Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited the Fair Maid’s House in Perth on Tuesday, for a special event hosted by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) with the Heart of Arabia Expedition Team.

The Princess Royal is a Vice President of RSGS and was Patron of the Heart of Arabia Expedition, which retraced the 1,400km journey from east to west across Arabia originally undertaken by explorer Harry St John Philby in 1917. 

At the event were other prominent guests including His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud, as well as representatives from the Philby family, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, the Heart of Arabia Expedition Team and RSGS’s Young Geographer Committee. 

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal arriving at RSGS headquarters in Perth- photographed shaking hands with Mark Evans, Executive Director of Outward Bound Oman, also in the image is RSGS Chief Executive Mike Robinson (right), Prince Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud (left), Stephen Leckie, Esq Lord-Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross (far left), and Alex Cairncross, Deputy Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross.

Welcoming everyone, RSGS Chief Executive Mike Robinson commented “We firmly believe in the ability of exploration to inspire the next generation of explorers, to test the boundaries of human endeavour, and to add to our knowledge and contribute to scientific and cultural understanding. As well as inspiring young people directly, the Heart of Arabia expedition also set out to raise the profile of the RSGS Future Generations Fund, to help us expand our reach, and to help young people shape the future and give them more of a voice in the changes we need to see.”

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal in the RSGS Map Room with RSGS Trustee and Head of Collections Margaret Wilkes (left) and RSGS Writer-in-Residence Jo Woolf (right).

Mark Evans, Executive Director of Outward Bound Oman and Expedition Leader, shared stories from the successful journey to retrace Philby’s footsteps on foot, by camel and by 4x4 across Arabia’s Empty Quarter.

During the event, the Princess Royal conferred RSGS Honorary Fellowships on Elaine Blaxter, Thomas MacDonell and Dr Vanessa Collingridge, and presented the RSGS Bartholomew Globe to Nick Millea.  

Elaine Blaxter has been a Senior Librarian at the University of Strathclyde’s Andersonian Library for the past 30 years. “Here in RSGS’s 140th year, we are also able to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal opening our collections at the University of Strathclyde,” commented Mike Robinson. “It therefore feels even more appropriate that we are able to thank Elaine Blaxter for her wonderful contribution – and I am delighted to be able to ask Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal to make the presentation.”

“I am delighted to be awarded an honorary Fellowship from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in recognition of my work with the library collections of the Society in the Andersonian Library” commented Elaine. “Just as the RSGS has a long history of supporting exploration and understanding of the environmental and social challenges for the planet we all share, the library collections also reflect and protect that diverse legacy for current and future generations to explore.”

HRH The Princess Royal conferring RSGS Honorary Fellowship on Elaine Blaxter

Thomas MacDonell is Director of Conservation for Wildland at Glenfeshie Estate in the Cairngorms, which was founded after the estate was purchased by Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen.

Mike Robinson commented “Wildland has a 200-year vision across all their estates for restoration and conservation, with Glenfeshie acting as the jewel in the crown. Now 20 years since he arrived at Glenfeshie, the glen has been transformed from a monoculture of extreme overgrazing to a vibrantly regenerating woodland with around 1,500 hectares of natural regeneration, and approximately 6 million trees planted on the estate. Thomas’s hard work has resulted in such a positive change to Glenfeshie over such as short time, and has been instrumental in bringing this keystone area of the Highlands back to life.”

“I am delighted to receive such a prestigious award from the RSGS” commented Thomas. “I accept this award on behalf of my Glenfeshie Estate team, both past and present, who carried out this pioneering project under difficult social circumstances. We are very proud to have delivered on our promises, although this action was difficult for some; the unmistakable legacy which will endure is a symbol of hope for future generations and an inspirational example for others to follow.”

HRH The Princess Royal conferring RSGS Honorary Fellowship on Thomas MacDonell

Dr Vanessa Collingridge is an award-winning broadcaster, best-selling author, prize-winning academic and leadership coach. She began her career in television on game shows Wheel of Fortune and Win, Lose or Draw, and then as a weathergirl on BBC Scotland. Vanessa’s work has taken her to all seven continents; after a decade presenting network current affairs shows she worked as a broadcaster for BBC Radio Scotland's Buried Treasure and BBC Radio 4's Making History. She is currently Director of Monster Media Productions, making radio and television programmes for broadcast and corporate clients.

“Being given Honorary Fellowship of the RSGS is incredibly meaningful for me. Today, with all the challenges of climate change and geopolitical unrest, the skills and mindsets of my fellow geographers are more valuable than ever and I believe hold the key to a better, more equitable and sustainable future. It’s been my privilege to have worked with the RSGS since my early 20s and see it evolve and lean into the big challenges of the 21st century. I’m really proud to have been given this honour.”

HRH The Princess Royal conferring RSGS Honorary Fellowship on Dr Vanessa Collingridge

Nick Millea is an important figure in the field of cartography, well known nationally and internationally for his skills and knowledge in map curating and historical cartography. Nick has been Map Librarian at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford for 31 years, was the bibliographer for Imago Mundi, the international academic journal for historians and cartography, Trustee for the Historic Towns Trust, and Co-Convenor and organiser of the Oxford Seminars in Cartography.

Nick commented “To say I am thrilled is a huge understatement, especially to be in the company of such an esteemed cohort of previous winners and to be associated with both the RSGS and that iconic cartographic beacon of excellence, Bartholomew – what more could a map person wish for?”

HRH The Princess Royal conferring RSGS Honorary Fellowship on Nick Millea