Prince Charles tries his hand among Kilkenny hurling royalty
Royal stresses ‘special’ connection to Ireland as crowds come out to see couple’s visit
Prince Charles squeezed on to a small sofa with his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in the hipsterish surroundings of Oscar-nominated animation company Cartoon Saloon at lunchtime.
The prince had not stopped for a snack since arriving in Kilkenny that morning, so after watching a clip of the upcoming Angelina Jolie-produced film The Breadwinner, he made a plaintive plea to eat cake.
“Do you mind if I take this with me?” he asked, wrapping a slice of fruit cake carefully in a yellow paper napkin, as the duchess finished off her tea.
Earlier, after a brief coaching session in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle with former All-Star “King” Henry Shefflin and manager Brian Cody, the prince found himself with a hurley in his hand.
He stooped to pick up a sliotar and a relieved-sounding cheer went up from aides and protocol personnel after he struck it low and found the net, as traditional musicians played in the background.
The royal couple went on to embark on an unhurried walk on a red carpet in Kilkenny Castle’s impressive Long Gallery.
So many local politicians had lined up to shake the prince’s hand that he joked to one: “Am I interrupting a meeting of the council? Excuse me.”
The city’s sporting royalty was out in force, and the prince showed appropriate deference after being introduced by Shefflin to the chairman of the GAA county board, Ned Quinn.
“Does it cost a lot to buy all these players?” the prince asked, gesturing around.
“They cost nothing and we pay them nothing,” was the chairman’s smiling response.
Prince Charles said he had always longed to come to Kilkenny, having heard so much about it all his life, and hoped and prayed to have the chance to visit as many Irish counties as possible “before I drop dead”.
The relationship between Ireland and Britain was very special and he had every intention of making it even more so.
Security in the city was discreet but tight. The public litter bins outside the castle were wrapped in a clear plastic, on which a thin blue line bore the legend: “An Garda Síochána evidence do not tamper.”
Media representatives were wrapped in a thin blue cordon, watching from afar as the couple wandered through the farmers’ market in the sunshine.
There the prince was offered what he later described as “the most fiendish-looking drink I’ve ever seen in my life”.
He found the liquid’s name, “Dragon’s Fire”, ominous and said it contained such a large amount of garlic that he declined to try it.
The size of the good-humoured crowds that lined the Kilkenny streets took observers by surprise. The occasional union flag was unfurled as the couple began a walkabout after arriving by helicopter, but the Kilkenny flag was dominant.