INTRODUCTION European Common Market Foreign Ministers are meeting in Britain at the weekend (21-22 May) to discuss the expansion of the community, which Greece and Portugal are seeking to join.
INTRODUCTION European Common Market Foreign Ministers are meeting in Britain at the weekend (21-22 May) to discuss the expansion of the community, which Greece and Portugal are seeking to join. There may be some hard political bargaining -- but the site of the conference couldn't be more harmonious.
SYNOPSIS: The ministers will meet in the moated splendour of Leeds Castle, near Maidstone, in Kent, which was once widely described as the "loveliest castle in the world".
Surrounded by the valuable works of such artists as Pissaro, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, the ministers will be able to discuss the expansion of the community in the very room in which kings and queens once shaped Britain's past. Drinks before dinner will be in the Henry the Eighth banqueting hall, overlooking the lake. The dining room, graceful with Chinese porcelain and 18th century French tapestries is where British Foreign Secretary Dr. David Owen will entertain his guests to roast duck washed down with Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1953 and fine 1931 vintage port.
The last owner of the castle, Lady Baillie, left Leeds to the nation on her death three years ago. The original castle was built more than 1,000 years ago by a Saxon thane called Led, hence the castle's name. It was later rebuilt in stone in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur, a cousin of William the Conqueror.
The history of the castle is dominated by that colourful monarch, Henry the Eighth, who married six times. The same four-poster beds used by the king in the 16th century will provide comfortable resting places for the Common Market ministers.
The last diplomatic meeting held at Leeds castle was in 1554, when Henry, in a thoroughly bad mood, met his Privy Council and severed ties with Charles the Fifth of Spain. A more harmonious atmosphere is expected for the Common Market minister meeting.