SINGAPORE: Despite the overcast skies and slight drizzle, it was a grand and solemn occasion.
It was Tuesday morning (Oct 31) at the Istana, and the ceremonial welcome for Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was about to begin.
President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, were waiting with warm smiles to greet their royal guests as they emerged from the car – he dressed in a navy blue pinstriped suit, and her in a mint green dress. Both also sported red poppy remembrance pins, which are traditionally worn in November to remember those who have fought in war.
The couple, who arrived in Singapore on Monday (Oct 30), are on a four-day visit to Singapore. On Monday, they visited local athletes participating in the Queen's Baton Relay, which is travelling around the world ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
With firm handshakes all round, it was now time for the formalities to properly begin. President Halimah and Prince Charles mounted the dais at the Istana’s ceremonial plaza as the assembled military band struck up the National Anthem. And as the band launched into a stirring tune, the Prince then inspected the Guard of Honour contingent lined up on the plaza.
It was then time to head indoors, where the royal couple had a meeting with President Halimah. They were also welcomed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Mdm Ho Ching, and sat down to tea with them.
Following his visit to the Istana, the pair then went to the Cenotaph, a war memorial in Esplanade Park that honours the men who died in World War I and II. But while it was a solemn event, many had lined up along the barricades set up along the perimeter, hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple.
The sound of bagpipe music was in the air as the Prince and his wife arrived in their car and were greeted by UK Defence Adviser Martin Moore and his wife. As the Duchess and Mrs Moore waited at the foot of the Cenotaph, the Prince mounted the ten steps to lay a wreath. They then observed a minute of silence.
But the cameras were whipped out again as the royal couple were introduced to the serving and war veterans of Singapore and the Commonwealth. Dressed formally in suits and uniforms, some sporting berets, these veterans were lined up along the perimeter of the war memorial, waiting for a chance to meet the pair and the couple spent some time making their way down the line to chat and shake hands.
The public, lined up behind the barricades, were also not disappointed. Before departing, the Prince and his wife took the time for a quick meet and greet. Mobile phones were lifted in the air as members of the public tried to snap quick selfies with the couple, while groups of young students – from various international schools like Tanglin Trust – waved enthusiastically at the couple. The Duchess, in particular, made it a point to greet them with a warm smile and a wave, before asking them what they were doing there.