Charles 'surprised' as audience shows up despite Welsh Euro 2016 success

Somme Centenary Commemorations In France
Somme Centenary Commemorations In France

The Prince of Wales has kicked off his annual summer tour of Wales by joking that he thought no-one would turn up to see him - because of the country's success at Euro 2016.

Charles is spending five days in Wales with wife Camilla for a series of engagements.

On day one, the Prince of Wales hailed a "remarkable" £450 million university campus in Swansea, which officials say would not have been built without funding from the European Union.

While the heir to the throne steered clear of talk of Brexit, he did express his delight at seeing the Welsh football team remain in the Euros, saying it would make his yearly trip "more memorable".

In a speech to around 700 people at the Swansea Bay Campus's Great Hall, he joked: "I must admit I'm surprised there's anybody here at all today bearing in mind that most of the principality seems to have gone to France for the football."

Based on the site of a former oil works, the Swansea Bay Campus has been heralded by university bosses as a state-of-the art science and innovation centre predicted to boost the economy by £3 billion and create 10,000 jobs over a decade.

They say the Prince's Foundation played a key role in transforming a brownfield site into a world class facility which boasts the latest in robotic technology, a flight simulator and a prototype desalination plant.

Charles, a keen environmentalist, said he was thrilled to see the site brought back to life.

He also witnessed an innovative water purifying system developed by Swansea University's Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI).

Professor Andrew Barron said a prototype tested in Guatemala, Central America, had extracted drinkable water from a contaminated stream which runs through a rubbish dump.

"It not only removes viruses and bacteria but also heavy metals such as arsenic and lead," he said.

"The idea was to make this simple to use and repair so that people in places like Guatemala could use it and get access to clean, safe drinking water.

"It produces a ton of water an hour - enough for a village of 100 people."

Shortly before unveiling a plaque opening the campus, Charles listened to a performance from soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Ms Thomas's "marvellous" vocals impressed Charles, especially after he was told the critically acclaimed singer "screamed so loudly at the television the other evening (during the Belgium game) she nearly lost her voice".

There were also scores of smiles from several of the university's students, who also got to meet the Prince.

Chemical engineering student Sonia Benfriedg, 33, originally from Tunisia, said: "I was so surprised to meet a member of the British Royal Family. They are so well known throughout the world.

"The Prince was a very humble person and had a lot of time for the students."

Second year finance student Ayo Sunmade, 19, from Croydon, said: "I was so nervous beforehand but the Prince was so down to earth you instantly feel comfortable speaking to him.

"I joked to him that as a finance student it will be my job to keep all the engineers and architects within budget."

Swansea University vice chancellor Richard B Davies paid tribute to Charles for the part the future king has played in the campus development, saying he had a key role "right from the start".

Mr Davies also said the campus had been built thanks to £60 million funding from the EU as well as a further £60 million low cost loan from the European Investment Bank.

For his second and final engagement of the day, Charles travelled in his Royal Bentley to Swansea's Brangwyn Hall for the Prime Cymru Awards ceremony.

Prime Cymru is described as the "Prince's Trust but for people over 50" and helps people find work later in life.

Since the charity was formed in 2001, it has helped more than 10,000 people in Wales find jobs.

Charles told an audience of around 100 invited guests he felt strongly about helping older people find work - especially those who felt "demoralised and depressed" about being out of work.

He added: "You are a great credit to this country and Wales and I am so glad that we are able to help because people with your talent and experience is badly needed."

Among the winners included Lesley Wills, who scooped the Growth Business Award for her probiotic drink Kefir - made from raw ginger.

Mrs Wills, 61, said she decided set up her own business - a healthy living cafe called Follow Your Bliss based in Bangor, north Wales - around 18 months ago.

She said: "I used to be a personal trainer but that job is limited to your age and when it came time for me to call it a day I did not want to end up employed.

"Prime Cymru helped me lots with its mentoring scheme - the advice I had proved invaluable."

Before the day was up, Charles headed back to his country estate near Llandovery, with a gift for his wife the Duchess of Cornwall from Swansea-based perfume maker Parfumesque.

Owner Tessa Gabriel-Davies created a special fragrance called Camilla - which was blended from five different oils.

On Tuesday the Charles and Camilla will carry a series of engagements in north Wales - including visits to local businesses in Aberdaron, near Pwllheli.