Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gibraltar to warmly welcome Princess Anne on an Official Visit

Gibraltarians will rejoice this afternoon, when they warmly welcome the Princess Royal on her arrival to Gibraltar on an official visit.

Princess Anne takes the Royal Salute on arrival in Gbraltar for the 300th anniversary celebrations of the British capture of the Rock - June 2004 (Photo :  JOSE LUIS ROCA/AFP/Getty Images)
This will be the first Royal visit to Gibraltar since the Princess herself was last here (seen here receiving the Royal Salute on her arrival), when she helped Gibraltar celebrate 300 years of 'Britishness' during the Tricentennial celebrations in 2004.

Princess Anne is due to land in Gibraltar this afternoon on board a Royal Air Force Bae146 jet operated by 32 (The Royal) Squadron.

Princess Anne is visiting the Rock of Gibraltar to open a new medical centre that has been named after her.

The new Princess Royal Medical Centre, will replace the much loved RNH, the old Royal Naval Hospital, which was closed last year.

The RNH (left) originally opened as an Army hospital in 1904 and amongst its distinguished visitors were Queen Alexandra (in 1905) and King George V (in 1912). Known locally as the ‘Wedgwood Castle' because of its pale blue walls, the Hospital was transferred to Royal Navy control in 1963. Since 1993, it provided a ten bed general ward and a five bed maternity unit.

The RNH has now been replaced by the new multi-million pound, purpose-built medical facility, the Princess Royal Medical Centre, which Princess Anne will officially open tomorrow.

Situated on a single site at Devil's Tower Camp, the new Princess Royal Medical Centre, which was opened in late November last year, is a one-stop healthcare shop offering a wide range of primary care services, such as physiotherapy, pharmacy, occupational health, a school nurse and mental health support. The same site also offers such secondary care facilities as radiography, general surgery, paediatrics and obstetrics, as well as an Accident and Emergency unit. A dental centre is also included in the building.

On her arrival this afternoon, the Princess Royal will be accompanied by her husband, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, who, as chief executive of Defence Estates at the Ministry of Defence, is no stranger to Gibraltar.

A demanding schedule of official engagements and civic events at various sites around Gibraltar are planned during her 3 day visit, including a walkabout along Main Street during which she is expected to be accompanied by Chief Minister Peter Caruana.

There will be a reception at the King's Bastion Leisure Centre followed by an official dinner this evening. Tomorrow there is the long-awaited official opening of the military medical centre under her name and among other events before leaving on Friday, her schedule will include a visit to the Waterport Terraces housing project and St Martin's Special School.

The Princess has also set aside some time for a private visit to the Upper Rock before her departure on Friday afternoon.

Planners have been concerned with the possibility of having to refine some of the items on the agenda due to the poor weather that has been affecting the area in recent days. Last weekend, a planned unveiling of a memorial, commemorating the Royal Marines long history and association with Gibraltar, had to be delayed for 24 hours, due to torrential rain on Saturday.

The Gibraltar Chronicle reported one official saying:

"We’re taking a flexible approach and nothing will be confirmed until the time comes. But in any event, the forecast is for an improvement in the weather."

Forecasters predict the possibility of light rain today but mostly sunny weather as from tomorrow.

The Royal visit has stirred a diplomatic row. Last month the Times Online reported that Spain had complained officially to Britain over the forthcoming visit of Princess Anne to Gibraltar, labelling it as 'inopportune'.

When the Spanish were advised of the visit on 16 January, Angel Lossada of the Spanish Foreign Ministry telephoned the British ambassador in Madrid, Denise Holt, to express Spain's annoyance. The visit was 'inopportune' he told her, and injures the 'sensibilities' of the Spanish people.

A Spanish MP noted at the time that the visit of a member of the British Royal Family to Gibraltar shows their total support for the sovereignty of the Rock.

Both the Gibraltar Government and Opposition welcome the visit to Gibraltar of members of the Royal Family.

The Opposition said last week that the visit of Princess Anne was 'none of Spain's business' and I totally agreed!

A very warm welcome to Princess Anne... to British Gibraltar!

Update: View photos of Princess Anne's arrival in Gibraltar here.


Sharpshooter said...

Welcome to Gibraltar Annie... now go get your gun and go shoot those Spanish whingers complaining about your visit here!