Queen Victoria originally handed the territory the honour 180 years ago, but an administrative mistake put paid to the monarch's wishes
It was back in 1842 that Gibraltar’s fate was sealed with an administrative error at the hand of Queen Victoria.
But some 180 years on, the territory will on Monday be given city status – finally fulfilling the wishes of the monarch just a little later than planned.
The territory, which has been British since the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713, was first granted city status by the monarch in the fifth year of her reign in 1842.
But it was omitted from the list of recognised cities because it was awarded under Diocesean Letters Patent, rather than the normal City Status Letter Patent.
Until now, this meant Gibraltar, which is located in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and dominated by its world-famous Rock of the same name, never featured on the Home Office’s official list of recognised British cities.
On Monday, the Cabinet Office will publish an updated record of cities which confirms there are 81 places that have been granted city status by the Government.
This includes the eight winners of a competition held in June for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
These are Colchester, Doncaster and Milton Keynes in England, Douglas on the Isle of Man, Bangor in Northern Ireland, Wrexham in Wales, Dunfermline in Scotland and Stanley in the Falkland Islands.
Southend-on-Sea was also awarded city status last October following the murder of Sir David Amess, who had been the popular MP for Southend West since 1997 and was indefatigable in his campaign for it to become a city.
As part of the competition, civic honours were opened up to applicants from the Overseas and Crown Dependencies for the first time, meaning Douglas and Stanley were able to succeed in becoming cities where they would not have done previously.
Gibraltar was among 38 places to apply for city status as part of the Civic Honours Competition in December but its attempt was unsuccessful. However, it is now being made a city to correct its long-standing absence from the official list.
It appears to have been 31-year-old Mark Scott – the Bluemantle Pursuivant at the College of Arms in London, whose role involves looking up census records and designing new coats of arms – who brought the oversight to the attention of the Cabinet Office.
“The UK Government would like to thank Bluemantle Pursuivant for his assistance in bringing this matter to its attention,” the Cabinet Office said in a press release.
His tip-off was followed by the Government conducting detailed research in the National Archives, which confirmed Gibraltar had been missed out of the list despite Queen Victoria having granted city status.
A referendum on the future of Gibraltar was called in 2002 after discussions between the Spanish government and Labour politician Jack Straw, the then-foreign secretary.
But Gibraltarians reaffirmed their commitment to British rule as citizens overwhelmingly voted to reject a proposal for shared sovereignty with Spain. In a previous vote, held in 1967, they also voted overwhelmingly to remain British.
Boris Johnson, who on Monday enters his final week as Prime Minister, said in a statement: “It is excellent to see official recognition given to the City of Gibraltar, a huge accolade to its rich history and dynamism.
“This official recognition re-affirms Gibraltar’s special status in the Realms of Her Majesty, and rightly signifies the pride that Gibraltarians feel for their community and their distinctive heritage.”
Kit Malthouse, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the cities chosen were “incredibly rich with history and culture”.
He added: “I’m hopeful people based in these places, particularly the new cities, can reap the benefits of their home’s increased global standing and that it will attract more inward investment for local businesses.”
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