Story 71

Meeting Prince Charming

At the Golden Jubilee of the Leonard Cheshire Foundation, as it was then known, held in London in June 1998, Irene first met her prince charming — His Royal Highness Prince Charles.

What a day, what a week, what a trip — so exciting for Irene who had never travelled beyond Sri Lanka. Irene was representing our Home, the Sir James & Lady Peiris Cheshire Home, in Mount Lavinia on the west coast of Sri Lanka, accompanied by the then Chairman, Captain Dennis Coorey. Irene is one of the longest standing residents at the Home, and has lived with us since 1979.

Being hosted by Prince Charles together with 500 guests of the Leonard Cheshire Foundation in the magnificent Tudor surroundings of his St James’s Palace home, Irene was awestruck. But suddenly she was aware that there was Prince Charles, bending forward to talk to her, enquiring into her wellbeing and hoping that she was enjoying her visit to London.

The celebrations were followed by a three-day conference at Kensington Town Hall where many international representatives spoke of their visions and dreams for the newly formed Leonard Cheshire Disability — a new name to herald in the next 50 years.

So what about the second meeting with her prince charming? Fast forward 15 years to 2013, at Westminster House in Colombo, at the invitation of the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, His Excellency John Rankin. The occasion was the visit to Sri Lanka by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held in Sri Lanka.

Would the prince recognise her and even speak to her this time? The time came to head for the reception. A Rolls Royce was at hand to drive Irene in regal style, escorted by the then Chairman of the Home, Tilak Amendra, to Westminster House. Irene was clutching her treasured framed photograph of that first meeting with the Prince in London.

But Prince Charles DID recognise Irene and DID speak to her, greeting her like a long lost friend. He was delighted to see the photo and commented on how he had aged from then a young 50 year old to now a pensioner. That very day, Thursday 14 November was Prince Charles actual 65th Birthday —71 a birthday he shared with Irene. What happy memories for Irene of her meetings with His Royal Highness Prince Charles!

What happy memories for Irene of her meetings with His Royal Highness Prince Charles!