They inspired the nation with their messages of support and praise for key workers during the lockdown, and today Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall made a surprise visit to Northern Ireland to thank those who have supported the country throughout the crisis. The trip comes just weeks after Prince William visited Belfast to mark Emergency Services Day.
The whistlestop tour marks a return to more traditional royal engagements for the royals. Palace aides say the couple wanted to make the trip to thank the front line workers who had supported the people of northern Ireland during the covid pandemic.
Among those they met were nurses and midwives who completed their training early to respond to the virus. The Prince and The Duchess were also keen to show their support to the tourism and culture sector as the industry reopens and looks towards recovery in the coming months.
The Prince of Wales also paid a visit a food and grocery distributor in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic and the unprecedented demand they faced during the lockdown, which saw panicked buyers emptying the shelves of supermarkets of essentials such as water and toilet pape The Duchess of Cornwall, a long-standing supporter of domestic abuse charities in the UK and overseas, also visited a not-for-profit organization that supports those affected by domestic violence.
The trip was kept secret until the royal couple’s arrival because of security reasons, in keeping with the strategy for royal visits to Northern Ireland. Both Charles and Camilla wore face masks in keeping with government guidelines. The Duchess also opted for patriotic colors for Ireland, choosing an emerald green coat, a bottle-green handbag, and a matching dark green face mask. The masks were made by seamstresses who have been supported through the charitable Turquoise Mountain Textiles program, set up by The Prince of Wales in 2006.
Source at Clarence House say the Prince and Duchess have been looking forward to carrying out engagements out of the capital. They were last in Northern Ireland in May 2019, undertaking engagements in County Fermanagh, County Down, County Armagh and Belfast
On Wednesday they started their busy schedule at the Ulster Museum in Belfast where they viewed the Florence Nightingale exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of her birth. Here they met a group of nurses and midwives from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, who transitioned early from Queen’s University Belfast and the Open University, into clinical roles to support and respond to the health crisis. The royals also met museum staff and volunteers to hear about their work in getting the museum up and running after it was closed for four and a half months, and the challenges they continue to face. The museum was one of the first major attractions to open after the lockdown and Charles, a passionate art collector was shown one of the Rembrandt artworks hanging in the museum as well as a tropical ravine in the neighboring Botanic Gardens.
The couple’s program split halfway through the day. While Charles visited the Henderson Foodservice in Country Antrim to learn more about the challenges the food distributor faced during the lockdown, Camilla visited the Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid which provides confidential support, information and emergency accommodation for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence. The organization is the largest group in Northern Ireland providing 106 emergency beds across their three refuges and operating a series of outreach projects providing practical and emotional support for vulnerable women.
During the visit, Camilla met staff, supporters and service users to hear of the challenges they have faced in recent months with the increase in referrals and how the organization, in conjunction with Belfast Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnership, has continued to offer a safe place for people to reach out and get support.