FOR us, 2011 started on a very special note with the wedding of my eldest daughter Katie to Patrick Valentine.
It was a very happy event and, as a family, we were very touched that so many well-wishers turned out on the day to offer their congratulations to the couple and see them start married life.
Thank you for tolerating any disruption that may have been caused by carriages, loud music and fireworks.
With bad news lurking around every corner, it was fantastic to see Alnwick rise to the occasion of the visit of their Royal Highnesses, the Queen and Prince Philip, back in June.
The town looked at its very best and the Royal party received a wonderful and heart-warming reception, perhaps aided by the presence of a certain footballer!
During the visit, they met and paid tribute to thousands of volunteers and carers from Northumberland, who play such a vital role within our communities. We were honoured to receive the Royal party at the Castle and Garden as a part of their visit.
Financial worries may dampen many spirits this Christmas but Alnwick has much to look forward to in 2012. Being chosen to host the Olympic Torch on its journey south is a great honour, not just for the town but also for Northumberland.
At the Castle, Garden and on the Estate, we are throwing our support behind planned events in the hope that Alnwick can make the most of the potential such an opportunity offers on many levels, from sports and school participation to community and arts, hopefully also drawing visitors to the town and generating associated economic benefits.
This comes close on the heels of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations as Her Majesty reaches the impressive landmark of 60 years on the throne.
Plans are already afoot to mark this at the Castle and we very much hope to involve the town in the event.
So, as we settle into the Christmas festivities, may I take this chance on behalf of myself and my family to wish all of your readers a very Merry Christmas and a happy and more prosperous New Year.
HIS GRACE, THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND