Queen Elizabeth with Maltese PM Joseph Muscat on her way to open the 24th CHOGM Summit.

Queen Elizabeth with Maltese PM Joseph Muscat on her way to open the 24th CHOGM Summit.

Very well, so I have to eat my own words – and will do so gladly. A few weeks back I wrote that the impending visits of Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, her son Prince Charles the Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles Duchess of Cornwall were unlikely to cause more than a ripple of interest.

 

The Queen flanked by Maltese PM Joseph Muscat (left) and the Commonwealth's outgoing Secretary General Kamale Sharma.

The Queen flanked by Maltese PM Joseph Muscat (left) and the Commonwealth’s outgoing Secretary General Kamale Sharma.

How mistaken I was!

 

The Paris horrors in the interim threatened to cause their visit to be cancelled and for a few days the debate was “will she…won’t she…?” In the end she did and the only thing one can say about the Royal troupe is “They came……they saw…..and they undoubtedly conquered!”

Malta's internationally famed tenor Joseph Calleja chatting to Prince Charles after singing during the CHOGM official opening ceremony.

Malta’s internationally famed tenor Joseph Calleja chatting to Prince Charles after singing during the CHOGM official opening ceremony.

 

Weather-wise the 24th CHOGM Summit kicked-off on a shaky footing, causing Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to remark that Malta normally enjoys 300 sunny days a year and 65 other dubious days…unfortunately the Summit had to be held on three of the 65 as howling winds and intermittent showers of rain cascaded on these small islands.

 

Queen Elizabeth chatting to Barts Hospital CEO Anthony Warrants (right) about Barts plans to manage the Gozo General Hospital.

Queen Elizabeth chatting to Barts Hospital CEO Anthony Warrants (right) about Barts plans to manage the Gozo General Hospital.

Notwithstanding, the 89-year-old Queen and 95-year-old Prince Philip stole the scene and lit up three dark days with a blaze of enthusiasm throughout the island as the Maltese public flocked to pay tribute to them in a wave of unprecedented nostalgia.

 

HRM Queen Elizabeth with Nigerian PM Muhammadu Buhari.

HRM Queen Elizabeth with Nigerian PM Muhammadu Buhari.

Braving the foul weather, crowds young and old flocked everywhere, cheered and called out to them. The national television and radio stations covered almost every move they made with live transmissions and a stream of past documentaries that provoked many, many memories.

 

However, standing out and above everything was the highly conspicuous love and affection that the Queen and her husband have for the Maltese islands, a point emphasised by the Queen in almost every speech she made, by their body language and their clear memories of the times in the past spent here.

 

Malta President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca presenting a painting to the Royals showing the villa where they lived in 1949.

Malta President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca presenting a painting to the Royals showing the villa where they lived in 1949.

The Queen recalled how she first came to Malta in 1949 as a young Royal Naval bride as Prince Philip was stationed here and they lived in relative freedom for a number of months which she described as “the happiest days of our lives”. Since then, she and her offsprings paid a number of short visits, all of which they remembered with pride.

 

1949 - newly-married Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip at their Guardamangia villa residence.

1949 – newly-married Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip at their Guardamangia villa residence.

Opening the CHOGM Summit at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Queen Elizabeth specifically mentioned that Malta and the Maltese have a moral strength and fortitude that far outstrips its geographical size. In a later speech she deliberated on her father’s (King George VI) decision to award Malta the George Cross in 1942 for “valour and bravery”, the only time that this award has been collectively awarded to a country rather than an individual.

 

Prince Philip (centre) during his Malta polo playing days at Marsa.

Prince Philip (centre) during his Malta polo playing days at Marsa.

The scheduled visits took the Royal couple to all their favourite past haunts, including a boat-ride across the Grand Harbour, to Bighi and Kalkara and naturally to the Marsa Racecourse although sadly a scheduled Polo match had to be cancelled because the pitch was flooded. However, they did manage to see a pony race for child jockeys and a trotting race with the Queen presenting trophies to the winners.

 

The Queen's official gala dinner for all Heads of Commonwealth Governments with Maltese PM Joseph Muscat.

The Queen’s official gala dinner for all Heads of Commonwealth Governments with Maltese PM Joseph Muscat.

As usual, Prince Philip played his part as the faithful and reliable companion standing discreetly in the shadows but naturally had to make his mark.

 

The Queen and President Coleiro Preca chatting to British residents in Malta.

The Queen and President Coleiro Preca chatting to British residents in Malta.

On a visit to the Anglican cathedral in Valletta accompanied by Malta’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, the Prince suddenly turned on the Archbishop and said “we’re Christians too you know” to which the Archbishop replied “great, that’s very good to hear”.

 

The Queen with heir Prince Charles.

The Queen with heir Prince Charles.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall had their own separate schedules and were equally well met with verve and enthusiasm and shows of public affection.

 

 Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Malta's old capital city Mdina.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Malta’s old capital city Mdina.

What else?

 

Oh yes, in the meanwhile there was also some sort of CHOGM Summit taking place with the attendance of British PM David Cameron, the Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, the new Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, the Nigerian Prime Minister Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, and many others including guests French President Francois Hollande and the United Nations General Secretary Ban ki-Moon.

 

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Ms Trudeau.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Ms Trudeau.

These however were just a sideshow to the main Royal attraction.

 

As for CHOGM itself, as with every Summit of this nature, sadly many words and pledges of commitments and cash being thrown at problems but whether these will actually materialise into anything remains to be seen.

 

British PM David Cameron.

British PM David Cameron.

NOTE: Pictures with thanks and acknowledgement to “The Times of Malta”, “Malta Today” and “The Malta Independent”.

 

ALBERT FENECH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Albert Fenech

Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management but still retained his roots by actively pursuing freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel.