Prince Charles was asked by the Foreign Office to visit Sri Lanka, south Asia in 1998. They were keen to mark the sixtieth anniversary of independence – despite the country being a war zone at the time. Sri Lanka was involved in a civil war and explosions and suicide attacks were taking place across the country. Prince Charles, however, “did not shrink from visiting a war zone,” according to royal author Robert Hardman’s 2018 book Queen of the World.
Prince Charles: Royal experienced very funny moment during ‘high risk’ tour to Sri Lanka
The trip to Sri Lanka was “extremely high risk,” but in fact a series of rather comical events happened during the visit.
From awkward jokes to military mishaps, it was not the smoothest of royal tours from the get-go.
“As the chartered royal flight approached the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, the Prince tried to lighten the mood,” wrote Hardman.
“‘Have you got your bullet-proof vests?’ he joked to the accompanying press pack (some of whom actually had).
“No sooner had the flight touched down that the dramas – and comedy – began on the Colombo tarmac.
“The Sri Lankan artillery unit performing the twenty-one-gun salute to welcome the Prince inadvertently managed to set fire to the grass beside the runway with red-hot shell casings.
“As fire engines raced past the royal dais, the Prince was invited to inspect the guard of honour, whereupon a stray dog appeared from nowhere and joined him.
“At this precise moment the military band struck up The Liberty Bell, better known as the theme tune to Monty Python.
“As the Prince remarked later, he was biting his tongue so hard to retain his composure that he nearly drew blood.”
However, this was not the end of the awkward setbacks during the Sri Lanka visit.
A planned visit to a temple ended up at a very different attraction indeed.
Prince Charles in pictures
Prince Charles as he tours the world for his royal visits.
Prince Charles releases a rehabilitated turtle into the sea on Golden Bay
“[Prince Charles’] first engagement was originally supposed to have been a visit to the Buddhist holy of holies, the Temple of the Tooth, but terrorists had blown up part of it earlier in the week,” said Hardman.
“So he was taken instead to a Courtaulds factory producing men’s Y-front underpants for Marks & Spencer.
“Doing his best to keep the mood upbeat, the Prince made a speech thanking the workforce for ‘providing hidden support to substantial parts of the UK population’.”
The Sri Lanka visit was not the only problematic one the Prince of Wales experienced.
Prince Charles visited Turkmenistan in 1996 and he was forced to spend the evening subtly convincing the President – who famously gave horses to visiting dignitaries – that he had no need for a steed, and it was no easy feat.
The gift of a horse had previously been a problem with former British Prime Minister John Major.
Major flew home leaving the steed in Turkmenistan. The animal was then taken by train to Moscow (the groom robbed of money and tickets en route) and then flown to Britain.
“So when the Prince of Wales arrived in Turkmenistan in 1996, the Foreign Office had one very clear instruction for the new British Ambassador, Neil Hook, and the Prince’s officials: no more horses,” said Hardman.
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