The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to the friendship between Ireland and Britain, speaking of his joy at returning to the “majestic land”.
Using a few phrases in the Irish language, 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 watched as two actors embarked on a mock battle with swords and shields in front of a Viking longboat, something Prince Charles later said will “certainly live long in our memories”.
While Waterford’s official foundation as a permanent settlement dates back to 914, historians say there are a number of references to Viking encampments as early as 860.
Prince 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.
The Prince of Wales 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”.
“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,” he added.
“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 benefited both our peoples and the world.”
Speaking warmly of his fondness for the country, Prince Charles quipped: “It has long been one of our great ambitions to visit every county of this majestic land before senility totally overtakes us.”
Before 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 Prince Charles, said the couple are “very welcome” in Ireland.
The 45-year-old businesswoman, 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.”
The warm reception from locals continued as Prince Charles went on an impromptu walkabout after visiting local social enterprise Grow It Yourself (GIY), where he worked alongside schoolchildren in a potato-sowing demonstration.
He was accompanied on the visit by Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and toured the site’s cafe as well as meeting community groups in the vegetable patch and frontline staff from the neighbouring hospital.
Before leaving, Prince Charles crossed the road to shake hands with bystanders who had come out to catch a glimpse of the heir to the throne, clapping and cheering on his arrival.
People shouted “welcome to Ireland” with one woman inquiring if he had had any lunch and appearing to jokingly offer him some lasagne.
Local student Laura Smith, 22, said she was “so excited” to meet Prince Charles and had not expected him to come out and greet her and her father, David.
“He’s lovely, he had time for everyone. The visit is such good publicity for Waterford,” she said.
While Prince Charles was enjoying visits appealing to his environmental passions, Camilla, a keen rider, went along to Henry de Bromhead Stables to see Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle and Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle-winning jockey Rachael Blackmore.
There, she was given a tour of the stables, spoke with staff and observed a lesson, and it was revealed that Camilla will present the winning trophy at this year’s Grand National.
Together, the couple earlier paid a visit to world-renowned glass company Waterford Crystal, seeing the production process for themselves and even trying their hand at engraving.
Thursday was 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 Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee year.