Prince Charles gets a warm welcome throughout the city of Ely - and one plucky onlooker even gave him a cheeky and belated birthday peck on the cheek
- Credit: © Terry Harris
It may have been a chilly start to the day in Ely but Prince Charles brought warmth and charisma to the city – even bagging himself a peck on the cheek from a fan.
His Royal Highness instantly greeted dozens waiting outside of Thomas Parsons Square with a cheery ‘good morning’ as he stepped out of the royal Bentley to the chime of bells from St Mary’s Church.
First stop was a visit to the Thomas Parsons’ Charity almshouses, of which he is the patron.
“We’re not all going to fit inside I don’t think,” he said jokingly to crowds.
Residents peered out of the windows as a contingent of civic dignitaries waited outside, including Mayor of Ely Cllr Mike Rouse, Combined Authority Mayor James Palmer and East Cambridgeshire District Council Chairman Peter Creswell.
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Prince Charles was led into the home of June Hewes, who has lived in one of the almshouses for 10 years.
Once inside, he admired her living room and had a tour of the kitchen and bathroom.
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“This is not a bad little place is it and they are all nice neighbours too, I hope,” he said.
Speaking after the visit, June said: “That was wonderful but very nerve-wracking in advance as I’ve had to do a lot of cleaning in preparation. It’s not everyday you get a royal guest.”
Across the road at Poet’s House, Prince Charles - joined by Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence - shared a cup of tea with each table in the dining room while speaking to more residents of the almshouses.
“You must have all been waiting very patiently and I would like to wish you a very merry early Christmas,” he said.
Vera Ford, 91, who has lived in an almshouse for five years, said: “He was so nice and asked me about Christmas and my holiday plans and I would be quite happy for him to be king one day.”
John Moore, who works for the Thomas Parsons’ Charity, said: “What a friendly and nice man, he was very interested in speaking to everyone about their houses and he was extremely down to earth.”
From there His Royal Highness was led to Ely Cathedral, where children lined the grass waving flags and the crowds cheered.
Upon entering the cathedral one lady dressed to impress in pink persuaded Prince Charles to come over.
“Happy belated birthday!” she shouted and gave him a cheeky kiss on the cheek as the crowds whooped.
Inside the cathedral he was introduced to Dr Jasmine Allen, curator of the Stained Glass Museum, and shown various collections before being gifted with a piece of handmade glass with a red squirrel on.
He has been a patron since 1997 and last visited in 2000.
Children from The Lantern Primary School, who were art ambassadors, were eager to meet the prince too, as they took it in turns to show him their pieces made in their glass fusion session.
“I hope nobody has cut their fingers yet,” Prince Charles joked as the pupils laughed and were instantly put at ease.
Before moving on to meet traders in Ely Market, he met with members of the cathedral in the Lady Chapel and was greeted to a musical arrival before unveiling a plaque, cutting a cake and signing the guest book.
Emma Joy-Staines handed over a gift of a teddy bear and colouring book from the charity Steel Bones for Prince Charles’s grandchildren.
“Oh this is lovely, thank you so much,” he said.
While crowds gathered at Ely Market, police cordoned off the road and the Farmers Market prepared to showcase some of their best produce.
The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles, also joined His Royal Highness for the last leg of the tour.
As Christmas carols were sung by school children, they were led around the square to see cakes, fish, meat and vegan treats on display.
Lizzi Flaherty, who runs FOOD! By Lizzi, has been based at the market for just over five years.
“It was a great opportunity to say thank you to him,” she said.
“I was a Princes Trust young ambassador and it enabled me to be where I am today.”
Fellow stallholder Sara Dixon, from Hawkwell Herbs, also said that she shared an enlightening chat with His Royal Highness.
“I told him how he was a hero of mine when I was an environmental lawyer. We discussed the use of plastics, herbs and the bamboo pots and recycled pallets I have on the stall.
“He was lovely, very charming and easy to get along with.”
A gift of a ‘Brussels sprout handmade wreath’ was also presented to Prince Charles from Ely hero, Ruth Marley, who runs the Witchford-based Re-Imagine Resource Centre.
Both of the royal guests departed Ely just after 2pm to make their way across Cambridgeshire to Wisbech.
“What a successful visit and we wouldn’t have expected anything less than him being a lovely chap,” added Mayor of Ely Mike Rouse.