The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall started their second day in Ireland with engagements in Sligo.
They visited The Model, home to The Niland Collection. This collection comprises of a number of prominent pieces from Irish artists of the 20th century, including Jack Yeats, brother of poet WB Yeats, and Prince Charles’ close friend, the late Derek Hill. Charles and Camilla viewed the art with WB Yeats’ granddaughter, Caitriona.
The couple also viewed a music and poetry recital at the centre, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the poet W.B. Yeats.
Here, Prince Charles made a lengthy speech, talking of his pain at the death of his great-uncle in 1979, as well as the relationship between Britain and Ireland.
‘At the time I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss [Louis Mountbatten’s death] since, for me, Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had. So it seemed as if the foundations of all that we held dear in life had been torn apart irreparably.
‘Through this dreadful experience, though, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands, of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition.’
It has been called one of the most personal and moving speeches from the Prince in his whole lifetime as a working Royal. He, like his wife did yesterday, had a go at speaking Irish too, saying: ‘Ní bhíonn strainseirí anseo ach carda nar aithíonn leat’, meaning there are no strangers here, only friends that you haven’t yet met.
Charles also addressed the troubled past of Ireland, more directly than any other Royal before him: ‘I am only too deeply aware of the long history of suffering which Ireland has endured, not just in recent decades but over the course of its history. It is a history which, I know, has caused much pain and much resentment in a world of imperfect human beings where it is always too easy to over-generalize and to attribute blame.
‘At the end of the day, however, we should never forget that our acquaintance has been long; and we can turn that knowing into something new and creative. We need no longer be victims of our difficult history with each other. Without glossing over the pain of the past, we can, I believe, integrate our history and memory in order to reap their subtle harvest of possibility. Imagination, after all, is the mother of possibility. Let us, then, endeavour to become the subjects of our history and not its prisoners.’
Republican party Sinn Féin’s Sean MacManus was also there to greet the Royal party; MacManus’ son was shot dead in 1992 during an IRA operation in Fermanagh; this comes after Prince Charles shook hands with Sinn Féin’s president, Gerry Adams, yesterday.
Charles then headed for the Sligo Institute of Technology, and took a tour of the institute. Here, he spoke with some of the PhD archaeologists studying at the centre; they showed him some of their new discoveries, before he received a book on archaeology.
At Lissadell House, the Royal couple attended a reception, where they unveiled a plaque in honour of WB Yeats, the house being where he holidayed on occasion. Timothy Knatchbull, the twin brother of Nichola Knatchbull, Mountbatten’s grandson who also died in the bombing joined them for the plaque unveiling; Timothy was aboard the same boat as Lord Mountbatten when the blast killed his grandfather and twin brother, Nicholas.
Charles and Camilla then attended a service of reconciliation – a strong theme of the visit – in St Columba’s Church in Drumcliffe. The parents of Paul Maxwell, who died in the IRA bombing alongside the Prince’s great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, attended alongside the Knatchbulls, Mr Maxwell saying it was a ‘moving and appropriate’ service.
The 40 minute service involved prayer, music and religious readings. Mary McAleese, former President, attended too; she played a key role in the facilitation of The Queen’s historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, and gave one of the readings.
Outside of the church, the couple visited the grave of poet WB Yeats, one of Ireland’s greatest literary minds.
A tree was also planted at the church by the Prince and Duchess, to commemorate their visit. Charles was presented with a painting of Co Sligo before the couple left.
Charles and Camilla were then taken for a private tour of Mountbatten’s former holiday home, Classiebawn Castle; Charles wrote to his great-uncle during his life saying how much he wanted to see the castle, thinking he would enjoy it there.
A short distance away was the couple’s next stop: Mullaghmore Harbour. It was from here that the Earl of Mountbatten travelled on the day of his death, following the detonation of an IRA bomb.
Charles and Camilla were cheered by villagers as they arrived at the harbour, no doubt a poignant moment for the Prince. They spoke with those affected by the bomb, as well as those who were part of the rescue effort.
Charles and Camilla concluded their day with a visit to the Republic of Ireland at Sligo races. They will travel to Northern Ireland for a further two days of engagements tomorrow.
Feature photo: UK in Spain