Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall tonight became the first members of the royal family to set foot in communist Cuba.
Charles and Camilla touched down in the capital Havana on an RAF Voyager plane for the start of their historic four-day royal tour of the Caribbean island.
After being welcomed at the airport, the prince and his wife started their visit by laying a wreath at the memorial for Cuba’s national hero, the revolutionary essayist and poet, Jose Marti.
Their visit comes at a time when diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US have taken a turn for the worse after President Trump revoked most of the policies brought in by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to normalise relations.
Charles and Camilla attended Sunday morning service at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Bridgetown, Barbados, before flying on to Cuba for an historic royal visit
Charles shared a few words with Bishop Maxwell before a fanfare announced the arrival of the royals to the parishioners sitting in the pews pictured). Charles and Camilla have now landed in Cuba
The relationship between the two countries has been plagued by antagonism ever since controversial revolutionary leader Fidel Castro overthrew the US-backed regime in Havana in 1959 to establish a socialist state allied with the Soviet Union.
His brother, Raul Castro, another former president of the country, has warned that Trump is initiating a path of confrontation by restricting tourism for US citizens and re-introducing trade sanctions, making it a tricky time for the UK to hold out the hand of friendship.
The British Government has always maintains it prefers to keep an open dialogue, however, while retaining the right to challenge, where necessary, over issues such as human rights – although had previously ruled a royal visit was a step too far.
But it seems that the death in 2016 of Fidel Castro and the retirement last year of Raul, has paved the way for a new rapprochement.
With Brexit in crisis, the British government also spies an opportunity to drum up trade and improve cultural, political, academic and environmental links. In a clear sign of how important the royal tour is, government minister, Lord Ahmad, a minister of state in the Foreign Office with special responsibility for the Commonwealth, has flown out to join the prince and his wife and will be staying on after they have returned to the UK to try and capitalise on the opportunities their presence has opened up. ‘The tour is enabling conversations to take place that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,’ a senior source said. ‘This give us the opportunity to develop our relationship with Cuba. It is then up to the British government to connect and do business. ‘
The prince and the duchess, whose visit was exclusively revealed by the Daily Mail last year, will tomorrow be greeted at the Palacio de la Revolution by the new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who although handpicked by the Castros is seen as a moderating influence.
Mr Diaz-Canel has rolled out the red carpet for the couple, whom he met at Clarence House last November, suggesting he, too, appreciates its significance both now and moving forwards. He and his wife are also hosting a high-profile official dinner for the couple.
The trip will take in much of the colour and highlights of Havana – salsa dancing, a classic car event, a visit to an outdoor boxing gym and a meeting with musicians from the Buena Vista Social Club.
But there are also events for entrepreneurs, organic farming and community projects. Cuba’s dictatorship has long been criticised for its poor human rights record and repression of free speech, as well as persecuting opponents of the dictatorial political regime.
Asked whether the prince would be raising this during his visit, Clarence House declined to comment but a source said that the prince had always made it clear that his job as a statesman was to listen and foster relations in order to afford change, not to lecture.
That said, the prince has long taken a stand against China in personal protest at its human rights record, particularly because of his support for the Dalai Lama, and has previously refused to attend a state banquet in the country’s honour or facilitate a visit there.
He and his wife are not scheduled to meet Raul Castro but officials have not entirely ruled out the possibility. The couple yesterday concluded a week-long tour of the Queen’s realms in the Caribbean at the request of the British Government, visiting five islands including Grenada, where the couple walked along pristine Grand Anse beach to highlight the beauty of the region.
Camilla, elegant in a kaftan-style tunic and trousers by Anna Valentine, kicked off her wedges to display a shell-pink painted toes, but Charles kept his brown brogues resolutely laced up. In all the couple’s 12-day tour is taking in six counties and more than 50 engagements, despite both of them now being in their seventies.
The couple attended Sunday morning service at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Bridgetown, Barbados, before flying on to Cuba for an historic royal visit.
Charles was dressed smartly for the tropical climate in a linen suit, while Camilla looked elegant in a chiffon patterned dress and heels.
The heir to the throne usually goes to church if Sunday falls within a foreign tour and the couple were joined by Governor General Dame Cecile La Grenade.
The prince and duchess were joined by a number of their entourage who sat in the seats behind the couple
Charles was dressed smartly for the tropical climate in a linen suit, while Camilla looked elegant in a chiffon patterned dress and heels
The service was conducted by the Fourteenth Bishop of the Diocese, Michael Bruce St. John Maxwell
The couple were greeted by Bishop Michael Maxwell of the Anglican Diocese of Barbados before a fanfare announced their arrival to the parishioners.
The prince and duchess were joined by a number of their entourage who sat in the seats behind the couple.
The service was staged for Charles and Camilla, who were featured in the prayers, as were the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
Bishop Maxwell asked God to ‘endue them with thy Holy Spirit, enrich them with thy heavenly grace, prosper them with all happiness and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom’.
Charles and Camilla’s official trip to Cuba will be a first by members of the monarchy and comes after the couple’s tour of five Commonwealth Caribbean countries where the Queen is head of state.
The prince and duchess will be joined by Commonwealth minister Lord Ahmad, showing the importance the government places in developing ties with Cuba.
Charles met Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel in November last year at his London home, Clarence House, when the foreign leader visited the UK with a delegation of senior ministers.
At a Havana recording studio, the prince and his wife will meet members of the Buena Vista Social Club.
The group became worldwide celebrities when their 1997 album became a surprise global hit and Grammy award-winner.
Other highlights of the Cuban trip will include the couple meeting the owners of the famous vintage cars still running in Havana, although these will be British classics.
After being welcomed at the airport, the prince and his wife will start their visit by laying a wreath at the memorial for Cuba’s national hero, the essayist and poet Jose Marti.
A spokesman for the couple said: ‘Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to experiencing the culture and meeting the people of Cuba.’
The service was staged for Charles and Camilla, who were featured in the prayers as were the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. They couple are seen greeting senior clergymen outside the church
The royal couple’s church visit will be there last public outing in Barbados before they fly to Cuba for an unprecedented trip tomorrow
During the service, Bishop Maxwell asked God to ‘endue them with thy Holy Spirit, enrich them with thy heavenly grace, prosper them with all happiness and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom…’ Pictured: The royal couple walking into church
The original cathedral – which Charles and Camilla are seen entering – dates back to 1665 but was demolished in 1780 by the great hurricane which left only 30 city buildings standing
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are greeted by the Bishop of Barbados, John Holder (second from left), as they arrive to attend a church service at St. Michaels Cathedral
The service was staged for Charles and Camilla, who were featured in the prayers, as were the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh
Soldiers wait for the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall at today’s church service at St Michael’s Cathedral in Bridgetown