Charles and Camilla in Athens: religious icons, war commemoration and the Red Arrows

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have continued their visit to Greece with a busy day of engagements around the capital, Athens.

Prince Charles’ first visit of the day was to the Archbishop’s Palace where he was greeted by Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece. Greeting Charles in the splendour of the palace, the Archbishop alluded to the Prince’s father’s heritage and said: “Welcome to the land of half of your ancestors.”

Receiving a gift of an icon of the Virgin Mary from the Archbishop and replying to his greeting, the heir to the throne remarked: “I’m most grateful for your extremely generous welcome. I’m enormously touched that you should receive me here on this visit to Athens.”

He added: “I’m afraid my gift is very inadequate in return.”

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Charles then handed the Archbishop a family photo of himself and The Duchess of Cornwall before signing the visitors’ book.

Prince Charles has long been interested in Orthodox Christianity, privately visiting monasteries in Romania and Greece, where his paternal great-grandfather reigned and his father, Prince Philip, was born.

Charles, 69, and the Archbishop then walked to the Byzantine Church of Kapnikarea, where the Prince kissed an icon depicting the resurrection of Christ.

For their next engagement, Charles and Camilla visited the Commonwealth War Graves Phaleron War Cemetery to pay their respects to the over 2,000 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War who are commemorated there.

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By now Charles had donned his military medals and Camilla carried a parasol for protection against the blistering Athens sun.

War veterans gathered at the cemetery as the couple were greeted by the UK Defence Attache, Captain Tim Ferns. The Prince of Wales laid a wreath following a short ceremony and a minute’s silence, before speaking to some of the veterans including 101-year-old, Themistocles Marinos MBE.

Mr Marinos holds eight Greek medals, including a Gold Gallantry Cross, Military Cross and Distinguished Services Medal; he spoke to the Royal about his military career which included service in submarines. Charles described him as a “remarkable” man and said to tell him he was “very proud”.

Remarking on his age, Charles asked “is he really 101?” and added: “It must be the Greek sunshine.”

Later in the day, the Prince and Duchess went their separate ways. Camilla visited a UNESCO literary event while Charles was taken on a tour of HMS Echo in Piraeus Harbour.

At Kaisariani Monastery, Camilla read a passage from Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone to a group of schoolchildren.

When asked what her favourite book was, the Duchess replied: “When I was very young, which was 100 years ago, I used to love the books of Rudyard Kipling.”

Camilla is passionate about literacy and is Patron of a number of literary campaigns, particularly those involving the promotion of reading from an early age.

Meanwhile, The Prince of Wales was at the Piraeus Harbour where he toured HMS Echo, HMC Valiant, the Hellenic Naval Trireme and the Hellenic Ship AVEROF.

On arrival he was greeted by Commander Andrew Norgate, Commanding Officer HMS ECHO.

During his tour, he was briefed on ECHO’s work with EU Naval Forces and given a tour of the ship, meeting members of the Ship’s Company and seeing the deck laid out for migrant rescue.

Before departing, he presented a Long Service and Good Conduct clasp to Warrant Officer Doody, and Commander Norgate said a few words of thanks.

A sight very familiar to the Prince was then seen overhead, in the guise of the RAF Red Arrows who performed a fly past to mark the Royal Tour of Greece. The Red Arrows have been based in Greece for a week’s training exercise.

Charles and Camilla’s tour of Greece concludes tomorrow when they will visit the island of Crete.

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