Malta Diary ~ Lots of Pomp and Much Circumstance
Well, after all the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton did not make Malta’s 50th anniversary celebrations because of her second pregnancy condition, but her husband William the Duke of Cambridge stepped into the breach and carried off all the duties with all the pomp associated with his birth-right. He must also have viewed the much circumstance associated with his royal ancestors and current family. These included the George Cross awarded for Bravery and Valour during the Second World War by his great grandfather King George VI in 1942; the fact that his grandma’ and granddad as Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip spent the first months of their marriage living in Malta; that his Great Uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten spent a number of years living in Malta; the gift that his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II sent to the Malta Government 50 years ago to mark Independence, the visit of his dad Prince Charles and his aunt Princess Anne as young children in the mid-50s on the royal yacht Britannia and in the mid-60s the water-skiing holiday enjoyed by his dad Prince Charles in Malta and Gozo.
He was also ferried around the Grand Harbour in the very same Maltese dghajsa used to ferry around his grandmother 60 years ago.
Everything went off swimmingly. His body language said it all. He was relaxed, comfortable and obviously at home, especially when remarking to the media that “Prince George would probably be too much for Malta”. Indeed, one could discern his father’s aplomb in the formalities and his late mother Princess Diana’s warmth and friendliness when stepping out of formality for more relaxed contact with the public.
The achievement of Malta’s Independence has always been a bone of contention between the two main political parties as to which one actually obtained Independence, both claiming the prize. It has been a source of division throughout the 50 years. Thankfully, this year’s celebrations have hopefully filed this contention away for good as for the first-time ever in this commemoration, the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (PL) stood together with the Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil (PN) with the President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca in between.
During the two hours leading to midnight between the 20th and 21st September, a continuous fireworks display illuminated Valletta’s Grand Harbour accompanied by music, song and dance by the island’s accomplished entertainers and the highlight of the musical evening international tenor Joseph Calleja entertaining the many, many thousands encircled around the harbour with his powerful renditions – his face laser-emblazoned across the harbour’s historic and impressive bastions.
Needless to say, William’s brief visit was crowded end-to-end with activities, including a visit to the National Library to view a document sent by his ancestor King Henry VIII to the Knights Grandmaster at the time 500 years ago, planting the usual tree, meeting the President, the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and other dignitaries. He was shown around St John’s Co-Cathedral (with particular reference to the famous Caravaggio painting “The Beheading of St John the Baptist”) and the Vittoriosa Parish Church and its extensive Mattia Preti works.
There was also a great treat in store for thousands of British tourists and residents in Malta who attended the In Gwardia Parade in Valletta’s Main Square, a re-enactment of the military parades that the Knights of St John used to hold in the same square. The Prince took the opportunity to step forward and shake hands with and chat to the many British people present, together with thousands of Maltese.
The 24-hour visit passed all too quickly but William will have certainly taken away many memories and a good taste of the Maltese Islands, promising that “one day” his wife Kate Middleton may also visit to make up for her enforced and unavoidable absence on the day.
Did he have any “Home (football) Thoughts From Abroad”? Well, it must certainly have irked him to know that as he was travelling to Malta his beloved Aston Villa were being beaten 0-3 by Arsenal at Villa Park!
Pictures: courtesy of The Department of Information – Malta.