The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have been visiting Coventry as part of celebrations marking its status as 2021 UK City of Culture.
Charles and Camilla toured the city’s cathedral on Tuesday, observing a service of thanksgiving which included the litany of reconciliation – recited every weekday at the site as an act of solidarity and wartime remembrance.
The original cathedral was bombed by the Luftwaffe during an air raid on the city on November 14 1940, which killed 600 people.
PA Paul Ellis
The ruins have remained as a monument to peace, while a new cathedral was built next door and consecrated in 1962.
That consecration, attended by the Queen, took place 59 years ago to the day.
During Tuesday’s service, the prince sat in the chair the Queen used during her visit nearly six decades ago.
Charles – visiting the cathedral for the first time – and Camilla were met by the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, and the Dean of Coventry, the Very Rev John Witcombe.
They viewed the Altar of Rubble, built from the bombed-out remains of the original cathedral, including two fire-blackened roof beams forming a cross.
The royal couple were also shown the 1977 Reconciliation Statue, which shows a couple embracing across barbed wire, and toured the new cathedral.
PA Paul Ellis
Speaking during the thanksgiving service, the bishop said: “The consecration of Coventry Cathedral, 59 years ago, took place in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, and it is a deep joy, Your Royal Highnesses, that you have graced us today with your presence.
“Throughout decades of public service, His Royal Highness has been dedicated to the nurturing of understanding between peoples, to building peace in the world and to the restoration of hope among those who might despair.
“Time does not allow me to pay proper tribute to those efforts to improve community relationships, deepen inter-faith understanding and raise the aspirations and life chances of young people.
“But, if I may, I would like to draw attention to the way – in the Balkans, in Northern Ireland, in the Holy Land and elsewhere – His Royal Highness has spoken poignantly about the futility of vengeance, the need for enemies to build bridges that reach out to each other so that they may become friends and the power of forgiveness.
“These principles lie at the heart of the ministry of Coventry Cathedral.”
The service took place before the building’s font, which is carved from a stone brought from Bethlehem.
As Charles and Camilla left the cathedral there were cheers from a crowd who had gathered outside.
The City of Culture showcase, taking in a broad spectrum of mediums, including theatre, music and street performances, had its official launch delayed because of Covid-19.
The Prince and Duchess then made the short walk towards the nearby Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.
Outside there was a street performance by artists, some on scooters and bicycles, prompting Charles to tell them: “Very energetic.”
Once inside the gallery, Charles and Camilla were given a tour of the 2-Tone: Lives and Legacies Music Exhibition by lead curator Martin Roberts and The Selecter frontwoman Pauline Black.
The exhibition is celebrating the city’s status as the home of ska music – a blend of traditional Jamaican music, as well as reggae, punk, rock and rocksteady genres.
When the prince asked Ms Black “is it soul music?”, she replied: “No, it’s not soul music – it’s something called ska music.”
Later, showing some of the exhibits to the duchess, surrounded by displays including Fred Perry shirts and pork pie-hatted musicians, Ms Black pointed out an image of The Specials’ founder member Jerry Dammers, asking her: “Do you know the song Free Nelson Mandela?”
When Camilla said she knew the tune, Ms Black said: “Well, Jerry wrote that.”
Later the prince, as patron of the British Asian Trust, met supporters of the Oxygen for India appeal, which has so far raised more than £4 million towards providing critical help for people in India suffering with Covid-19.
Praising the “fantastic” work of the attendees, Charles said: “I cannot thank the Indian community enough, here – the diaspora – and of course the wider community, globally, for supporting all these people so in need.
“I sympathise with all those who have been so cruelly affected by this crisis, who’ve lost their loved ones.
“And of course it seems as though every member of the diaspora, here in the United Kingdom, knows someone affected so I can understand even more how much it means.
“I particularly want to show my appreciation, as far as the trust is concerned, which has been able to begin a meaningful emergency appeal and action to ensure that oxygen concentrators have got to India and have been dispatched to rural areas, through partners, to where there is a real need.
“Clearly, you know better than I, there is much more that is needed to be done to provide support and of course to help build back better.
“Once again, I cannot thank you enough; for your response, the degree to which you’ve responded and the amount of money that’s been raised and pledged makes such a difference and personally makes me very proud.”
Charles, as patron of the Almhouse Association, helped mark the organisation’s 75th anniversary, meeting residents at Coventry Church Municipal Charities Bond’s Hospital.
He then visited the Daimler Powerhouse – once the site of Britain’s first car factory and where the first fork lift was created – where a £2.5 million overhaul has made it a creative hub for artists.
Later, as patron of the Canal & River Trust, he boarded working heritage barge Scorpio for a 10-minute ride to the city’s canal basin, hearing how volunteers have helped turn the waterway into a community haven, before watching an outdoor performance.
Meanwhile, the Duchess visited Coventry Central Library, reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to a group of youngsters.
Chenine Bhathena, city of culture trust creative director, said she was “delighted” the Prince and Duchess had chosen to visit as the cultural showcase begins.