King Charles and Queen Camilla Slice Crown-Shaped Cake During Surprise Visit to Northern Ireland
The visit marks the King and Queen's first official trip out of England since the coronation
Surprise — King Charles and Queen Camilla are abroad!
On Wednesday afternoon, the King and Queen stepped out in Belfast for their historic first visit to Northern Ireland since their coronation on May 6. The trip is also the King and Queen's first official trip out of England since the crowning ceremony. The royal couple was all smiles when they arrived at Hazelbank Park in Newtownabbey to open the new Coronation Garden, created to celebrate their crowning and mark the start of a new green initiative for the community.
King Charles, 74, and Queen Camilla, 75, had the honor of opening the gates and met designers behind the new space, landscaped with the same sustainable principles the King and Queen employ.
“They were wonderful – I got to spend a little bit of time with them, we went into the quiet garden with the water dancing and they were asking me where the plants came from, the idea behind the design, and they couldn’t have been nicer,” garden designer Diarmuid Gavin told The Independent of his time with Charles and Camilla, who are known to share a love of gardening and country life.
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The royals checked out the garden from the pavilion balcony, bright with Irish wildflowers, topiary and conical trees. Then, they met with school children participating in coronation-themed projects, community volunteers who pitched in during The Big Help Out as well as recipients of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, The King’s Award for Enterprise and The Duke of Edinburgh Bursary.
The King and Queen couldn’t help but laugh during their final duty — cutting into a crown-shaped cake! The decadent confection looked like the historic St. Edward Crown, which the Archbishop of Canterbury used to crown Charles on May 6.
The couple also took time to greet the well-wishers who came out to see them and were warm with the crowd. King Charles shared a hug with a school child, and Camilla touched the cheek of a baby festively dressed in a Union Jack flag headband.
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The King and Queen then traveled to Hillsborough Castle, where they were guests of honor at a garden party. They met attendees making a difference in their communities through volunteer and charity work and chatted with students from Blythefield Primary School, who are among the winners of Historic Royal Palaces’ Coronation Benches competition.
The contest invited school children across the U.K. to design benches for installation around Historic Royal Palace grounds to commemorate the May 6 crowning ceremony. In another playful nod to the crowning ceremony, King Charles and Queen Camilla sat on a throne-style bench, hand painted with the crown jewels.
The pair parted ways, as Charles met with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Camilla mingled with Coronation Champion volunteers. They came back together to plant a magnolia tree in the garden of Hillsborough Castle to commemorate their coronation, just like Queen Elizabeth did in Northern Ireland in 1953.
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In honor of Charles’ crowning ceremony, PEOPLE published a special issue devoted to the epic festivities, the King and his life.
"I think it's something that dawns on you with the most ghastly, inexorable sense," a 20-year-old Charles told BBC radio in 1969 of recognizing his destiny. "I didn't suddenly wake up in my pram one day and say, 'Yippee.' But I think it just dawns on you, you know, slowly, that people are interested in one, and slowly you get the idea that you have a certain duty and responsibility."
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