Today saw a rare joint engagement for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. The foursome headed to Loughborough to the defence medical rehabilitation centre (DMRC) at Stanford Hall, which was their first joint event since 2011!
Prince Charles and Camilla had a full day of engagements in Leicester planned, but headed to the rehab centre with Prince William and Kate first, to see the progress it had made since beginning to admit patients in October 2018.
The Royals were welcomed to Stanford Hall by rain, and Captain Alison Hofman QARNNS, Commanding Officer of the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC).
The site is run by the Ministry of Defence, to provide treatment to veterans who have suffered battlefield, neurological or other injuries and illnesses. It is part of the overall Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) programme, which includes both a defence element and proposals for a National (NHS) facility on the same site.
The four Royals were firstly taken on a tour of the site. This included time in the gym, where they spoke with wheelchair basketball players about their experiences.
At one point The Duke of Cambridge joked that it was bad enough when there were just two of them. “When there’s four of us it’s a nightmare,” he said.
His father, Prince Charles, chimed in, “There’s too many of us!” The future King later commented to the press that he hoped their shorthand was up to scratch ‘with so many of us running around’.
Captain Alison Hofman, said: “The plan had been to keep the royal party as a party, but clearly their interest in what was going on and the patients and staff meant that they wanted to engage with them. So we adapted! I am delighted. It went really well.”
She added: “Them deciding to do a joint visit like this was amazing for us. Such a privilege to have all four of them together.”
Prince William was encouraged by his wife to have a go at shooting hoops in a wheelchair.
Unfortunately, the Duke was not all that accurate in his shots – but fear not! The Prince of Wales gave a helping hand, rolling his son closer to the basket in the chair jokingly, and to raptures of laughter amongst those present.
After missing the third basket in a row, Charles encouragingly rubbed William’s shoulders, who then exclaimed: “It’s not going to go in!” A few more goes saw William successfully pot a ball, to which the whole hall cheered.
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) February 11, 2020
Prince Charles admired Emmanuel Bajowa, of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, who had suffered a fractured skull and is receiving treatment at the centre for around five months. Bajowa was doing sit ups as part of circuit training when the Royals walked into the gym. He said afterwards: “The Prince told me my sit ups looked agony and asked about my injury. He told me to keep going – I’m not sure if he meant the sit ups or generally!”
Other aspects of the tour included therapy areas, and the chance observe patients undertaking rehabilitation sessions. There was also a stop at the prosthetics workshop, to hear from patients and staff about the services Stanford Hall offered.
Another stop was the prosthetics workshop, where the visitors found out more about the cutting-edge techniques used to help patients rebuild their lives without a limb.
Camilla was later presented with a metalwork poppy, created by patients who use the art form as occupational therapy.
Sgt Angela Stevens met the Royals here; she suffered injuries in a training accident, and explained The Prince of Wales was interested to hear that she was based at RAF Lossiemouth, which is located close to where he went to school at Gordonstoun.
William and Catherine had the chance to sit down with some of those who use the facilities to ask about their journeys and how DMRC has helped them.
Former Major Peter Norton, a triple amputee, told the press about his chat with The Duchess of Cambridge: “She was asking me about the mental health and welfare aspect of the work here which is a huge part of the care you receive. It’s a very natural process here. They know the two go hand in glove.”
Thanks to the unusual nature of four Royals being on one visit, the plaque unveiling was also a double act: Prince Charles and Prince William both drew back the curtains to mark the engagement at the reception with staff and patients.
Wouldn’t be a royal visit without a plaque unveiling! 👑 The Duke of Cambridge, who was Patron of the DNRC appeal, also attended the official handover of the newly built centre to the nation in June 2018. pic.twitter.com/NFChIrUeGr
— Lizzie Robinson (@LizzieITV) February 11, 2020
The Duchess of Cornwall asked one about their time at DMRC: :Have you seen progress? It just shows what can be done. It’s all about positive mental attitude.”
While Royals attend some receptions, banquets and – of course – non-official events like Trooping the Colour together, this is the first engagement for the group since William and Kate joined Charles and Camilla at the Royal Albert Hall in December 2011 for Gary Barlow Concert in support of The Prince’s Trust.
Both Duchesses, and the Prince and Duke signed the visitors’ book, another unusual royal occurrence.
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) February 11, 2020