It is customary for a gun salute to be fired on the occasions when members of the British Royal Family visit Gibraltar. However on Monday there was a double gun salute.
The first occurred whilst the Earl and Countess of Wessex were still in the air en route to the Rock on their British Airways flight from London. The guns were mounted on the newly restored Grand Battery on the city walls above Casemates. The firing of the 21 gun salute was in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday. In a series of firsts it was the first time a Royal Gun Salute was fired from this position and also the first time the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, had inspected the Thomson’s Battery of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.
Around an hour later the guns rang out again as the Royal flight touched down but on this occasion both the Governor of Gibraltar and the Chief Minister were on the tarmac to welcome Prince Edward and his wife Sophie as they descended the steps from the aircraft.
The visit to Gibraltar was part of the world wide tour being undertaken by members of the Royal Family to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
It was an expressed wish of the Chief Minister that the Earl and Countess should visit many parts of Gibraltar and meet a cross section of people from across the local community hence the inclusion of housing estates and children’s playgrounds on their crowded itinerary.
After their arrival Prince Edward and Sophie held a short ‘walkabout’ in John Mackintosh Square, Their Royal Highnesses watched excerpts from the Gibraltar Academy of Dance’s production of ‘An Audience with the Queen’ on a specially-erected stage in the Square. They then walked along Main Street to the Convent providing another opportunity for everyone to welcome them.
During their stay the Royal visitors laid the foundation stone for the Diamond Jubilee Monument on Line Wall Road overlooking the site of the new Jubilee Commonwealth Park. On Tuesday they visited Headquarters British Forces, performed the unveiling of a plaque on the Moroccan Fountain in Alameda Gardens to honour Moroccan Workers in Gibraltar and visited the Gibraltar Museum.
On Tuesday afternoon one of the more emotive events took place when they drove to the Upper Rock with a stop at Queen’s Lookout to meet several local people involved with Her Majesty the Queen’s visit in 1954. The Queen was photographed on that visit looking out over the Rock from the site which now bears her name.
On the Monday evening the Royals had attended a government banquet at the Rock Hotel and on the Tuesday their Royal Highnesses watched the Queen’s Birthday Parade in Casemates Square followed by the Queen’s Birthday Party at the Convent, the Governor’s official residence.
In addition to the public events Prince Edward presented Duke of Edinburgh awards, met local religious leaders, toured the Mission for Seafarers, the Port Authority and the new law courts. The Earl also visited GibDock and the two rowing clubs where he named a new boat and presented regatta awards. Meanwhile, the Countess’s busy programme included visits to the Girl Guides’ headquarters and to St Martin’s Special School.
After what was a very successful visit during which the people of Gibraltar showed their deep affection for the British Monarchy the Royal couple toured the airport’s new terminal building. Then His Excellency the Governor and the Chief Minister bade their farewells before the Royal visitors boarded their flight back to London.