LADY Brabourne has taken up the ceremonial role of Romsey’s High Steward after her husband, who now spends most of his time in the Caribbean, retired from the position.

Romsey Town Council invited Lady Brabourne to take up the post last month and it was due to be announced today that she had accepted the offer.

She becomes High Steward immediately, but a formal investiture may take place in the Town Hall in the early part of 2011.

Richard Jordan Baker, director of estates at Broadlands, said: “Lady Brabourne is very pleased to be able to play this important role for the civic life of the town.

With her absolute commitment to Broadlands and to Romsey, it seemed appropriate that she take on the role.”

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The office of High Steward is purely ceremonial and the holder traditionally attends civic events at which the town mayor appears in full regalia such as mayor-making, the civic service in June, the Earl Mountbatten Memorial Service and the Remembrance Sunday service.

Lady Penny, as she is affectionately known in the town, will be the first woman to wear the chain and robes of the High Steward.

Lord Brabourne, left, wrote to the Mayor of Romsey, Mike Curtis, at the end of October, saying:“It was an honour and pleasure to take on this role 30 years ago.

“I have enjoyed many of the civic events over the years, but feel it is now time to retire.”

Lord Brabourne had been High Steward since 1979, when he inherited the Broadlands Estate after his grandfather, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was assassinated by the IRA.

However, speculation had surrounded the office since it was announced in August that Lord Brabourne was to start a new life in the Bahamas.

Since then, Lady Brabourne has taken a full-time role in the running of the 4,500-acre estate.

The couple, who have been married for 30 years, have no plans to divorce. They have two children Nicholas, 29, and Alexandra, 28. A third child Leonora died from cancer aged five in 1991.

The office of High Steward was created in 1607 when Romsey received its charter from King James I. The Earl of Southampton was the first to hold the title.

The charter decreed that: “It may and shall be truly lawful for the Mayor, Aldermen and Chief Burgesses of the town aforesaid for the time being, or to the greater part of them of whom we will the Mayor of the aforesaid town for the time being to be one, to elect and appoint one other outstanding man to be about to be and to be High Steward of the town aforesaid during his natural life.”