His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has visited the birthplace of Orangeism in County Armagh.
During his tour of the Museum of Orange Heritage at Sloan’s House, Loughgall, The Prince entered the original parlour where the first warrants were signed in 1795, marking the formation of the Orange Institution.
As well as learning more about the early development of Orangeism, the Royal visitor was shown key artefacts from the period of the Glorious Revolution. These included a pair of King William III’s riding gauntlets and a letter penned by the sovereign prior to his arrival in Ireland in 1690, ahead of the Battle of the Boyne.
His Royal Highness also viewed the adjoining memorial garden, which remembers members of the Institution in Co Armagh who were killed during the Troubles. The Prince then planted an apple tree in the garden of remembrance.
The Prince of Wales was welcomed to the Loughgall museum by the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, and County Grand Master of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge, Denis Watson.
Mr Stevenson said: “We were delighted and honoured to welcome His Royal Highness to the Museum of Orange Heritage in Loughgall.
“Since opening last summer, Sloan’s House is proving to be a popular cultural resource and attraction for the entire community. Complementing our larger museum in Belfast, visitors to both sites have the opportunity to learn and engage with a rich, vibrant and evolving tradition that has played a significant role in Irish, British and world history.
“The Orange Institution is very proud of our extensive and ongoing cross-community outreach. We are absolutely thrilled to receive a Royal visitor as we play our part in Northern Ireland society moving forward to an accepted and shared future for all.”
He added: “This was a special and momentous day which will live long in our memory and be cherished for many generations to come.”
Mr Watson: “We are immensely proud to have hosted The Prince of Wales at Sloan’s House.
“The roots of Orangeism, and its worldwide presence of today, emanated from within the confines of a modest Co Armagh dwelling following the Battle of the Diamond. It is wonderful that such a fascinating history could be shared with a present heir to the British throne.
“It was also very poignant His Royal Highness was able to pay his respects to those 68 local Orangemen, many of whom served in the security forces, who made the ultimate sacrifice. The memorial garden serves as a permanent reminder of the painful legacy which terrorism inflicted during the Troubles.”
To mark his visit to the outreach facility, His Royal Highness was invited to unveil a commemorative plaque. As well as signing the visitors’ book, the Prince of Wales was also presented with a painting by renowned Ulster artist, Ross Wilson.
Among the musicians to greet The Prince were Lambeg drummers and members of Drumderg Flute Band, who serenaded the Royal visitor with a repertoire of tunes, including ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’.
In attendance at the special event were a number of dignitaries, including First Minister Arlene Foster and Heather Humphreys, Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht in the Republic. The senior politicians were joined by Orangemen, women and juniors from across Northern Ireland and the border counties, as well as representatives from both the maintained and controlled education sector.
Pupils from local primary schools were among the large crowds, outside the museum, who welcomed The Prince to the quaint Armagh village.