldens and donated it later that month to Chester City Council, asking as a condition of such "for the land to be forever maintained and preserved as a recreation ground for the use of citizens."
In September 2015, the now Princess Hannah took up term-time residency in a suburb of Chester upon beginning a four-year undergraduate course at the University of Chester. She began a romantic relationship with Emperor Jonathan I of Austenasia in November later that year, from which point he frequently visited her at the city. On 12 May 2016, during one of these visits, the Emperor granted his partner sovereignty over Chester Meadows (as well as the walled city to the west, with its Roman name Deva Victrix restored), founding the Principality of Wildflower Meadows with the Edict of Chester 2016. Hannah was crowned Princess of Wildflower Meadows as the principality's absolute monarch, and Chester Meadows were established as one of the first two realms of Wildflower Meadows.
Princess Hannah and Emperor Jonathan went on to visit the Meadows once a year with a picnic to mark the anniversary of the Principality's foundation (2018's was cancelled due to the couple being in Spain, and 2020's was postponed to 30 July due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions; the other visits all took place on 12 May each year). Said visits have been the only occasions since the Principality's foundation that either the Princess or Emperor have visited the Meadows, taking on a highly symbolic, semi-ritualistic importance. Despite Deva Victrix being the official capital of Wildflower Meadows, Chester Meadows retain ceremonial precedence due to their status as the site of the principality's creation.
On 13 December 2020, a photograph was taken of an alleged puma on Chester Meadows, and on 27 January 2021 another person reported a "really deep growl" coming from dense undergrowth. These reports came in the wake of various claims of big cat activity in the wider local area, with sightings, footprints, and fatal attacks on farm animals reported up until mid-2021.
Princess Hannah's time at the University of Chester ended in 2021, after her additional completion of a post-graduate degree, and she moved out of the city in January 2022. The annual visit to the Meadows by her and the Emperor went ahead in 2022, but was postponed from 12 May to the 21st of the month.
The realm of Chester Meadows measures just over 63 acres, forming the eastern extremity of the four Wildflowerian realms bordered by Cheshire, and is only connected to Maybridge by a border of roughly 490 feet at its north-west; the remainder of Chester Meadows' border is with the United Kingdom. The Meadows are encircled by the River Dee to the north and east, bordered by residential properties to the west, and to the south by a footpath on the other side of which are fields considered part of Chester Meadows proper but never included within the Wildflowerian claim.
Chester Meadows consists of a patchwork of wetlands, grasslands and meadows. The main entrance to the Meadows is situated at the border with Maybridge, from which two footpaths branch out, the main one north-east and a smaller one due east, both until they reach another footpath which follows the bank of the Dee around the north and east of the Meadows. Near the bank of the Dee, roughly halfway between the two points the encircling footpath meets with the two which come from the entrance, is the site at which the independence of the Principality was officially declared in May 2016.