Prince Charles makes Southend-on-Sea a city as a tribute to stabbed MP Sir David Amess

Prince Charles speaks at the ceremony where Southend-on-Sea was officially given city status following the death of Sir David Amess. Credit: PA
Prince Charles speaks at the ceremony where Southend-on-Sea was officially given city status following the death of Sir David Amess. Credit: Press Association

Prince Charles said Southend-on-Sea was a "marvellous example to our nation" as he officially gave it city status as a tribute to the late Sir David Amess.

The Prince of Wales presented the Essex community with a legal document known as a Letters Patent on behalf of the Queen and following the fatal stabbing of the area's MP in October 2021.

Sir David had campaigned throughout his political career to have Southend made a city but was attacked during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea before he had achieved his goal.

The 69-year-old, who had served as Conservative MP for Southend West since 1997, was posthumously made the first freeman of the new city in a ceremony on Tuesday.

Conservative MP Sir David Amess with his pugs, Lily and Boat

Speaking at a council meeting in Southend, the prince paid tribute to the MP and compared his killing with the atrocities taking place in Ukraine.

"No one could have given more for the values that underpin the society we share, values which appear all the more precious at this present time when we see more starkly than for many years the appalling suffering and devastation caused when the path of violence is chosen," said Prince Charles, who was joined by his wife the Duchess of Cornwall.

"What we saw of the terrible tragedy in Southend was an attack on democracy, on an open society, on freedom itself. We are seeing those values under attack today in Ukraine in the most unconscionable way. In the stand we take here, we are in solidarity with all those who are withstanding brutal aggression."

'A marvellous example'

He went on to say that the way Southend had reacted following Sir David's death had been a "remarkable and inspiring way to bring good out of evil".

"Today Southend is a city," he said. "And as we celebrate and honour that fact, we remember it is always crucially a community. By that measure, ladies and gentlemen, Southend is a marvellous example to our nation."

Prince Charles recalled meeting Sir David on a visit to the Palace Theatre in Westcliff-on-Sea in 2014, describing him as "a renowned and respected parliamentarian and an effective campaigner on many national and local issues".

"Today, we mark the culmination of that dedicated campaign - and yet, how we all wish we could celebrate the occasion without the shadow of the dreadful event which took the life of such a devoted public servant," he said.

"I am only too aware that today's ceremony cannot possibly replace the agonising loss felt by Sir David's widow, Lady (Julia) Amess, and their five children, but I do hope it will offer at least some small comfort in such unbearable sorrow."

He said he hoped the new city would "continue from strength to strength, honouring the memory and legacy of Sir David Amess - one of its greatest ambassadors - and inspired always by the example of his dedication to the community he loved".

Lady Julia Amess (centre) is presented with the freedom of the City of Southend on behalf of her late husband MP Sir David Amess. Credit: Press Association

Lady Julia listened to the ceremony and accepted Sir David's posthumous honour.

'A dream come true'

Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, a friend of Sir David's, read a statement on behalf of Lady Julia and her family.

"Despite a traumatic and tragic journey, we have arrived at the city of Southend-on-Sea," she said.

"How thrilled our husband and father would be to know that Her Majesty the Queen has bestowed such a huge honour to the people of Southend-on-Sea in his name.

"A dream come true, and he would now be wanting to get out there and make the very best of this huge opportunity for the city.

"There would have been talk of nothing else in our home or indeed whenever he spoke in Parliament. How we wish that this could be.

"Of course, David was very well aware that city status would not have been possible without the help and hard work of so many people.

"The people of Southend-on-Sea came together and look what they achieved.

"We know they will continue to work together in friendship and with pride to promote their city."

Ms Widdecombe said that, on behalf of Sir David, the family "wish to say thank you to the amazing people in the community who have achieved so much for Southend".

The statement concluded: "We are, of course, filled with sadness that he's no longer with us but his legacy is huge and we are so grateful to have had him in our lives and to know that he will never be forgotten."