And so to China.
The Duke will arrive in Beijing on Sunday March 1st and depart for London from Xishuangbanna on March 4th. Three days is not long in such a vast and fascinating country but each day is, we hope, distinct and will show off very different sides of the UK-China relationship and the sharing of ideas and knowledge.
The Duke was very pleased to be invited by the British Government to officially open the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai. China is an important country not just economically, but for its influence in so many areas, both now and in the future.
The Duke will be the most senior member of The Royal Family to visit China since Her Majesty The Queen's State visit in 1986 29 years ago.
The Duke is honoured to be invited and to support the Great Festival's British creativity showcase, which will be the first major event of the Year of Cultural Exchange between the UK and China. He looks forward to supporting and encouraging the GREAT campaign's work to promote partnership and understanding between the people of the UK and China and to grow and deepen economic ties between the two countries.
The Duke is especially pleased to have the opportunity to meet people from across China and hear from them about the issues he cares about deeply, such as helping young people in difficult circumstances, creating educational opportunities and conservation. HRH hopes to learn about local Chinese approaches to such issues, and to understand and, where possible or appropriate, to encourage enduring co-operation in these areas.
The Duke will arrive at Beijing International Airport on the evening of Sunday March 1st where he will be officially welcomed by Her Majesty's Ambassador to China, Barbara Woodward and senior Chinese officials.
The Duke will then retire to the Ambassador's residence overnight.
The sequence of events during The Duke's morning in Beijing on Monday March 2nd has developed since Royal Communications issued the second Operational Note last week. However, I caution that it may still change. China in effect closes for a week over Chinese New Year, which means that we may not be able to update you until your media briefing in country.
We anticipate that engagements on Monday morning will begin at 9am at the Shijia Hutong, close to the Forbidden City.
Here, The Duke will meet charities supporting vulnerable young people in Beijing to hear their stories, particularly how they are dealing with emerging social issues, like isolationism. This will include young people with disabilities as well as those who have migrated from rural areas to the city as part of China's rapid urbanisation.
Hutongs are alleys which connect low rise courtyard houses. This particular courtyard house has been restored by The Prince of Wales's China Foundation and The Prince's Foundation for Building Communities. Hutongs reflect a neighbourhood network: so this is an apt venue in which The Duke can meet the charities dealing with these very contemporary issues.
From the Hutong, The Duke will travel to an official location within Beijing where he is expected to be formally welcomed by a senior Chinese Government figure.
From here, HRH will move to the Forbidden City for an official tour of some of the most important sights within this historical and beautiful complex.
The Duke will then transfer to an official venue for a lunch, hosted by a senior government leader. More on all of this will be announced in due course.
The Royal Party then leaves Beijing for Shanghai for the evening launch of the GREAT Festival of Creativity.
A quick word about the GREAT Festival. As you will recall, both The Duke and his brother have supported GREAT at a number of events over the years: Prince Harry in Rio de Janeiro and New York; the Duchess in 2012 in support of Creative Industries; and The Duke most recently in New York, too. Other Members of the Royal Family have supported GREAT, too, predominately because it provides a platform for supporting British prosperity and jobs. In Shanghai, then, the three day Festival will show UK innovation at its very best in sectors such as fashion, luxury retail, health, education, technology and entertainment, demonstrating the UK’s track record in bringing competitive, commercial advantage through creativity in the widest sense of that word.
More than 200 British companies from these sectors will be represented at the festival to engage with 300 Chinese and global business delegates to show how British creativity can help businesses innovate and grow.
The Duke will arrive at the Long Museum, which normally houses China's largest art collection, at 6.30pm escorted by the British Ambassador and Trade and Investment Minister Lord Livingstone, where he will launch the festival in what promises to be a spectacular burst of colour, Chinese drumming and dancing.
Shortly after entering the Long Museum, The Duke will hold a few private bilateral meetings with senior Chinese business leaders, accompanied by the Minister and officials from UKTI, before entering the Museum's main hall to for the launch reception where he will deliver a short speech.
The Duke will then spend the evening privately at a hotel in Shanghai.
On Tuesday March 3, The Duke returns to the Long Museum to participate in key sessions of the festival and to see examples of British creativity at work. He will join an interactive session on Smart Cities, listen to a discussion on Creative IP, see designer Tom Dixon creating new pieces, observe the BBC's 'penguin cam' and observe demonstrations of how De Montfort University, a key partner of the Festival, is pioneering innovations in areas as distinctive as healthcare and clothing design.
HRH will also take a look at the Festival's gallery within a gallery where, for the first time, all four photographic portraits of Her Majesty, produced by David Bailey last year for the GREAT campaign, will be shown together.
From the Long Museum, The Duke will join a Premier Skills football event at Nanyang Secondary School in Shanghai. The Premier League is hugely popular in China and represents a major UK commercial export. This British Council scheme shows how football, which is being added to the Chinese National Curriculum this year, can be used to support young people's development and to encourage social change, build skills and good health.
As you know, The Duke likes his football and supports grassroots initiatives. He will watch students undertaking training with Chinese coaches, who will have been trained by one of the Premier League's Head Coaches as part of the Premier Skills programme.
From football soft power to academic excellence, The Duke will attend the Inaugural British Council Global Alumni Awards in China, held at the Ruijin Hotel, celebrating academic achievement and success for Chinese students who have studied at a range of world-class universities across the UK, including LSE, UCL, London Business School and the Universities of Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff in subjects as diverse as Business and Management, International Law, Politics, Computer Sciences and Climate Change Policy.
The Duke will meet the nine Chinese finalists to hear about their achievements and what difference a British education has made to their lives and their communities. HRH will then deliver the opening remarks at the Awards ceremony.
The Duke will have a private meeting in the afternoon with representatives from Chinese and international conservation NGOs, where he looks forward to being briefed about what these organisations are doing within China to support global and Chinese efforts to eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife.
Afterwards, The Duke travels to the new British Centre in Shanghai, which houses the
Shanghai Consulate General, the British Council, the China British Business Council and UKTI, collectively promoting and protecting UK interests in Eastern China. The Duke will officially open this new Centre and meet staff.
Afterwards, in the evening, a familiar figure Paddington Bear will greet The Duke at the Shanghai Film Museum for the Chinese premiere of Paddington. Here, leading Chinese film industry figures and members of the Paddington team, including producer David Heyman, will join The Duke on the red carpet.
The Duke, unfortunately, won't have time to stay for the film, because it was impossible to fit it all in; but he will have a chance to see creative work by children from a local Chinese and British International schools and, as proud President of BAFTA, he will give a special BAFTA mask to the Museum for their collection. The Duke will also present a gift to the Museum of some rare footage of old Shanghai, recently restored by the British Film Institute.
From the premiere, The Duke returns to the Long Museum for the GREAT Festival official dinner, which will be a private event.
I understand some of you will have already made it down to the warmer climate in Yunnan Province for engagements on Wednesday March 4th.
Yunnan shares a long border with Burma, Laos and Vietnam and is connected to Thailand via the Mekong River. It is known in China as 'the Kingdom of wildlife'.
Xishuangbanna is a remote area with a mix of ethnicities, of whom 30 per cent are Dai. It has 2,400 square kilometres of rainforest and some endangered species, including the last remaining Asian elephants in China, which is why The Duke was keen to visit this area and to learn about local Chinese approaches to conservation, specifically of this particular elephant population, which is not well known even within China.
The Duke's visit to Xishaungbanna and the Wild Elephant Valley will start with a visit to a Dai rural community to meet village elders and hear how these local communities live alongside wild elephants, which are sacred to their culture, but which pose challenges to sustaining their way of life.
Deterioration of the rainforest means the elephants' natural food supply has reduced, so they raid local farmers' crops of bananas and corn. The villagers have adopted methods to deter the elephants such as changing the crops they grow and putting in place warning system, so that elephants can be shoo-ed away before they cause damage. So-called human-animal conflict, which is the technical name for this challenge, is an issue with which the Duke is already very familiar in Africa, for example through Tusk Trust, the wildlife organisation of which he is Patron, and it will be interesting to learn how the same problems are tackled in Yunnan.
The next engagement is a visit an Elephant Sanctuary in Xishuangbanna's Nature Reserve. We believe that The Duke will have a chance to learn about one of their four rescued elephants, called Ranran. Ranran was injured by an iron clamp a trap in 2005 and the wound became severely infected. A rescue team of 81 people was deployed to rescue the animal and bring him to the centre, where he has been looked after by a 'Papa' (a keeper) and rehabilitated.
Every day, Ranran is walked in to the rainforest, and every evening he returns to the sanctuary. The elephant is a vivid reminder of why it is so important to support efforts that reduce conflict between farmers and wild animals, so that animals don't have to end up at these sanctuaries.
The Duke will then make the short journey to the Wild Elephant Walkway, also part of Xishuangbana's Nature Reserve. Recent local conservation efforts report that the numbers of Asian elephants in the Reserve are growing. About 250 are said to be in Yunnan, 70 in the Valley itself.
HRH will make the steep climb to two separate viewing points to meet local and national Forestry officials to hear about China's conservation efforts in a local and national context, including policies to help with the co-existence of wild Asian elephants and humans.
At the second viewing point, The Duke will also meet young Chinese conservationists and volunteers to hear how they became involved in conservation and how they are encouraging awareness and education among Chinese people about both the plight of the Asian elephant and the global illegal wildlife trade.
Here, The Duke will view a wildlife conservation photographic exhibition and he will have an opportunity to look out over the rainforest in the hope of seeing a wild elephant. Fingers crossed!
The final stop in Xishuangbanna will be in the beautiful Botanical Gardens. The gardens are a research institute as well as a public attraction and they have academic links with Kew.
He will view a garden with plants used in medicines and for medical research, accompanied by experts from the local Dai medical research hospital.
The Duke will afterwards be invited to plant a tree close to a protected Sky Scraping Tree planted by The Duke of Edinburgh during the last Royal visit to China by The Queen and Prince Philip in 1986.
The tour of the gardens culminates at a Regional Wildlife and Conservation Conference, where The Duke will attend the final wrap-up session (of a conference that has lasted three days) alongside delegates from across China and which includes British research students. He will listen to their conclusions and then reflect, in a speech, on his visit to China, including on conservation and illegal wildlife trafficking.
After the speech, and a brief chance to meet some of the Chinese and international students and talk to them about their work, The Duke departs Xishuangbanna to make his way back to the United Kingdom.
On a personal note, The Duke is very much looking forward to this visit, and to getting to know both countries well both of which are countries which will remain important parts of his life over the years to come. Relations with both countries are vitally important to the United Kingdom to security, to business, culture, sport, education and so on and so The Duke is intent on doing his duty. Both countries also interest The Duke personally, since both are countries which are heavily engaged in topics that he finds interesting, whether it's the illegal trade in wildlife parts or the wonders of technology. It won't be lost on anyone that The Duke does this visit alone, without his wife, who is of course too heavily pregnant now to travel, which means that the visits may have a different feel and tone to some of the others he's done recently, but I'm grateful to all of you for your interest.