The visit of Prince Charles and his wife,Camilla,to Ireland last week was a moving and historic occasion. It was good that the couple who will one day be King and Queen of Britain were able to come to this country,see some of our most beautiful landscapes and cultural venues and be greeted so warmly.
It was good to see the Prince and Gerry Adams shake hands. It was very good that the Prince was able to visit the place where his beloved “honorary grandfather” felt so much at home and where he died. The murder of Lord Mountbatten,two teenagers and a woman of 86 was a shameful,cowardly crime which made one feel ashamed to be Irish. The visit of Charles in a week in which one could feel very proud to be Irish was a healing event as we all move slowly out of what the Northern Irish singer,Neil Hannon called “thirty years of night.”
During the many,many summers he spent in Ireland,Lord Mountbatten passed through Mullingar on his way to and from Co Sligo. There was no bypass then,so all Sligo bound travellers had to come through Mullingar. On occassions,Mountbatten would stop off in Mullingar to buy sweets or icecream for his grandchildren. There are still people in Mullingar who remember him.
Lord Mountbatten had served in the Royal Navy for almost half a century. During World War Two he was Commander in Chief of all Allied Forces in South-East Asia. Many Irishmen served under his commnand and these included Westmeath men. Men from this county may also have served under Mountbatten’s command during his period as Commander-in Chief of Royal Naval Forces in the Mediterranean in the early 1950s.
During the Royal visit last week Charles and Camilla were accompanied by Timothy Knatchbull,Lord Mountbatten’s grandson. He was badly injured in the bomb explosion and his twin brother,Nicholas was killed. Timothy is a direct descendent through his father,the film producer John Brabourne,of Grace O Malley,the “pirate queen of Mayo.”
Some of Prince Charles’s ancestors travelled through Westmeath in the 19th century on board the Royal Train. His Great-Grandfather,King George V, visited Ireland in 1895 and 1896. He received an Address of Recognition from Mullingar Town Commisssion and other civic bodies at the Railway Station in 1895. The following year,George and his wife,Mary watched Westmeath beat Meath to become All Ireland Polo Champions in the Phoenix Park.!!
In 1850, another of Charles’s ancestors,the Duke of Cambridge,visited Mullingar and spent the day inspecting troops in the Barracks. It should also be noted that one of Charles’s numerous German cousins,the Duke of Mecklenberg, lived near Mullingar at Cullion for a number of years in the 1960s.
In 1915 King George V presented the Victoria Cross to Captain Boyd-Rochford of Middleton Park in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. In 1922 the King met Charles Howard-Bury of Belvedere to learn about the successful reconnaissance of Mount Everest led by Howard-Bury. George also met Lawrence of Arabia-the World War One hero . Lawrence was the son of Sir Thomas Chapman from Delvin.
Charles’s maternal grandfather,King George VI,also met Westmeath people during his reign. In 1945,for example,he presented a posthumous award for bravery to the parents of Anthony Tottenham from Tudenham,Mullingar,who had been killed in action serving with the RAF. In 1943,Cecil Boyd-Rochford from Middleton Park,Castletown-Geoghegan,became Trainer at the Royal Stables near Sandringham,Norfolk. Boyd-Rochford held that post for 25 years.
Charles’s grandmother,Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother,was a close friend of Elizabeth Longford-mother of Thomas Pakenham of Tullynally Castle,Castlepollard.
And finally,Charles and Camilla have met such famous Mullingar people as Niall Horan,Ailish Tynan and Cian Brennan-Gavin in recent years.!