Two-day royal visit begins today

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Today the world will be watching as Antigua & Barbuda showcases its hospitality skills during the royal visit of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Princess (Sophie) Edward, Countess of Wessex, in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The global tour is at its penultimate day and the twin-island will be hosting the royals until they return to England tomorrow evening.

The red carpet was laid last night at Nelson’s Dockyard where the couple will be greeted by Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack on arrival of their yacht, The Leander.

Permanent Secretary within the office of the Governor General Valerie Smith has promised the couple’s two-day stay would be “entertaining, enjoyable and worthwhile” since much planning and preparation have been done for the historic event.

Smith said their Royal Highnesses are set to participate in 10 events over the next two days.

“(Today), on arrival Her Excellency (Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack) will meet with their Royal Highnesses and after she would have met with them there will be the Inspection of the Guard of Honour,” Smith said.

The official said, after that, the royal couple “will meet and greet some of the awardees we have on the island; those who were given UK honours and local honours, roughly 60 or so of them.”

A tree-planting ceremony will be held in the Dockyard followed by a tour after which Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer will host a luncheon at Admiral’s Inn.

Parks Commissioner for Nelson’s Dockyard, National Parks Authority Ann Marie Martin said two lignum vitae trees would be planted in the dockyard.

She said the park has “a reputation to live up to” and since last year much work has been done in preparation for the recently celebrated 50th anniversary for the park and the royal couple’s visit to mark the Queen’s 60th anniversary of accession to the throne.

“We have also built a special walkway and we brought in the red carpet (Sunday night) so everything will be in place for when they get here and the parade and Inspection of the Guard takes place, Martin said.

The commissioner said the couple would be treated to a tour of the Dockyard Museum, which was also recently repaired and additional material put on display.

The events of first day’s visit will conclude with a state dinner at Mill Reef Club, hosted by the governor general.

On the second day the royal couple will visit Mount St John’s Medical Centre while the Countess is later set to visit Princess Margaret School, the first government secondary institution opened by Princess Margaret in 1955. The Adele School, a school for children with special needs, will also be visited.

At the same time Prince Edward will be attending the Duke of Edinburgh Awards programme, which is recognised as an outstanding programme for providing young people with the opportunity to develop self-confidence, self-reliance, leadership skills, and build all-round character.

Thereafter, he will visit Antigua Grammar School, the oldest secondary institution in Antigua & Barbuda. It was founded in 1884 by Reverand Samuel Edmund Branch as an Anglican Boarding School.

When the individual tours are over, Prince Edward and Princess Sophie are set to meet at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, presently under renovation, but originally consecrated in 1683 and rebuilt in 1845 after several devastating earthquakes.

Before their departure, the couple will be treated to lunch hosted by Dame Louise at Jumby Bay Resort.

As part of the tour to current or former holdings of the British Crown, the royals also visited Barbados, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad &Tobago.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)

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