Lady Brabourne described becoming Romsey’s new High Steward as an “honour and a privilege”.

She was officially presented with the fur-trimmed robes and chain of office at an inauguration ceremony at Romsey Town Hall on Wednesday evening.

Lady Penny, as she is popularly known, was invited to take on the ceremonial office by Romsey Town Council in November following the resignation of her predecessor, her husband, Lord Brabourne, who now spends most of his time away from Broadlands.

“I aim to fulfill my position as High Steward to the best of my ability and I pledge to serve you well,” she said in her speech.

Lady Brabourne said that, in her 32 years of living in Romsey, the highlight had been the Queen’s visit in 2007 for the 400th anniversary of Romsey’s Royal Charter.

“It was a day that brought together many of the things that I most love and respect, history, tradition, patriotism, Broadlands and our town. This event is another occasion that brings together these same ingredients and it will become a memory I cherish,” she said.

The new High Steward then looked ahead to another royal occasion which she would be attending, the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. “I consider this occasion to be my first outing as High Steward because I am attending not only as a family member, but also as your representative at the wedding of our future King,” said lady Brabourne.

Her speech was greeted with a spontaneous round of applause from the invited audience, which included representatives from the organisations with which Lady Brabourne is involved.

Earlier, the mayor of Romsey, Mike Curtis, explained that the office of High Steward dated to the granting of the town’s royal charter in 1607 and that the first to hold the office was the Earl of Southampton. Then the High Steward’s job had been “to keep an eye” on the borough for the monarch, said the mayor.

Previous High Stewards have included Lord Palmerston and Lord Mountbatten.

Supporting the mayor, Cllr Mark Cooper said that there were 48 counties in England, 326 other district, borough and unitary councils and more than 10,000 parish, community and town councils, but that only 24 of these authorities had the right to confer the status of High Steward, and most were vacant or in abeyance.

So, he said, Romsey was not unique in having a High Steward, but “a delightful rarity”.

“If we were to allow such a rare title to fall into disuse, as has happened in many other places, we would be doing a disservice to the traditions and heritage of our town of Romsey,” he commented.

Mr Cooper paid tribute to Lady Brabourne’s support of organisations including the Romsey Hospital League of Friends, Edwina Mountbatten House and The Romsey Community School, where she regularly presides at certificate presentation evening.