Friday, March 06, 2009

Princess Royal says her farewells to Gibraltar

The Princess Royal’s three-day visit to Gibraltar ended today with warm farewells and a Guard of Honour 'March Past' at RAF Gibraltar, all in bright sunshine, in contrast to the two previous days of her official visit.

Her Royal Highness Princess Anne spent her last hours in Gibraltar touring the Government of Gibraltar’s new development of low-cost housing before calling in at a school for children with special needs.

Gibraltarians Applaud their Warm Greetings for Princess Anne

Reporting on yesterday's activities, Alice Mascarenhas, in the Gibraltar Chronicle, spoke of the "warm and cheerful welcome" the Princess Royal received, as she arrived at the hub of the Rock’s social life.

Dark clouds and a slight drizzle had threatened to spoil her arrival but as if on cue, when greeted by Chief Minister Peter Caruana in the Market Place, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and brightened up her arrival.

Suddenly, what seconds before had appeared to be a rather quiet Grand Casemates, a burst of cheer and applause brought people running as hundreds of Gibraltarians and visitors gathered to see Princess Anne 'up close and personal' walking through Grand Casemates Gates into the old city.

With no cordon to hold the crowds back everyone wanted a picture of her. There were cameras everywhere, and it wasn’t just the press photographers!

In the middle of great anticipation and thrill, she moved out of Grand Casemates into Main Street with her husband Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, and Mr and Mrs Caruana. Her entourage and her security followed as the crowds walked on with her. It was almost a wave-like mass of people, some holding Union Jacks and Gibraltar flags, all gathering momentum as the throng reached the heart of our community, at the Piazza and Parliament House (the old House of Assembly).

Princess Anne Delighted

Mr Caruana was in no doubt the Princess Royal had been delighted by the reception and that she was keen to meet as many people as possible en route.

Smiling broadly, Mr Caruana excitedly said:

"This is the way of Gibraltarians... not just welcoming an important Royal visitor but under-scoring the fact that we are part of Her Majesty’s Realm, that this is British Sovereign territory and one of the ways in which this is reinforced!"

As the Royal Party slowly walked up Main Street stopping every few seconds, Mr Caruana, pointed out the architecture, the commerce, the variety of commercial offerings, the number of people in Gibraltar from so many different countries, and the cosmopolitan make-up of local society.

The Chief Minister, commenting later, said he felt "she had been touched by the warmth of her welcome and had been impressed at how vibrant Main Street appeared".

Commenting on the calls for Her Majesty The Queen to visit Gibraltar, Mr Caruana said:

"A visit from Her Majesty The Queen would be very welcomed but I understand, like many Gibraltarians, much as we would like her to visit, such a visit would be fraught in political terms.

It is not her Majesty who decides. Constitutionally she is unable to visit outside the UK unless she is advised by the Foreign Office. It is all deep in politics."

The walk through Main Street was to upset the programme timings for the rest of the day as the Princess Royal went out of her way to talk to those who had lined the street on both sides of Main Street.

She received flowers from well wishers along the way which she carried in her hand through the continuation of the walk on arrival at The Convent. She briefly stopped with mothers and their babies.

Bethany Chichon (aged two) dressed up like a Princess herself was greeted by her.

An elderly gentleman sitting with his dog on one of the benches at the bottom end of Main Street was asked about his dog.

Young Faith Purser presented Princess Anne with a carnation.

Cheering Crowds

People from offices hung from windows and balconies, shouting their 'welcomes' to her with heartening applause and cheers.

Shopping was stopped temporarily in every shop as shop assistants and shoppers made their way on to the street to catch a glimpse of the Royal Party.

Many commented with delight and amazement, how the Princess was "talking to everyone" and how "she is taking the time to stop and chat"... as were the calls for Her Majesty The Queen to visit The Rock amidst shouts of "God Bless British Gibraltar"!

To the girls outside Jyske Bank and Barclays, Princess Anne asked, "are you actually getting any customers?".

There were day visitors from Liverpool and a group participating in a Netball Tournament in Gibraltar, who could not believe their luck!

King’s Bastion Leisure Centre

A short stop at The Convent and it was on to the King’s Bastion Leisure Centre. On the red carpet once again escorted by the Chief Minister, she met school children from local schools, representatives from the Guides and Scouts Movement.

Princess Anne was keen to know if they used the leisure centre and if they had a favourite game telling some of the children who had insisted on enjoying bowling that she was a bit of a bowler herself.

The Chief Minister then proudly showed her the King’s Bastion project pointing out how much had been achieved, in terms of the heritage value of the building.

Joining the party was Heritage Minister Edwin Reyes, and Carl Viagas, the Government’s Conservation Officer.

Over-looking the Bastion she looked out towards the designated area for the Midtown Development Project.

Soon it was back inside for a reception with a good cross section of Gibraltar life represented.

This excellent video shows some of the scenes in Main Street 'walkabout' described above.

Farewell Royal Princess

This morning, on her departure, a Tri-Service guard of honour formed up at RAF Gibraltar as she and Vice Admiral Laurence said their farewells to His Excellency the Governor, Lt Gen Sir Robert Fulton, the Chief Minister Peter Caruana and other VIPs.

The tarmac at RAF Gibraltar was colourfully adorned with waving Union Jacks as the Guard of Honour marched past. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band then played the National Anthem prior to the Princess Royal party's embarkation on their aircraft.

As Princess Anne climbed the steps of the Bae 146 of No 32 (The Royal) Squadron, in advance of her flight back to UK, she turned and waved to the gathered troops, dignitaries and crowds at the terminal, in a fond farewell to her highly successful three day visit to Gibraltar.

Media Credit

I am indebted to the following for the media included here:

Princess Anne's Main Street 'Walkabout' - Pictures and Video courtesy of ToRoMedia Gibraltar

RAF Gibraltar Pictures courtesy of Lt Col (Ret'd) Stuart Green, Media Ops Officer and Cpl Ralph Merry, Command Photographer, Media Operations - HQ British Forces Gibraltar.

Thank you all!