A Note from the British Ambassador

Dame Karen Pierce DCMG represents His Majesty The King and the UK government as Ambassador to the USA.
“Bells have long brought communities together. My job as His Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States is to celebrate and expand the deep bonds that bring our nations together.
“I’ve had the great pleasure of serving four diplomatic postings in the United States. When I first lived in Washington, in the 1990s, I had a close musical friend who played the carillon – I recall lots of happy musical evenings at her Massachusetts Avenue home (alas not with the carillon). Bell ringing is fixed firmly in the subconscious of many Brits and some of my fondest bell memories come from childhood. As a child, I attended a Church-of-England school and happily remember the bells pealing on Ascension Day, which was always a half day holiday! But foremost in my mind this year, is the solemn sound of the National Cathedral bell tolling 96 times in memory of Her late Majesty The Queen; an exceptionally moving gesture from your country to mine.1
“While our values and aspirations cement our friendship, so do our bells! As in so many areas of our special relationship, there exists both a rich history and dynamic contemporary collaboration between American and British bell ringers. As a Governor of the UK’s Ditchley Foundation, I was delighted to learn of the connection with the Bells of Congress.2 I am honoured that the 2023 US National Bell Festival has chosen to celebrate the US and UK partnership and highlight the UK’s bell ringing traditions.3 Through your 2023 festival and marking the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation you are bringing together communities and honouring Americans who have fought for and defended the core values that today unite our two nations.”

The National Bell Festival would like to thank Her Excellency the British Ambassador for her kind reflections and for her stewardship of the Special Relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.

1Bells across the globe tolled in mourning at the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

2The Bells of Congress were a gift to Congress from the Ditchley Foundation, a privately-funded charity founded in 1958 by philanthropist Sir David Wills to support the Transatlantic Alliance between the United States and Europe. Wills was determined to commemorate the bicentenary of American Independence, so he arranged for replicas of the bells of Westminster Abbey to be cast by the Whitechapel Foundry in 1976 (the same foundry that had cast the Abbey's bells four centuries earlier). 

3The United Kingdom was selected as the Spotlight Nation for the 2023 National Bell Festival to highlight the rich history and heritage of bell ringing in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Cover image: Street view of the Elizabeth Tower, a Gothic clock tower adjacent to the Houses of Parliament in London and home to one of the United Kingdom's most notable bells: Big Ben.