It’s no secret that The Princess Royal is one of the ‘hardest-working’ members of the Royal Family and it’s no surprise that she conducted the first overseas visit of 2024 with a three-day visit to Sri Lanka earlier this month.
For the trip, she was accompanied by her husband, Sir Tim Laurence.
The visit was at the request of the Foreign Office to mark 75 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Sri Lanka.
The Princess and Sir Tim arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport and were greeted with a Welcome Ceremony, featuring dancers and musicians.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal arrived in Sri Lanka this afternoon for a three-day visit. The visit comes as 🇬🇧 and 🇱🇰 mark 75 years of diplomatic relations. During the visit, The Princess Royal will undertake engagements in Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna. pic.twitter.com/rPRzGg2gOM
— Andrew Patrick (@AndrewPtkFCDO) January 10, 2024
The first engagement was to a MAS Holdings facility in Katunayake. MAS is one of the largest apparel tech companies in South Asia to be identified by the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) as an important Sri Lankan partner – Anne is UKFT’s President.
The royal visitors toured MAS Nirmaana, which demonstrated the company’s expertise and innovative capability.
In her role as President, Anne had a chance to meet staff and tour MAS Nirmaana to hear more about their innovative designs and partnerships with UK brands.
Nirmaana, a global design hub, boasts state-of-the-art technology and capabilities from trend research to digital product creation.
Reflecting on the visit, Group CEO of MAS Holdings Suren Fernando said: ‘Hosting The Princess Royal and Sir Timothy Laurence at one of our facilities has been a true honour. The UK, as one of our key markets, has played a critical role in our 36-year journey in apparel. As we celebrate a longstanding history between Sri Lanka and the UK, this is an equally momentous occasion for MAS as it is for the UK-Sri Lanka relationship.’
The next visit for the couple was to one of the Princess’ patronages, Save the Children UK, where they visited the charity’s national office in Sri Lanka.
Her Royal Highness was presented with a gift box containing artwork from some of the many thousands of young people that Save the Children has supported through its programmes addressing the impacts of poverty, violence, natural disasters and the climate crisis.
The Princess Royal first became President for Save the Children UK in 1970, before transitioning to the role of Patron in 2017. It is is one of Anne’s longest standing affiliations, but she last saw the charity’s work in Sri Lanka in 1995.
The Princess and Sir Tim then travelled to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children to observe an innovative programme supported by Save the Children, that helps young people from across the country express their feelings and build resilience through games and play.
Whilst there, they spoke with a team of paediatric consultants and Save the Children’s child protection experts about the charity’s support for children at the hospital, which began in response to the double blow of the Covid-19 pandemic and a crippling economic crisis that tipped many families in Sri Lanka into destitution.
Julian Chellappah, Country Director of Save the Children Sri Lanka, said: ‘As Save the Children marks its 50th anniversary of operating in Sri Lanka, we couldn’t be more thrilled that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal has chosen to return here to witness first-hand our life-changing work – and see something of the impact we’ve had over the past 50 years.
‘Her presence is vital to raising awareness of the challenges faced by vulnerable children and their families here.’
Save the Children UK’s Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, has met children being supported at a hospital in Colombo, as part of her three-day royal tour of Sri Lanka.
To mark 50 years of our work in Sri Lanka, Her Royal Highness visited Save the Children’s national… pic.twitter.com/BZJu1sOCL9
— Save the Children UK (@savechildrenuk) January 10, 2024
Concluding the first day in Sri Lanka, The Princess Royal delivered a message from The King to the President and First Lady of Sri Lanka.
In the message, His Majesty spoke about how ‘the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka are bound by a deep, shared history’.
He also acknowledged how Elizabeth II, who was also their Head of State from 1952 to 1972, ‘played a major role in Sri Lanka’s formative years. Her visit to the country, just five months after her coronation, highlighted the closeness and strength of those bilateral bonds. In the intervening years, we have maintained that enduring connection between our peoples’.
The King continued: ‘In the years ahead, the United Kingdom is committed to building an ever stronger, modern partnership with Sri Lanka.
‘We and the world are faced with considerable challenges, not least of all maintaining peace, prosperity and democracy, and tackling climate change and environmental degradation. It is all the more important for our countries to work together, and I look forward to the continuing, warm friendship between our nations, including as members of the Commonwealth.
The second day of Anne and Tim’s trip began at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, which is seen as the most significant Buddhist Temple in Sri Lanka. The Temple is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha.
At the Temple, The Princess Royal was met by the Acting Chief Custodian of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Mahinda Dela and took part in a traditional ceremony where she offered a plate of Jasmine flowers to the tooth relic.
Next, the couple travelled to Jaffna to visit the Jaffna Public Library – making it the first time a member of the Royal Family has visited the city. At the library, The Princess Royal received a traditional welcome and was presented with a garland of flowers and received a pottu (a kind of bindi, or coloured dot) on her forehead.
The couple heard about the significance of the Library to the community and met members of Sri Lanka’s Tamil and northern communities to hear how the public library is a symbol of northern education and culture.
The library was one of the largest in Asia and housed over 97,000 unique and Tamil palm leaves, manuscripts, parchments, books and magazines before its destruction in 1981.
The second day concluded with a visit to The Halo Trust’s Muhamalai Demining and Resettlement Site in Muhamalai.
The King’s sister heard more about the work of UK-funded and international organisations in supporting the clearing of mines and the sustainable resettlement of people on cleared and safe lands.
The Princess also met members of the community who have been resettled on the land following the successful mine clearance in the area.
HRH The Princess Royal met communities resettled in landmine-cleared areas in Muhamalai, Kilinochchi District this evening. The UK continues to work to keep Sri Lankans safe from landmines & to support them to sustainably resettle in conflict-affected regions of the country. pic.twitter.com/vyCM19GCJx
— UK in Sri Lanka 🇬🇧🇱🇰 (@UKinSriLanka) January 11, 2024
The Princess and Sir Tim concluded their visit to Sri Lanka by conducting another day of engagements.
The first visit for the couple was to Colombo Liveramentu Cemetery; this was a poignant moment for the Princess, marking her first time visiting a Commonwealth Grave site since becoming President of the Commonwealth Grave Commission last year, taking over from The Duke of Kent.
During the event, Anne paid tribute to those who are laid to rest in the cemetery, by laying a wreath. She additionally met staff and visited some of the burials in the site.
The second engagement of the trip was to Vajira Pillayar Kovil – a Hindu Temple in Colombo. Anne and Tim were presented with a garland of jasmine and rose flowers, a silk shawl receive, as well as a pottu each.
After watching a Hindu Dance Group perform, Anne met Chief Priest of Vajira Pillayar Kovil, Sachithanantha Kurukal who conducted a special blessing. Her Royal Highness also toured the main prayer hall and viewed the shrines. Meanwhile, Tim took part in a tradition to banish bad luck by smashing a coconut to the floor.
The Royal travelled to the British Council to hear about their work in building relationships and connections between the two countries through education, arts and cultural ties, before viewing ‘The Arches of Awe exhibition’ which comprises photographs of the 21 arches that were erected across Colombo to welcome the late Queen and the late Duke of Edinburgh during their visit to Sri Lanka in 1954.
The Princess then visited The Mission to Seafarers, where she toured the recently refurbished Mission to Seafarers centre and opened their new Family Room.
The final engagement of the visit saw Anne visit Hatch Works’ co-working space to meet a selection of start-up companies.
During the three-day visit, The Princess Royal was interviewed by PA news agency, where she was quizzed about her workload (which is often larger than other working members of the Royal Family) and said ‘in the context of the monarchy it takes more than one person to be able to stay in contact, and we’re part of the eyes and ears’.
‘So, as much as possible, we just want to get out and find out what’s going on and help support people who are doing an incredibly good job, wherever they are in the country and that applies here too,’ she added.
‘You look around here, there are charities here that are well established, and they do a fantastic job and that kind of ethos has to be supported, wherever you find it, so that’s not difficult.’