Royals charm Islanders

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Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, wrapped up a whirlwind visit to Prince Edward Island Tuesday — a visit that drew hundreds of Islanders and showcased the province’s youth, culture and environmental initiatives.

The Prince and Duchess began their day Tuesday taking part in a youth parliament at the P.E.I. legislature.

The couple took great delight in watching the high school students mimic the practices of sitting politicians and was keen to learn how the teens felt about politics.

After getting a history lesson about the significance of Province House, where the Charlottetown Conference was held 150 years ago, the royal couple then got a tour of the Confederation Centre of the Arts by an actress portraying another important P.E.I. figure — Anne of Green Gables.

Prince Charles was awarded the Symons Medal at a ceremony at the Confederation Centre, where he also delivered a speech, urging Canadians to tackle the world’s social and environmental challenges.

Becoming a grandfather has made him more concerned over trying to draw attention to the connection between the planet’s challenges and its well being, Charles said during his speech.

“It is all our grandchildren who will have to live with the very serious consequences of us believing today that we can simply carry on with business as usual, as if nothing has changed,” he said.

He spoke about the importance of engaging youth and inspiring them to become involved in helping to tackle issues such as the widening gap between rich and poor, the lack of opportunity for women and girls, youth unemployment, deforestation and overfishing.

“There is so much creativity, determination and conviction amongst young people just waiting to be tapped, and it is this kind of what you might call social capital that I have, in my own way, sought to release so it can be put to good use.”

The couple then went separate ways for part of their P.E.I. day.

Charles went to Holland College to meet with students and grads interested in sustainable development, while Camilla met with some Island seniors at the newly built Prince Edward Home in Charlottetown.

Charles especially was very casual and at ease throughout the visit, making jokes and sometimes even being a little silly with the Islanders he met.

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At Holland College, he jokingly picked up a wooden mallet and swung it toward the ground, pretending it was a croquet mallet.

Later in Bonshaw, after meeting with some Olympians he spotted a fly fisherman in a canoe where a pool of photographers stood waiting for him and joked about how the scene was obviously staged.

P.E.I.’s two-time Olympic gold medallist Heather Moyse said she was surprised at how sincere and natural he was during their meeting.

She called him Prince Charming.

The Prince took part in a royal dedication of the Bonshaw Provincial Park, where the new trail system was also named the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall Trail System in honour of their visit.

Meanwhile, Camilla enjoyed the musical and theatrical performances of the young students at Immanuel Christian School.

The school children had sent letters inviting the Duchess to their school and were thrilled that she came for a visit.

“It was really amazing. I was nervous. Talking to her was amazing,” said Grade 7 Student Maddie Anderson.

Virtually everyone who spoke with the couple remarked about how approachable the royal couple was.

“They’re real people. They laugh at our jokes and they shake your hand, so they’re not quite as scary as I thought they were going to be,” said high school student Julia O’Hanley, who took part in youth parliament at the P.E.I. legislature.

“They’re just ordinary people.”

The couple arrived in Charlottetown Monday evening and celebrated Victoria Day with over 1,000 Islanders at Province House, where concerts and a fireworks display were held. The couple left P.E.I. for the next leg of their royal tour in Winnipeg late Tuesday afternoon.

Debbie Ellison came all the way from Moncton just to see the royals.

“My interest has been a lifelong interest since I was five years old,’’ she said. “They are enduring . . . they provide a bit of pageantry we miss in our regular lives.’’

Organizations: Holland College, Islanders, Province House Confederation Centre Duchess of Cornwall Trail System Immanuel Christian School

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, Green Gables Iceland Bonshaw Bonshaw Provincial Park Winnipeg Moncton

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