The last twelve months have been quite unlike any other we have ever known. For The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, so used to meeting people face to face across the country and around the world, it meant finding new ways to stay connected and to carry out their duties in support of Her Majesty The Queen as well as their own philanthropic interests while the nation and the wider world faced one of the greatest tests in living memory.
As ever, in adversity there has been invention and for Their Royal Highnesses, the year provided them with the opportunity to embrace digital and social media platforms as the best way to connect with people when no other avenue was open to them. With 348 engagements and meetings in the year covered by this review, Their Royal Highnesses carried out many of them digitally via live speeches, telephone calls, recorded messages and the occasional performance, reaching a global audience of tens of millions of people. During the year, Their Royal Highnesses focussed on moments of national and international importance including the VE and VJ Day commemorations as well as more immediate issues such as the ongoing challenges around climate change, social inequality, loneliness and domestic violence.
At the beginning of the period covered by this review in April 2020, with the UK and much of the rest of the world in lockdown, The Prince and The Duchess were determined to show their support and gratitude for the thousands of frontline workers who were working so tirelessly to protect the country during the first wave of the pandemic. This meant not just the doctors and nurses but also the shop workers, delivery drivers, transport staff and many more who put themselves at risk so that the country could continue to function. This led to the first ever virtual opening of a building, in this case the Nightingale Hospital in London. Speaking from his home in Aberdeenshire, The Prince was able to thank the teams responsible for building and staffing the site in record time. Her Royal Highness went on to open the Nightingale Hospital in Manchester in the same way just a few weeks later.
As the year went on and lockdown restrictions were temporarily eased, Their Royal Highnesses were able to see people face to face both here and in Europe once more. In the UK, The Prince and The Duchess visited a number of frontline organisations including NHS workers in Gloucestershire, London Transport workers and Royal Mail teams in London as well as the military in multiple locations around the country. The Prince and The Duchess were even able to visit the factory of shirt makers Turnbull and Asser, holders of a Royal Warrant, who had turned their production lines over to the production of PPE.
As well as visits around the UK, Their Royal Highnesses also carried out a small number of international engagements at the request of the British Government. Beginning in the UK, Their Royal Highnesses welcomed President Macron to mark the 80th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s appeal to the French population to resist the German occupation of France during the Second World War. As part of the visit, The Prince accepted the Legion D’Honneur, on behalf of the city of London which was awarded France’s highest honour by the President. Their Royal Highnesses then went on to visit Berlin for their National Day of Mourning in November, before bringing the year to a close with a brief visit to Athens for the bicentenary of Greek independence.
Alongside these visits, The Prince also dedicated a significant amount of this year to focussing on the work of his Sustainable Markets Initiative designed to encourage more sustainable business models in the private sector. The Prince spoke at several of the key environmental moments across the year including Earth Day. This work also led to the launch of the ‘Terra Carta’, a set of recommendations that put sustainability at the heart of the private sector.
Speaking at the launch The Prince said:
"I am making an urgent appeal to leaders, from all sectors and from around the world, to join us in this endeavour, and to give their support to this ‘Terra Carta’ – to bring prosperity into harmony with Nature, People and Planet over the coming decade.
"I can only encourage, in particular, those in industry and finance to provide practical leadership to this common project, as only they are able to mobilize the innovation, scale and resources that are required to transform our global economy."
Her Royal Highness meanwhile promoted many of the issues that she is passionate about. The Duchess spoke many times during the year about the terrifying consequence that lockdown has had for those suffering from domestic abuse. As Patron of Safe Lives, The Duchess learned that reports of abuse had risen by almost 25% during the year. The Duchess also touched on another unwelcome consequence of the lockdown when she wrote in The Telegraph about the scourge of loneliness and how it was being exacerbated by long periods when people could not visit friends and relatives living alone. In the paper’s Christmas edition of Stella Magazine, The Duchess wrote:
"Feelings of isolation and loneliness can, of course, be particularly acute at Christmas. Last year, it was estimated that 850,000 older people would be spending Christmas on their own. Sadly, that number is expected to rise this year.
"Along with many people all over the world, I have always loved the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Cambridge. It is an emotional moment when the Dean calls us to remember “those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light”. For many this year, facing a gap at the Christmas table, these words will have a new and profound poignancy."
Another major moment in the year came when The Duchess, a passionate bibliophile, launched The Reading Room, an Instagram site that celebrates reading and all things literary. Now with more than 100,000 followers, The Reading Room is a community of new and established book lovers and authors. It is also a platform that promotes the work of the literary charities of which Her Royal Highness is Patron, such as BookTrust, the National Literacy Trust and The Royal Society of Literature.
As the country returns (hopefully) to a more normal way of life, Their Royal Highnesses will continue their work in support of The Queen and their charities but they will do so mindful of the lessons of sacrifice and service that have been displayed in a myriad of ways across this tumultuous year.
Video views on social media
Virtual events, briefings and visits
Video messages recorded