The Duke of Cambridge began an official visit to Finland today, delivering a personal message from The Queen. Prince William also visited a teenage charity at an ice hockey rink, met with Finish scientists and has spoken of his family’s excitement at the announcement of his brother’s engagement to Meghan Markle.
On a two-day visit to the Finish capital, Helsinki, William first travelled to the presidential palace to meet head of state, Sauli Niinisto and delivered the message from his grandmother.
Finland is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its independence from Russia and is a further European country visited by Royals this year, following the vote in 2016 for the UK to leave the European Union – the visits have been dubbed ‘Brexit diplomacy’ trips.
As he handed the message to the president, William told him: “A letter from The Queen, a message to a good friend”.
The Monarch’s message to the Finish President read: “Prince Philip and I send our warmest good wishes to you and to the people of Finland on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.
“We have fond memories of our State visit to Finland in 1976, when we experienced the warm hospitality of Helsinki, Turku and Jyvaskyla. In 1976, I spoke about how we in Britain had long associated friendliness with Finland, an association that is no less true 41 years later.
“Over the past four decades our two nations have worked together in many ways – on security, on commerce, on our people-to-people links – always aided by that spirit of friendship.
“I have no doubt that we will continue to build our relationship in this way in the years to come.”
The message was signed: “Your good friend, Elizabeth”
Afterwards the Duke visited charity Icehearts, which helps prevent young boys from becoming isolated or socially excluded by getting them involved in sports like ice hockey. The Prince even took to the ice himself to try a few shots out at a young keeper, scoring a goal.
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 29, 2017
William later described the project to aid in mental wellbeing as ‘incredible and moving’
The Duchess of Cambridge, meanwhile, was visiting ‘Bugingham Palace’ at a school gardening project.
Asked about his brother, Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle, the prince said he wished the couple “all the happiness in this very exciting time” and commented that they were “very caught up in the moment.”
However, William also used the opportunity to joke at his brother’s expense and told reporters: “And for me personally I hope it means he stays out of my fridge, it will stop him scrounging off all my food, he’s done over the last few years.”
“I hope it means he stays out of my fridge”
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) November 29, 2017
Harry is a close neighbour of his brother and sister-in-law – who all live within the precincts of Kensington Palace when in London; Harry occupies Nottingham cottage, where it has been announced he will continue to live with Meghan – so will he really stop raiding his brother’s fridge? we’re not so sure…
William also said that his family were “all very excited, delighted for them both and wishing them all the happiness in this very exciting time.”
Talking of the arrangements for the wedding at St George’s chapel in Windsor Castle, the Duke continued: “It’s a fantastic process you go through, the engagement and the build up to the wedding and things like that.”
Later, Prince William attended a reception at the British Embassy, hosted by the British ambassador to Finland, where he met leaders from the country’s science, research and innovation sectors.
In a speech to the invited guests, the Duke told them: “I am delighted to be visiting Finland as you celebrate 100 years of Independence.
“Your education system is admired all over the world for the way that it gives every child a right to support, and for the way it turns out some of the best educated young men and women.
“I much look forward to learning tomorrow about the school anti-bullying KiVa programme, which instils wellbeing into the fabric of children’s relations with one another at a very young age,” Prince William explained. “This is vitally important at a time when the 24/7 presence of social media in their lives means that children must learn at an early age what it means to respect one another.
“My visit will reflect, and I hope reinforce, the strong and wide-ranging ties between the United Kingdom and Finland… We should not forget the growing tourism exchanges in both directions: last year over 60,000 people flew directly from different parts of the United Kingdom to Rovaniemi to see the real Father Christmas. It is this aspect of the visit that I know is exciting my two children the most.
“This relationship between the United Kingdom and Finland matters enormously to us. I am confident that we will continue to stay the closest of friends, and to build a deep and special partnership for the future.”
At the conclusion of the first day of his visit, William attended a dinner hosted by the Nordic republic’s president and his wife at their official residence.