On Tuesday, Prince Charles and Camilla began an official visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland, including stops at Kilkenny Castle, Glasnevin Cemetery and Hillsborough Castle.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Northern Ireland and began their trip by travelling to the Seamus Heaney Homeplace Centre in Bellaghy. Here they met members of the poet’s family and toured the visitor’s centre. Prince Charles actually recorded one of his poems – The Shipping Forecast – for the exhibition centre; listen to it here.
The Royal guests were treated to a musical performance Charles has had a long interest in the Nobel prize-winning poet’s work and met him on a number of occasions.
Charles gave a short address, mentioning how Heaney’s work ‘reaches out across different communities, different cultures and different nations, finding, as he did, a universal voice with the accent of a particular place’.
It was then on to North West Cancer Centre in Londonderry for the Royals. The £50 million facility at Altnagelvin hospital gives treatment to patients from Northern and the Republic of Ireland, meaning people have to travel less to receive care.
They spoke with staff and patients at the centre, and the welcome for the couple was warm.
That evening, Charles and Camilla hosted a musical reception at Hillsborough Castle, the Royal residence of Northern Ireland.
A keen fan of music, the Prince had commissioned a piece from composer Neil Martin, using words by poets in Irish, English and Ulster Scots, a’s a means of celebrating all the traditions of this very special part of the world’, Charles said. They are united by the theme of the blackbird’s song.
“It seems – actually I know it’s true from my own garden – it is after the rain that the blackbird’s song is sweetest. This part of the world has seen more than its fair share of rain, in every sense; I can only pray that the songs which follow will be all the sweeter for that,” The Prince of Wales said.
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) May 9, 2017
On day two of the northern visit, Charles and Camilla started off with a visit to the headquarters of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The couple were invited to the centre to attend a short service of remembrance, and open to a new memorial garden dedicated to the 13 police officers killed in the line of duty since 2001.
A minute’s silence was observed before the Prince and Duchess laid wreaths and unveiled a commemorative plaque, while a piper’s lament accompanied the ceremony.
Commenting on the event, the Chief Constable said, “This is a very special, but also sad day, for the families and PSNI as we remember those who have died.”
Dromore was the next stop, where the couple tried local ice cream in the warm weather, before Camilla went solo to open Dromore Primary School.
The Duchess of Cornwall saw mini roller coasters and robots being used as learning aids, and she paid a visit to the library, hearing how the school’s Year 7 pupils are working to create books for the younger students; Camilla is an avid supporter of literacy programmes, and a keen reader herself.
“She took a particular interest in our library, in our children’s writing and that was great to see,” said the school’s principal, Linda Allen. The Duchess of Cornwall has a keen interest in literacy, acting as Patron of the National Literacy Trust, BookTrust, First Story and Beanstalk, all of which help to promote literacy in young people.
This ended the Northern Ireland leg of the visit, and so the couple travelled to Dublin, where they were received by President Higgins and Sabina Higgins at the President’s residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.
The couple last visited in 2015 and 2016, continuing to ‘showcase the strength and vitality of the connections between the United Kingdom and Ireland’. This visit comes at the request of the British Government.
President Higgins and his wife showed the Royals the Peace Bell in the grounds, and had invited local talented youngsters who are ‘in pursuit of excellence and ethics’ to meet the Royal guests in a reception.
A dinner in Charles and Camilla’s honour was hosted that evening, with music from members of the National Youth Orchestra.
Kilkenny was the couple’s destination on Thursday morning, where they met residents and stallholders at the local Farmers Market, in the shadow of Kilkenny Castle.
Charles and Camilla were welcomed by a government minister, after which they explored the castle and learnt of its history.
Out in the gardens, the Prince tried hurling, as former Irish hurler Brian Cody watched. The aim of the sport is to use the stick (hurley) to his a ball between the opponent’s goalposts; it has been called the fastest game on grass.
He quipped later he was glad “not to have disgraced myself entirely by missing the goal and hitting a member of the press corps between the eyes”.
The Duchess wore a green tweed coat dress and brooch she was given on her last Irish visit.
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) May 11, 2017
With a brief stop at the Cartoon Saloon, an Academy Award and BAFTA nominated animation studio, the Royals then visited Grennan Mill Craft School, where Camilla received a handwoven shawl.
The couple then went separate ways, with Charles heading to the United Nations Training School Ireland and his wife the Irish National Stud.
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) May 11, 2017
Camilla is an equestrian fan herself, sharing the passion with her mother-in-law The Queen. She met champion horses at the Tully farm, which was established by Colonel William Hall Walker in 1900 and has bred many winning horses.
She said: “I’m coming back here every year until I drop!”
On Friday, the Prince and Duchess attended ceremonies at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to commemorate those who lost their lives in the First World War and during the Easter Rising of 1916, as some Irish people fought for independence from Britain.
The Prince of Wales unveiled remembrance stones to Irish-born Victoria Cross recipients of World War I whilst there, as Ireland was still part of the UK; independence was gained in 1919.
These men were Corporal John Cunningham, Company Sergeant Major Robert Hill Hanna, Lieutenant Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey and Private Michael James O’Rourke, receiving their awards in 1917.
— Ray Kennedy (@RayKennedyHack) May 12, 2017
Next was marking the centenary of the 1916 Rising at the Necrology Wall, which bears the names of all who died in the rebellion, Irish and British, military, police and civilian. Wreaths were laid at the wall, with Charles writing his message in English and Irish Gaelic.
— Caroline Wilson (@CWilsonFCO) May 12, 2017
Touring the cemetery, they stopped to look at the graves of Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins and Maud Gonne and also the grave of James Joyce’s parents.
A short distance away, the couple then wandered through the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, despite the misty rain. The Prince enjoys gardening and holds an interest in diversity and conservation.
— NED Training Centre (@neddublin) January 16, 2017
Prince Charles then went to Government Buildings where he met Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny.
Meanwhile, Camilla visited a cause in the area with which she works back in the UK – rape victims. The Duchess toured Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, learning about how organisations work together to assist victims.
— Dublin Rape Crisis (@DublinRCC) May 12, 2017
Concluding their visit, the Royal couple attended a reception at the British ambassador’s residence, Glencairn House. Here, they signed the visitor’s book.
All in all it was a very successful visit, with locals turning out in swathes to get a glimpse of the future King and Queen.
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) May 12, 2017