Charles and Camilla thank young nurses in Belfast for their efforts in the pandemic

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have thanked a number of young nurses in Belfast who completed their training early to assist in the battle against coronavirus.

The royal couple arrived at the Ulster Museum in south Belfast on Wednesday morning at the start of a series of engagements in Northern Ireland.

They spent time speaking with nurses outside the building, who transitioned early from Queen’s University Belfast and the Open University into clinical roles amid the health crisis.

Fiona Pierce, who will qualify as a midwife at the Royal Victoria Hospital, said it had felt nice to be thanked for their contribution.

“It’s been a different end to the course than what we envisioned but we all met it with great enthusiasm and so excited to be recognised as being able to support the workforce,” she said.

Bronach Best, who works in mental health, said everyone had pulled together as a community of staff in the effort.

“I think the public have been great, there was one occasion when I was going shopping in my uniform, and met a mum with her son who was wearing a Spiderman costume, and she said, ‘look there is a real life hero there’,” she said.

“It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Inside the museum, Charles and Camilla were shown an exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, which also celebrates the contribution of nurses since the First World War up to the present day.

Moving through the attraction, the royal couple were also shown one from a series of six Rembrandt etchings, the first by the artist to be publicly displayed in Northern Ireland after the museum benefited from an agreement negotiated by the tax authorities to secure £150,000 owed to the Exchequer.

Charles took an interest in a handwoven replica of the famous Iron Throne from the HBO show Game Of Thrones which had been commissioned for the end of the fantasy drama of battles for power which was principally filmed in the region.

“A frame of thrones,” the prince quipped as he stood beside the piece for photographs.

Royal visit to Northern Ireland
Royal visit to Northern Ireland

The royal couple heard from museum staff and volunteers about their work in getting the attraction up and running after it was closed for four and a half months during lockdown.

It reopened on July 30, managing visitor numbers through an online booking system, and have reported numbers remaining at just 25% of the usual footfall.

Before departing, the prince and the duchess met Belfast Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey and city council employees who maintain the gardens outside the Tropical Ravine building.

Later, the duchess visited Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid where she met staff, supporters and service users.

She heard about the challenges they have faced in recent months with the increase in referrals.

Meanwhile, the prince visited Henderson Foodservice in Co Antrim which diversified during the pandemic, introducing home delivery services within around 250 stores.

He met staff in one of their main warehouses, and heard how the company has maintained food supplies amid increased demand over the past few months.