Family and friends joined the chairman of South Northamptonshire Council at Buckingham Palace to witness The Prince of Wales present her with an MBE.
During the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2016 it was announced that Cllr Caryl Billingham would be recognised for her 40 years’ service to the community of Brackley.
On Friday, January 27, she travelled to Buckingham Palace with her partner John Cooper, and two members of her extended family: Tracey Philbey and Nichola Philbey Nash.
At the palace she joined a group of around 100 people, including celebrities Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, who were also to receive their honours from Prince Charles.
Cllr Billingham said: “Prince Charles asked me about raising money for charity through my various community involvements over the years, and I stressed my long-term involvement in local government which I think surprised him a little.
“The Investiture is clearly a process that has been honed to perfection, but His Royal Highness was affable and charming. He gave no sense I was just one of many.
“The staff also made you feel very special and were friendly and warm. There was no sense of artificiality and they all wished us a wonderful day.
“Since last summer, when the award was announced, what has been most special is that people genuinely seem pleased for me, and I continue to say that without the support of so many local people, and their reactions to what I have done over many years, I would not have continued. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Brackley and its people who have encouraged me, and kept me going for so long.”
Cllr Billingham is currently serving for the second time as chairman of South Northants Council but first entered the world of local government as a 24-year-old university graduate when she joined Brackley Town Council in 1975.
She went on to serve as the Mayor of Brackley on five occasions and now has 26 years unbroken service for SNC after winning her seat as an independent in 1990.
Additional commitments to the town and district include: board member for the South Northants Homes housing association, trustee for the Home-Start Daventry and South Northants charity, Chairman of the Brackley United Feoffee Charity, President of Brackley Players, Chairman of Brackley & District Band, a member of the Rotary Club of Brackley, and executive committee member of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry.
Cllr Billingham was brought up helping out in the newsagents and tobacconist founded by her grandmother in 1904, which, during her youth, delivered newspapers to 70 per cent of the homes in the town.
She was educated at the High School for Girls in Brackley and then took a degree in Modern Languages at Coventry University, a course which included spells at the Universities of Toulouse and Granada.
In 1977 she joined the contact lens manufacturing firm Cantor and Silver as a 'temp' for one month, retiring from the firm in 2011 as a director after 34 years.