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Prince Charles has visited countries in all four corners of the globe during his life. Sometimes royal visits don’t always go to plan. This was certainly the case for one state visit to Sri Lanka in 1998.
The Prince of Wales went to the south Asian nation at the request of the Foreign Office.
The visit would mark the sixtieth anniversary of Sri Lankan independence.
However, it was a risky undertaking for the heir to the throne as Sri Lanka was mired in civil war at this time.
Explosions and suicide attacks were rife – but Prince Charles was not afraid to go.
According to royal author Robert Hardman, the Queen’s son “did not shrink from visiting a war zone.”
The trip to Sri Lanka was “extremely high risk,” but in fact, a series of rather comical events happened during the visit, according to Hardman’s 2018 book Queen of the World.
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’] 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’.”
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