Royal inspection of work at Cathedral
FRIENDLY spirits, a pretty spring posy and a perfect curtsey greeted Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall to Exeter Cathedral.
The posy and curtsey were courtesy of 11-year-old Exeter Cathedral schoolgirl Anne Hall, the warm welcome reinforced by a cheering crowd outside the West Front, clothed in 11 decks of scaffolding, wooden boards and blue netting.
A work in progress and fitting symbol for a Prince who paid a call for a special thanksgiving service to celebrate the success of its £8m fundraising appeal.
Many had gathered hours before the arrival of their royal highnesses.
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Those without tickets to the event, like Cynthia Hanson and her 86-year-old companion Michael Webb, waited outside.
"It is sad we couldn't get in but they turned us away," said Mrs Hanson. "I am a Friend of the Cathedral but there was no room for us but I am here to see the Prince of Wales as I have never seen him before so I am still happy."
Marion and David Marshall were luckier. They had tickets and as well as the royal visitors were there to see and hear their granddaughter Laura Kerr sing in the Exeter Cathedral School Choir.
Similarly, Jean and Douglas Bruce-Merrie, married 57 years ago just a few yards away in what was St Mary Major Church, had a special reason to be there.
A stone in the restored Ladies' Chapel was dedicated to Mrs Bruce-Merrie's mother, Phillipa Hutchinson, who had lived in Southernhay.
Veteran protester Maryse Mills attracted the interest of the royal security with her home made banner and her desire to bring home to the heir to the throne her long-standing grievance over a lost mortgage.
Mrs Mills, who lived in her car in a city car park for many months, managed a frail shout that was all but drowned out by the applause and cheers which greeted the Prince and Duchess when they arrived in a Bentley, cold grey to match the weather.
After a quick chat with the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Michael Langrish and the Dean, the Very Rev Jonathan Draper, the Prince, patron of the fund- raising Third Millennium Campaign, and the Duchess, wrapped up in a plum-coloured coat with fur hat, entered through the Great West door into what was by now a packed cathedral.
The dean said: "We are really delighted that the prince is here today. He has been a wonderful supporter of the cathedral.
"We have raised £8m over eight years during what has been a difficult time and we have had thousands of supporters. We want to thank every person who has helped and give thanks for every penny that has been raised."
There followed a short service after which their royal highnesses were shown some of the treasures of the cathedral including the now empty historic organ case, whose 4,000 pipes have gone for refurbishment, thanks to funds given by campaign donors.
The royal couple took particular interest in the historic Exeter Book, a 10th century collection of Anglo Saxon poetry – £1 million has been raised towards securing the future of the historic books and manuscripts and improving access to the cathedral's unique collections in the library and archives.
They also found time to have a quiet talk with members of the cathedral choir, nobly led by one of the cathedral stalwarts, Punctator Gordon Pike, who joined the choir in the snowy winter of 1963 as a treble and progressed through the ranks to his present role as leader of the choir's gentlemen.
He said: "I have been here 50 years and met the prince serval times before. As ever this time when he saw me he said, 'Still here?' – and I am, and delighted to be so. We could not ask for a better supporter."
After a cup of tea with the great and the good, granddad-to-be Prince Charles and his wife walked back through the cathedral, where the duchess was presented with a farewell posy.