The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Portugal on Monday for a two day official visit which included a full itinerary of events aimed at promoting trade ties with the UK as well as eco-friendly projects that are close to the Prince’s heart.
A statement from Clarence House said that the Prince arrived at the presidential palace in pouring rain with the Duchess, who, sheltering under an umbrella, joked to First Lady Maria Cavaco Silva that they had “brought the British weather with them”.
After a visit to the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, where the royal couple laid a wreath at the tomb of Luís de Camões, they were received by an honour guard at the President’s official residence, where they signed the book of honour and posed for photographs.
In the afternoon, the royal couple was welcomed at the Naval School near Lisbon, and after a tour of the facilities, including the training ship, Sagres, the heir to the throne awarded a prize to the best cadet in an English language learning programme.
In the evening, Prince Charles and Camilla were invited to a banquet at the official residence of President Cavaco Silva, the Palácio de Queluz.
In his speech at the banquet that evening, Prince Charles said to President Cavaco Silva and the other guests: “I cannot tell you how delighted my wife and I are to have returned to what your great poet Camões so poignantly described as “Reino Lusitano, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa.”
His Royal Highness added that despite the “particularly difficult international economic backdrop”, trade and investment have a vital role to play in tackling the current problems. “Portuguese goods such as port wine have an enduring popularity in Britain, not to mention, as any former Naval officer like myself will know, a very particular ritual of the wine being passed to the left (in naval parlance the ‘port’ side) around a dining table!”
He also mentioned the “incredible array of other tangible products” including, “many of the organic salads we buy in our supermarkets in Britain,” referring to the next day’s visit to the Vitacress plant. The Prince of Wales also mentioned Portugal’s “intangible goods such as research, technology and know-how,” and his huge interest in learning about the development of a “smart grid” in Évora.
Finally he added: “While it is very kind of you to host my wife and myself this evening, I can only say that it is kinder still of you to act as host to the 80,000 or so British people who live in Portugal for at least part of the year. I can only say how proud I am that the British community in Portugal see it as important to “give something back” to their adopted home by doing something that, dare I say it, British people often do rather well - volunteering. Be it through organizing sailing for disabled people in Cascais, restoring the Monserrate garden or the invaluable work of the Royal British Legion, I could not be more impressed by their determination to give some of their free time to help where they can.
On the second day of their official visit, the Prince of Wales visited some of the places he had mentioned in his speech the previous evening, his first stop being the Vitacress salad plant in Alcochete. The company is one of the largest producers of fresh salad products in Europe and employs around 700 people in the UK.
Prince Charles then visited the historic city of Évora, where he was greeted by the Mayor, José Ernesto Oliveira, before attending a presentation by EDP of the new InovGrid ‘smart electricity’ project.
In the meantime, Her Royal Highness visited Lisbon’s Santa Maria Hospital. The Duchess toured labs and saw microscopic bone fragments used for study by experts at the world-leading research unit.
As President of the National Osteoporosis Society, The Duchess made her first public speech at an osteoporosis conference in Lisbon in 2002, when she gave a moving account of the final days of her mother Rosalind Shand, who died aged 72 in 1994 of the disease.
Tuesday’s visit, accompanied by the Portuguese First Lady Maria Cavaco Silva, was planned to enable Her Royal Highness to catch up with some of the experts she met then and see how their research is progressing.
Later she attended a reception and met a number of osteoporosis patients, telling them they were “in good hands” at the Santa Maria Hospital.
After her departure, Professor Fonseca said he was delighted the Duchess had returned.
He said: “The Duchess is very knowledgeable and her visit will help us raise our profile.
The royal couple met up in the afternoon to visit the Cascais Naval Club, where they spoke to a number of disabled sailing athletes.
Bruno Pereira, a 24 year old paraplegic sailor, who met Prince Charles said: “It is important to have him here to raise awareness about adapted sailing. He was very kind and easy to talk to, I spoke to him about the championships I had taken part in, in England and he was quite interested.”
Later, the royal couple walked through the gardens of Monserate park in Sintra, before travelling back to Lisbon to meet with Prime Minister José Sócrates at his official residence in São Bento.
During their last evening in Portugal, Prince Charles and Camilla attended an awards ceremony for Portuguese businesses that have invested in the UK and to mark the 100th anniversary of the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.
On Wednesday, the Royal couple travelled to Spain to continue their 10-day tour, where they were due to be received in Madrid by The Prince and Princess of Asturias, attend an official dinner at the Royal Palace and have lunch with Their Majesties The King and Queen of Spain.
Again, trade and investment promotion to support the UK economy were a priority. Their Royal Highnesses will meet and thank the volunteers, who support the large British population in Spain and will also visit Seville, where they will undertake a number of engagements throughout the city.
The Spring Tour will finish in Morocco. In Rabat, where their Royal Highnesses will be guests of the King of Morocco, who will receive them for a meeting and an official dinner. Their programme will focus on support for British companies and their work on corporate social and environmental responsibility, together with youth opportunities.