Thousands turn out to greet Royal couple

THE Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, yesterday toasted the completion of Suffolk's mother church – by sipping frothy pints of two of the county's most famous brews.

THE Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, yesterday toasted the completion of Suffolk's mother church – by sipping frothy pints of two of the county's most famous brews.

During a long-awaited visit to Bury St Edmunds to celebrate the end of a six-year project to crown St Edmundsbury Cathedral with a tower, the Royal newlyweds showed a human touch by gamely pulling foamy glasses of Greene King's best and enthusiastically sampling the results.

It was a gesture wholly appreciated by the approving crowd – provoking perhaps an even bigger cheer from those gathered to watch than was heard when the dark blue Audi swept along Angel Hill to single the duo's arrival.

This was a day the craftsmen behind the £10m scheme to crown the country's only unfinished cathedral with a Millennium tower had long waited for.

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As patron of the project, Prince Charles had always promised to return to Suffolk to view the finished 150ft medieval structure. The presence of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was regarded by many as an added bonus.

And the couple looked utterly at ease during one of their first joint public engagements since their marriage, with the Prince of Wales repeatedly guiding his wife through the assembled crowds, making regular eye contact and often placing a reassuring hand in the small of her back.

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The pair had arrived shortly before 11am, and dedicated a few minutes to greeting the flag-waving public who had waited patiently in the drizzle outside the front entrance of St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Dressed in a dark blue suit and light blue shirt, the heir to the throne's tie picked out the colours chosen by his wife, showing a hint of pink.

And the Duchess of Cornwall's outfit won large approval from the crowds, with many describing it as "very appropriate".

For she wore a pink jacket, matching knee-length skirt, a pearl necklace and a wide-brimmed straw hat, edged again in pink. Beige shoes and a brown handbag completed the look.

"I thought Camilla's outfit was very appropriate for the occasion," said Liz Huddlestone, who lives in the town and met the couple.

"It was a great honour to shake both their hands and I thought it was very nice the way they stopped to spend time with the crowds. It was very considerate.

"I thanked Prince Charles for coming and he said it was good to be part of this day. I thought they were both very natural."

After meeting dignitaries outside the Cathedral, the couple joined invited guests inside the impressive building for an hour-long service of celebration as one enthusiastic fan excitedly waved a Union Jack umbrella.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: "At very long last, we have come to this great day. A day when we can dedicate this new building to the glory of God and give thanks for all that has been done over several years.

"It is a magnificent work and even those who were doubtful and some who disapproved at the outset have simply been captivated.

"His Royal Highness himself has described the tower as a spiritual beacon for the new Millennium. The events of the past fortnight and yesterday have given these words a special poignancy. The light of faith is badly needed in what can be a dark world."

The couple emerged from service at around 12.10pm, and were at complete ease as they relaxed and chatted to Cathedral dignitaries before pausing to sign the visitors' book.

They were then introduced to Lillus August, a local artist who has charted the progress of the Millennium tower project since its birth six years ago. They took time out to examine her works before making their way outside the building to look up at the 150ft structure which now presides over the entire town.

Eyes turned skywards, Prince Charles pointed out intricacies in the flint and stonework to his hosts, an order of service clutched firmly in hand. For this was the now-completed "spiritual beacon" he had been so eager to see.

Waiting outside on Angel Hill to greet the pair were even larger crowds than when they had arrived – one fan noticeable with her hair pinned back using a Union Jack flag.

Bouquets of flowers were handed over as both the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales again took time to mingle with the appreciative crowds while the lenses of hundreds of cameras pointed in their direction.

They then moved onto the Angel Hill to tour a tented village showcasing the finest this rural county has to offer – and came face-to-face with Gurtie, a 15-year-old Suffolk Punch horse.

Both gently stroked the giant animal's nose before examining produce at the Tastes of Anglia stand and then moving onto Greene King's display – where they tested their bar skills to the full.

The Duchess of Cornwall was the first to the pumps, pouring a pint of Abbot Ale before her husband selected his tipple of choice, IPA.

They then clinked glasses in celebration before toasting the crowds and the Press pack and sampling the beer.

Next, a detailed insight into the crafts and tools used was provided to the Royal couple, who met workers who had dedicated their time and skills to the tower project.

And one of the final highlights of their visit was a presentation by the organisers of the Bury in Bloom competition, who handed a delighted husband and wife 10 St Edmund's Roses – a flower specially bred for the celebrations.

But the last gift, given to the couple before they climbed back into their Audi, was the first ever copy of a limited edition prayer book, written in honour of the tower project by Cathedral Dean, the Very Rev James Atwell.

"Today has been absolutely brilliant and an overwhelming tribute to the work which has taken place," he said.

"The Prince of Wales was so delighted, so easy, so affirming of everything.

"This long-running project has been about stamina, and has not been a sprint – but it has been well worth it."

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