This week, King Charles III and Queen Camilla made a surprise trip to Northern Ireland to continue their coronation celebrations, and their visit included the opportunity to sit on a throne very unlike the Westminster Abbey relics they were crowned on earlier this month. On Wednesday, the king and queen sat on a purple coronation bench designed by local elementary school children when they visited Hillsborough Castle in County Down.
“Shall we give it a go?” Charles said before he sat down alongside his wife. He added with a laugh, “Will it suddenly collapse?”
After sitting on the bench, Camilla spoke to students about the bench and its inspiration. The students at Blythefield Primary School were the winners of Historic Royal Palaces’ competition to create benches inspired by hopes for the king’s reign. According to the organization, which maintains six palaces and historic sites across the UK, the Blythewood students’ vibrant design featured flowers that reflect the ethnic diversity of the school, “the costus spectabili for Nigeria; the hibiscus for Malaysia and the waterlily for Bangladesh,” along with a stag motif to symbolize the environment.
According to BBC, the couple was joined at Hillsborough by John Caldwell, a police detective who was shot in February by two gunmen potentially connected to a dissident republican group, and also had a private meeting with him.
Earlier in the day, the couple began their visit to the region with a trip to a new Coronation Garden at Hazelbank Park in County Antrim, where they met with the garden’s designer, Diarmuid Gavin, who explained his inspiration behind the “whimsical” garden. “They were wonderful,” Gavin later told Belfast Live. “I got to spend a little bit of time with them, we went into the quiet garden with the water dancing and they were asking me where the plants came from, the idea behind the design, and they couldn’t have been nicer.” Later, the couple were serenaded by another group of school children and laughed as they cut into a cake shaped like the St. Edward’s Crown.
On Thursday, the king and queen began their day with a trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, where they were introduced to two eight-year-olds standing outside. Camilla laughed when the children, Camilla Nowawakowska and Charles Murray, told her their names. “We’ve got a couple,” she said. “Goodness me, isn’t that funny,” She noticed that the children were wearing crowns made out of construction paper with plastic jewels. “You’ve got very smart crowns on. They’re a little bit lighter than the one I had on. They look pretty cool with all the jewels.”
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