In a surprise development that delighted thousands of guests at a garden party at Hillsborough Castle, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the annual event yesterday afternoon.
It was the royal couple’s second visit to Northern Ireland.
They visited the Province in March 2011, as part of a tour of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom, the month before they got married.
The then royal correspondent of The Times, Valentine Low, described that visit as an occasion that put the then Kate Middleton “completely out of her comfort zone. She is a Home Counties girl.”
Miss Middleton’s other 2011 visits with her then fiancé to Wales and Scotland had been to Anglesey (where Prince Andrew was then based) and St Andrews (where the couple studied) and, according to Mr Low, “were home territory”.
Speaking as police marksmen looked on from the Robinson and Cleaver roof overlooking the City Hall, Mr Low told the News Letter back then that Belfast was different to the other two visits because of the security issues.
But if the soon-to-be Duchess of Cornwall was in any way ruffled by that visit five years ago, she carefully disguised it, and charmed locals with her politeness and curiosity and good humour, even flipping a pancake to mark Shrove Tuesday.
Since that trip the duchess has been round the world with Prince William and the couple have won admirers wherever they have gone. Now they have at last returned to Northern Ireland, where they were warmly received by the garden party guests.
The royal pair smiled and chatted and displayed the maturity and poise of experienced representatives of the nation, who are deeply interested in the well-being of its citizens.
The Duke and Duchess have breathed new life into the royal family. They will always be welcome in this Province and we already look forward to their return.