The Prince of Wales has placed recovery from grief at the front of his Royal itinerary of New Zealand, praising the Kiwi character in the aftermath of this year’s mosque massacre.
Charles, and his wife, Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, joined with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on a tour of Christchurch – the South Island city that has become synonymous with suffering this decade.
Christchurch was ravaged by a major earthquake in 2011, which killed 185 people, injuring thousands, and leaving thousands of buildings partially or completely destroyed.
In March this year, 51 people were killed in a terrorist attack allegedly masterminded and completed by Australian Brenton Tarrant.
The prince acknowledged the loss of life by visiting Cashmere High School on Friday morning in the city’s south.
Three Cashmere students were killed in the attacks at Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre, with four other school community members injured.
Charles attempted to relate to his teenage audience by invoking the memory of his godfather, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was killed in an IRA terrorist attack in 1979.
“I may know something of the terrible anguish, I can appreciate the tense grief you have faced and the disappear that can result,” he said.
“The only possible remedy is hope.
“The remarkable efforts of the students have made a great difference and are worthy of the highest praise.
“All of the communities have stood proudly with their Muslim brothers and sisters … the strength of the New Zealand character which I have long admired has shone through.”
Charles moved to a viewing of the devastated Christ Church Cathedral, in the city centre, which he called a “desperately sad disfigurement (and) a moving reminder” of the tragedy.
“There is perhaps no more potent symbol of that loss than Christ Church Cathedral, which for over a century stood as a proud and cherished emblem of the city,” he said.
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) November 20, 2019
Charles accepted an offer to be royal patron for the Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement, joking by saying, “Hopefully I’ll be alive when it’s completed.”
Despite the sombre itinerary, the royal couple radiated plenty of energy as they took part in a public walk outside the Anglican church.
And there were smiles aplenty when Charles was welcomed with a ceremonial challenge by a Maori warrior in traditional dress, which is to say not much in the way of clothes whatsoever.
About 500 Cantabrians gathered in Cathedral square for their chance to meet the pair on their penultimate day in New Zealand.
Charles, dressed in a camel suit and burgundy tie, was matched by Camilla’s cream dress with white polka dots.
One Christchurch local, 12-year-old Sarah Yearsley met the prince after her letter to him earlier this year about organic gardening earned a reply from his office.
Meeting him in person, Sarah gifted Charles a magazine she wrote about plants.
Conserving the planet was a cause that also won his royal endorsement, especially the threat of rising seas driven by carbon dioxide pollution.
“We have, I am afraid, reached a defining moment in human history … a tipping point at which we still have the ability to change course, but really only in the next 10 years,” he warned.
“It’s a small window, after which there may be no going back.”
After New Zealand, the royal couple will travel to Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, partly to see the effects of climate change.
“For small island nations this is an existential crisis which could see them quite literally disappear, or become uninhabitable, in the lifetime of our grandchildren,” the Prince warned.