The Prince of Wales has worn a face mask in public for the first time as he visited Northern Ireland with the Duchess of Cornwall to thank key workers for their efforts during the pandemic.
Charles stepped from his chauffeur-driven car wearing the blue cotton face covering when he arrived at the Ulster Museum, but quickly pocketed the cloth item as Camilla removed her mask.
The coverings, made by artisans from Burma, are being sold for £6.50 on the website of the prince’s Turquoise Mountain, a charity which works to protect heritage and communities at risk around the world.
Camilla has worn a face covering in public a number of times as have the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge but Charles, who has been carrying out public duties for a number of months in mainly outdoor settings, has not been seen wearing one before.
Turquoise Mountain supports weavers in Burma and the prince’s mask was made by Nuu Nuu Pan whose family fled ongoing conflict in the region and has been living in a refugee camp since 2010.
Charles was also sporting a plaster on the top of his left ear.
The prince and his wife spoke to nurses outside the building and thanked the health workers who transitioned early from Queen’s University Belfast and the Open University into clinical roles amid the health crisis.
Bronach Best, who works in mental health, said everyone had pulled together as a community of staff.
“I think the public have been great, there was one occasion when I was going shopping in my uniform, and met a mum with her son who was wearing a Spiderman costume, and she said, ‘look there is a real life hero there’,” she said.
“It’s nice to be appreciated.”
Inside the museum Charles took an interest in a handwoven replica of the famous iron throne from the HBO show Game Of Thrones, which had been commissioned for the end of the fantasy drama which was principally filmed in the region.
“A frame of thrones,” the prince quipped as he stood beside the piece for photographs.
Camilla had tried to cajole Charles to sit in the famous throne but the future king stayed on his feet.
Later the heir to the throne made a solo visit to the Henderson Foodservice in Newtownabbey, County Antrim to recognise its achievements in keeping Northern Ireland consumers supplied with groceries during the pandemic.
The firm which supplies more than 450 stores has diversified to introduce home delivery services from 250 outlets during the crisis.
Stores have also supported their own communities by delivering hampers to nurses and others isolating away from their families.
In the company’s giant warehouse surrounded by 18,500 pallets and dozens of staff lined up in socially distanced rows, Charles was presented with a hamper of Northern Irish produce.
Charles told the workers: “I can only congratulate all of you, for what it’s worth, for the amount of effort you’ve put into this and clearly the extraordinary amount of difference you’ve managed to make to so many people’s lives, particularly in delivering food parcels and all the trouble that’s taken in ensuring that everybody knows which customer is which and what needs are required.”
Camilla ended her day by hearing the moving stories of women who have survived abusive partners during a visit to Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid centre in the south of the city.
She listened to a woman, who remained anonymous, who was trafficked to Northern Ireland via Germany from her home country of Somalia.
She tearfully recalled how four of her six children, all boys, were stabbed to death by her former partner, who also tried to kill her.
The man has never been brought to justice and after her other two children, a twin boy and girl, were taken away by their paternal grandfather, the woman, who was married at just 16, left Somalia and has never seen them again.
She wept as she thanked Camilla for coming to hear her story, telling her: “Thank you, thank you for coming to listen.
“I am very very happy to see you today.”
Camilla smiled and said: “No thank you for telling us’ and made a point of going up to her afterwards and telling her: ‘You are so very, very brave’.”
The duchess also discussed how she believes the issue of domestic violence has increased since the lockdown saying: “Victims are more exposed and it seems the problem is escalating which is endlessly worrying.”
“There is no way out of the situation, or so they think, they feel trapped.
“They don’t trust anybody.”