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Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh impress Rutland residents on first trip to county which included visit to statue of Queen Elizabeth II, Oakham Castle and Rutland Water





A ‘gracious’ and ‘inspirational’ royal couple impressed on a visit to Rutland, moving some residents to tears.

Crowds of people, many holding Union Jacks, lined the streets of Oakham to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh to Rutland for their first visit to the county earlier today (Tuesday, May 14).

Rutland resident Judith Lewis, stationed herself at the front of the crowds near the library as she believed the visit was a ‘once in a lifetime chance to see the royal family’.

People were excited to meet the royal couple. Photo: Chris Lowndes
People were excited to meet the royal couple. Photo: Chris Lowndes

Waiting around in the rain was worth it as she described being ‘delighted’ with her brief encounter with the royal couple.

Self-proclaimed royalist Lizzie McWhirter, has seen Sophie and Edward a handful of times before, but was keen to meet them in her home county.

Lizzie said: “They had time for everybody.

The royal couple enjoyed their first visit to the county. Photo: Chris Lowndes
The royal couple enjoyed their first visit to the county. Photo: Chris Lowndes

“They were so gracious and lovely.

“Meeting them was a thrilling moment.”

Throughout the visit the duke asked people in the crowds where they lived, with answers ranging from the Rutland and Stamford area to people travelling from Kent and London.

There was a buzz of excitement. Photo: Chris Lowndes
There was a buzz of excitement. Photo: Chris Lowndes

The duchess, who had her hair in a twisted updo, wore a white shirt, green straight-leg trousers with a camel coat on top and shoes of the same colour. She carried an orange bag with an embellished tan strap.

The duke donned a light coloured shirt and green tie with a khaki checked blazer, blue trousers and brown shoes.

The couple, who arrived in a royal helicopter, began the tour with a visit to Rutland County Showground, before travelling to Oakham Castle in a navy Range Rover Discovery.

Gallery of photos here.

Despite the miserable weather, they rolled down the windows to wave to the hundreds of cheering primary school children who lined the castle grounds.

The couple chatted with many of the pupils, accepting flowers and reading cards, before heading inside the historic castle building where they presented a horseshoe.

The Duchess of Edinburgh pets the corgi on the statue of the Queen. Photo: Chris Lowndes
The Duchess of Edinburgh pets the corgi on the statue of the Queen. Photo: Chris Lowndes

The couple listened attentively as Jim Bolton explained the history of the centuries old tradition, which dictates that royalty visiting Oakham for the first time should present a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor. There are now more than 230 which decorate the walls and Sophie and Edward’s is one of the few entwined double horseshoes.

The beauty of the castle, England’s most complete surviving Norman hall, left Edward pondering ‘how they did it with no magnifying glasses or special tools’.

The royal couple spoke with volunteers and members of staff who give their time to the castle and its cafe.

Anna Rudkin, cafe assistant, said: “I was very surprised they talked to us.

“I’m so emotional as I get very proud to be British on occasions like this.

“I have been on the verge of tears all morning as it is such an honour.”

Judy Gear, from the Friends of Rutland County Museum and Oakham Castle, added: “They were really friendly and showed an interest.

“They were easy to talk to as there was a lack of formality.”

Susan Smith, who brought with her 13-month-old guide dog mum-to-be Shiraz, caught the attention of Sophie, a patron of Guide Dogs.

“It was amazing because she is so passionate about their work,” said Susan.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh meet volunteers and staff at Oakham Castle
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh meet volunteers and staff at Oakham Castle

“She crouched down to see Shiraz.”

As they left the castle Their Royal Highnesses were greeted by dozens of cadets and participants in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

Ed Way, who attended with his gold Duke of Edinburgh group, said Sophie gave tips on how to get through the expedition, including eating lots of Angel Delight and biscuits.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh with their horseshoe
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh with their horseshoe

“She was really encouraging and wished us good luck,” he said.

Tom Atkinson, another group member, added: “It was a pleasure to speak with them.”

Their Royal Highnesses, not deterred by the rain, travelled to Oakham Library on foot, pausing to chat with people going about their day.

They greeted Johanna Ake, Nicholas Kabbabe and Tony Bishop of The George Inn Hotel, which has recently been renovated, and chatted with a pair enjoying a pint.

“They asked what happened here. I said drinking and lunch but unfortunately we are full today,” joked Tony.

Johanna added: “We didn’t expect them to come by.”

Outside the library is a memorial statue to Queen Elizabeth II, the first to be created in tribute.

Sophie and Edward are the first royal visitors to the statue since it was unveiled a couple of weeks ago following a public fundraising campaign.

They watched a short film about the making of the statue and met with Molly Banham and Freddie Newsham who were the winners of the Corgi and Crowns Competition, which was part of the unveiling event.

Speaking to the duke, Judith Lewis said: “We are honoured that Oakham is the first place to have a statue.”

Twenty-two-year-old Rebekah Nash presented the royal couple with red carnations as they greeted the crowds by the statue and described the day as ‘pretty inspirational’.

Thomas Hutton, 23, added: “It is really remarkable for the smallest county to have such a big achievement.”

The couple admired the statue with Sophie stroking the head of one of the three bronze corgis which flank the almost life-size bronze figure.

Sculptor Hywell Pratley was on hand to answer their questions and was impressed with Sophie’s knowledge of bronze casting.

It was also an important and emotive moment for the duke to see the statue of his mother, who died in September 2022.

Hywell said: “It is a great honour.

“When I was sculpting in the studio I was thinking about the Queen’s role as a mother and her life with children.

“This has been a circular moment.”

After admiring the statue, which was created by sculptor Hywell Pratley, the pair headed to Rutland Water for a tour of the reservoir on the Rutland Belle.

They returned to Rutland County Showground, the final stop of the day, where they visited The Duke of Edinburgh Memorial Orchard, meaning Edward also had a chance to see the county’s tribute to his father. They also met with members of Root and Branch Out, a group which supports gardening for children.




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