The Princess Royal and her husband, Vice Admiral Sit Timothy Laurence, are in Sri Lanka for an official visit at the request of King Charles III and his government.
Her Royal Highness landed in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on 10th January, and she was welcomed at the airport by the British High Commissioner to the country, Andrew Patrick, as well as the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Sabry.
The first stop of the visit was MAS Active Factory, a tech hub for the textile industry, This was particularly relevant for Princess Anne, as she is the President of the UK’s fashion and Textile Association. MAS Active Factory collaborates with many UK fashion brands, and the Princess Royal was photographed chatting with staff members in front of a display of some pieces of the M&S collection.
The next meeting was even more important for the Princess, as she visited the Head Office of Save the Children Sri Lanka, an association that in 2024 celebrates its 50th anniversary of operations in the country.
Her Royal Highness met with some of the officials and staff members, and listened to explanations about some of the programmes that are being implemented, as well as some future projects, to tackle several of the challenges in the country: education, health and nutrition, as well as developing skills for insertion in a higher qualified job market.
The Princess Royal has long been Patron of Save the Children UK, and she unveiled a plaque in the Colombo offices to commemorate her visit as well as the milestone anniversary the Sri Lankan branch of the Association is celebrating.
The last stop of the day, still in connection with Save the Children, was the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Women and Children, a facility that is implementing the Association’s “Tilli” Social Emotional Learning Programme.
The tool kit was designed by Save the Children Sri Lanka to “facilitate meaningful child-friendly discussions on topics such as trust, consent, bodies and boundaries” by “incorporating evidence-based interventions such as games and story-telling”. The Princess Royal also unveiled a plaque to commemorate her visit here.
The last event for the day was an official dinner offered by the President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, during which the Princess Royal delivered a message from the King marking the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and the UK, in which he said, in part, “I would like to extend my very best wishes to Your Excellency and the people of Sri Lanka as we celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of bilateral relations between our two countries, as marked by the visit of my dear sister, The Princess Royal”.
Day two began in Kandy, where the Princess and the Vice Admiral visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Sri Lanka’s most significant Buddhist Temple. As its name suggests, the structure is located on what was once the Royal Palace in the former Kingdom of Kandy, and it is believed to house relics of the tooth of the Buddha.
Her Royal Highness was guided through the Temple visit by its Acting Chief Custodian, Mahinda Dela, and took part in a traditional ceremony by offering a plate of jasmine flowers to the relic.
After the 273km journey north, Princess Anne and Sir Tim arrived in Jaffna, where the were welcomed at the Public Library by local authorities with a traditional ceremony. There, the couple met members of the Tamil community and learned how the Library is being transformed into a “symbol of northern education and culture”.
The last stop for the day was Muhamalai, where the couple visited the Demining and Resettlement Site, belonging to The Halo Trust, a name that many royal watchers will be familiar with.
The site works to clear mines from stretches of land, and, when a certain area is designated as safe, to reintegrate population into it. The Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Laurence chatted with executives form the Trust and the Site, as well as some of the members of the communities that have settled back on the de-mined land.
The Halo Trust is a UK-founded and internationally-financed organisation that has been carrying out de-mining work in several regions of the world for over 35 years.
The visit will end on Friday, 12th January, and the Princess Royal and her husband will probably do the same thing they did when going there, when they shocked many passengers by boarding a Sri Lanka Airlines commercial flight and carrying their own luggage, a total of three bags for the two of them.
This is the first overseas trip for the British Royals in 2024, and it was carried out by the person once again taking the title of hardest working royal in the British Palace in 2023, according to the calculations of many outlets.