One hundred and twenty-five years ago, as Britain’s Queen Victoria marked a milestone sixty years on the throne, the proprietors of Chawton House – then an Elizabethan mansion presided over by descendants of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight -- planted a copse of trees to commemorate the occasion.
This month, Queen Elizabeth II reached the even more impressive milestone of seventy years on the throne, and the proprietors of Chawton House – now a combination of research library and Austen-linked tourist attraction -- are once again commemorating the occasion by planting trees.
Sometime this fall or winter, Chawton will refurbish an existing copse with more than two hundred saplings from native British species, obtained from a UK charity that promotes tree-planting as a way to fight climate change.
The new planting -- located within sight of the Victorian-era Diamond Jubilee Copse -- will be known as “Elizabeth Copse,” in honor of not only the queen but also the several Elizabeths from the Austen/Knight family who have served as chatelaines of the estate during its long history. “This is part of a long-term plan to improve natural habitats across the estate,” chief executive Katie Childs says on the Chawton House website.
Over the past five years, Chawton House has experienced more than its share of ups and downs – the departure of its chief donor, a significant rebranding, a global pandemic that stopped tourist traffic cold – so it’s nice to find the folks in charge planning for a time horizon long enough to usher young trees to maturity.