By Aine Fox, PA
Britain's Prince Charles has paid tribute to the friendship between Ireland and Britain, telling of his joy at returning to the “majestic land”.
Charles restated his ambition to visit every county in Ireland, as he and the Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed their first official joint visit to County Waterford.
Using a few sentences spoken in Irish, he told a crowd gathered for a mayoral reception at Waterford City Hall that it was good to be with old friends again.
The couple enjoyed blue skies and bright sunshine as they were greeted at the start of their visit with a Viking re-enactment – a nod to the past of Ireland’s oldest city.
The pair smiled and looked intrigued as two actors embarked on a mock battle with swords and shields in front of a Viking longboat, something Charles later said will “certainly live long in our memories”.
While Waterford’s official foundation as a permanent settlement dates back to 914 AD, historians say there are a number of references to Viking encampments as early as 860 AD.
Charles and Camilla, who were given a tour of the city’s medieval museum, met members of the local community on a walkabout, as well as first responders who have helped throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Charles also met members of the local Ukrainian community, something he said was “most moving” as he heard about Ireland’s efforts to support them.
In his speech, he said his thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine “as they continue to face such uncertainty and brutal aggression”.
He added: “Such times as we are living through bring into sharp relief the importance of peace and friendship, which history tells us we can too easily take for granted.
“It is yet another demonstration of how our two countries are not just neighbours, but partners who, though at times we have travelled a troubled road together, have through reconciliation and understanding forged a future that has benefitted both our peoples and the world.”
Speaking warmly of his fondness for the country, Charles quipped: “It has long been one of our great ambitions to visit every county of this majestic land before senility totally overtakes us.”
Ahead of his speech, the couple met with various members of Waterford’s community, including businesspeople.
Knitwear designer Christine Murphy, whose brightly coloured outfit was admired by Charles, said the couple are “very welcome” in Ireland.
The 45-year-old, whose Waterford-based Urban Aran business specialises in sustainable clothing, said: “He said to me ‘I love the colours, is this your work? Are you a designer?’
“I thought he was very personable and giving of his time. I think it’s amazing for Waterford, which is Ireland’s oldest city, to have a royal come here and acknowledge that, given the history between Britain and Ireland.
“They’re very welcome by the Waterford people today.”
Thursday is the first of the royals’ two-day tour of the Republic, which comes after they spent two days in Northern Ireland. There, they enjoyed a warm reception from crowds in County Tyrone and Belfast.
Their trip is one of several taking place as the royal family marks the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.