Many happy royal returns to the region - Celebrating Prince Charles’ 70th birthday
PUBLISHED: 07:30 10 November 2018
As the Prince of Wales turns 70 on November 14, people across East Anglia will be recalling their meetings with him over the years. Here we look back at his links with the region.
Have you ever met the Prince of Wales? For many people across the area, the answer is yes.
There have been many opportunities to meet Prince Charles over the decades. He has visited a host of events and organisations, from flower shows to military occasions, and even sampled a pint at a community pub.
His interest in the area, and deep concern for its environment, was emphasised only this month, as the Duke of Cambridge recalled how his father took him and brother Prince Harry litter-picking in Norfolk during school holidays.
In a special BBC programme, Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70, Prince William spoke about those litter-picking trips, saying, “We were there with our spikes, stabbing the rubbish into black plastic bags.”
The brothers have continued their involvement with the area since those days, with Prince William having worked as a helicopter pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance Trust, while Prince Harry learned to fly at Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk.
Prince Charles’s own love affair with the region began in childhood, when he spent a lot of time at the Queen’s Sandringham estate, where the royal family traditionally stays during the winter.
One informal childhood photo, taken in January 1956 at Hillington, near Downham Market, gives a glimpse of a seven-year-old Charles making a fuss of a dog from the West Norfolk Hunt, watched by his grandmother, the Queen Mother, and five-year-old sister Princess Anne.
He was often seen in the area over the years as he grew up, whether he was watching Sheringham Scouts make a presentation to the Queen or enjoying a relaxing day out with other royals in King’s Lynn.
As a young man in the 1970s and 1980s, Prince Charles paid a number of visits to East Anglia, including a trip to Chelmsford in 1978, and a visit to RAF Mildenhall in 1982, where he chatted to the crowd and shook hands with well-wishers.
During a visit to Ipswich in 1983, he was given a tour of the Caribbean Association building and again took time out to talk to many of the members.
He founded his leading youth charity, The Prince’s Trust, in 1976, to help young people who are unemployed as well as those facing a range of other issues. Taking a strong personal interest in the charity, he has met a number of youngsters from East Anglia being helped by the scheme.
For instance, in 1989, the prince visited the former Warner’s Holiday Camp in Caister to meet a group of unemployed people taking part in a trust initiative.
Then, in December 2008, he visited Ipswich Town’s Portman Road ground to meet participants in a Prince’s Trust scheme being run together with Ipswich Town Community Trust. During his visit, he was presented with a Town shirt saying “HRH 1”.
His other groups and charities have also supported many local causes. In 2016, Prince Charles paid a special visit to the White Horse pub in Upton, near Acle, which was bought by the community in 2012 when it was on the brink of closure.
Two groups that he is patron of, the Prince’s Countryside Fund and The Pub is the Hub, had earlier made grants to help the community buy out the pub and then add a community shop in a neighbouring barn.
Prince Charles has always supported the military in our area, and in 2017 he visited Colchester Garrison to mark the 40th anniversary of his role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, watching a spectacular display by the Red Devils. A year earlier, he visited 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards at Swanton Morley, presenting medals and opening Robertson Barracks’ new welfare centre.
Major events such as agricultural shows have also received his seal of approval. In 2016, he and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Royal Norfolk Show, and he has supported the Sandringham Flower Show, which raises funds for local charities, ever since he first attended it as a young child.
The royal couple again attended the event this July. looking round the royal marquees at the vegetables, fruit and floral exhibits entered in various classes by local residents.
This is just a taster of the prince’s many visits to the region over the past 70 years.