The Telegraph 2024-03-31 16:00:33

‘I’m doing my best’: King greets well-wishers on surprise walkabout

The King has gone on a surprise walkabout to greet well-wishers on Easter Sunday during his most significant public appearance since his cancer diagnosis.

The King, 75, left the Easter Matins service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor accompanied by the Queen before speaking with people outside.

He had smiled and waved at the gathered members of the public before walking into the chapel to take his designated Sovereign’s Seat for the service.

It marks his first public engagement since announcing he was undergoing treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer in early February.

He has been advised by doctors to limit his contact with people as he undergoes treatment, but this did not stop him from shaking hands and speaking to well-wishers who had waited for him in Windsor.

A Palace source confirmed that Sunday’s public engagement was a “significant step” for the monarch during his treatment and that the road ahead was “looking very positive”.

They said: “As can be seen, the King has responded to treatment very encouragingly over past weeks and his doctors were thus able to adjust their guidance slightly on what His Majesty is now able to undertake, including attendance at the Easter service and greeting well-wishers who had kindly turned out to show their support.

“To be clear, His Majesty’s treatment continues and caution is of course the watchword, but as diary plans are evolved towards summer, we hope to see more of these carefully calibrated steps towards the resumption of some public-facing duties for The King, with adjustments made where necessary.”

They added: “Nothing will be confirmed until nearer the time, plans remain in flux and are subject to medical guidance, but there is great hope and optimism from both doctors and the patient. 

“While His Majesty has of course been undertaking all his official duties in private, and has been photographed at a number of smaller Palace engagements, hopefully today has offered wider public reassurance that His Majesty is doing well and that the road ahead is looking very positive.”

The Princess Royal, her husband Sir Tim Laurence and the Duke and Duchess of York were also in attendance at the service, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh with their son, James, the Earl of Wessex.

The King arrived by car at St George’s Chapel, alongside Queen Camilla, shortly after 10.40am. A member of the public shouted “Happy Easter”, to which Charles gestured with a wave and responded: “And to you.”

When a well-wisher urged the King to get well soon during the walkabout, he said: “I’m doing my best.” 

The mix of members of the public and Windsor Castle estate staff wished Their Majesties a “Happy Easter” as they went to shake hands and greet people.

One woman said to send their best wishes to the Princess of Wales, who was absent from Sunday’s service.

Anne Daley, 65, from Cardiff, Wales, told the monarch that her King Charles spaniel, named Camilla, was now 17. He joked that she might need to get a “new one”.

The royal turnout for the Easter Sunday service was smaller than usual, described as “Easter Lite”, as the King has been advised to minimise his contact with others.

The Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children were absent from the service as they have retreated from the public eye for the school holidays after the Princess announced that she was undergoing preventive chemotherapy.

As is customary, the King sat inside St George’s Chapel in the Sovereign’s Seat, situated at the front of the altar. The other royals were in their usual places in the stalls.

The layout of the chapel is such that the main congregation sits in a separate section of the church.

The Queen was wearing an emerald and diamond brooch belonging to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Last year, Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, eight, and Prince Louis, five, all made an appearance at the Easter Matins service, which has seen almost as big a royal turnout as the Christmas Day outing in recent years.

The King’s appearance this year comes after he delivered a pre-recorded audio message at the Royal Maundy Thursday service at Worcester Cathedral, where he was represented by the Queen.

After Easter, the King and Queen will go away for their annual Easter break.

Since the monarch announced his cancer diagnosis in early February, he has been continuing to carry out his state duties and has been keen to maintain a public profile to reassure the nation that his hand remains on the tiller.

However, the cancer treatment that both the King and Princess of Wales are undergoing means that a large family gathering – like the one last seen on Christmas Day – is unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury began his Easter Sunday sermon at Canterbury Cathedral by paying tribute to the King and Princess for “their lack of selfishness” in sharing their cancer diagnoses.

He said: “In each of our lives, there are moments which change us forever. Sometimes it’s individual.

“We have watched, sympathised with and felt alongside the dignity of the King and the Princess of Wales as they have talked of their cancer – and in doing so, by their lack of selfishness, by their grace and their faith, boosted so many others.”

After a rendition of the National Anthem during the service, the royal party went into the deanery for refreshments.

A source said the King and Queen popped their heads around the door to say hello. His attendance at the Windsor service was carefully arranged so that he could undertake the minimum amount of personal contact as possible on his doctors’ advice.

Their Majesties made their way back out through the Galilee Porch to have a short walkabout and greet the crowds, which marked his first public walkabout since his cancer diagnosis.

He told Anne Daley, who was waving her Welsh flag, that she was “very brave to stand out here in the cold”.

The 75-year-old monarch looked slightly bemused as Ms Daley told him “Camilla is 17 now”, but smiled when she explained that she was referring to her Cavalier King Charles spaniel. “You’ll need a new one,” he joked.

Another lady, wrapped in a Union flag, gave the King a get well soon card, which he looked pleased to receive before handing it to his new senior equerry, Lt Col Johnny Thompson.

“Thank you very much, that’s very kind. Did you make it?” he asked her as she pulled the card out of an envelope.

The King, wearing a blue tie with boats on it, told another well-wisher that he was “very touched” that she had come to Windsor Castle to see him.

Another told him: “Happy Easter your Majesty, never give in, keep going strong,” to which the King responded: “I just obey my instructions.”

Following the five-minute walkabout, he was driven back to the castle in his state Bentley with the Queen.

A few minutes later, the rest of the Royal family walked out of the deanery led by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, who wished onlookers a happy Easter. The Duke of York seemed to avoid interaction with the crowds.

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Hammer-wielding robbers hit shop owner on head during smash and grab raid

An antiques dealer who has regularly appeared on television has described the terrifying moment he was smashed over the head with a hammer during a raid on his west London boutique by robbers wearing balaclavas.

Ian Towning, 76, who has appeared on shows such as ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal and Channel 4’s Posh Pawn, was attacked by two men who stole jewellery worth more than £100,000.

The robbers, one of whom was armed with a sledgehammer and the other with a claw hammer, entered his store in Sydney Street, Chelsea, at lunchtime on Tuesday.

A security guard who challenged them was struck on the head and knocked unconscious, before they smashed a reinforced-glass display cabinet.

Mr Towning, who was in the shop with his partner, Les Barrett, 77, was then attacked by the men, who were trying to get to a cabinet containing antique jewellery worth £1 million. He tried to hold the robbers off but one of them struck him on the head with the claw hammer and punched him in the face.

The other robber began grabbing jewellery, including sapphire and diamond necklaces, from the smashed display cabinet. The pair then fled the scene.

Mr Towning, who was treated for head injuries and facial bruising, told The Mail on Sunday: “The doctors told me that I am lucky to be alive. I was lucky, my injuries could have been much worse, though I am still in a lot of pain.

“I wasn’t going to let anyone steal my jewels without a fight, that’s just the way I am. Since the robbery, people keep telling us that now is surely the time to give up, but we’re not going to let them beat us.”

 Detective Sergeant Richard Hall, who is leading the Metropolitan Police investigation, said: “If you know anything or have witnessed anything suspicious in the Sydney Street area at the time then please come forward to police.”

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Channel migrant arrivals pass 5,000 as record start to the year continues

Small boat arrivals passed 5,000 by the end of March for the first time as a record start to the year continued.

A total of 349 people crossed the English Channel on Saturday, taking the total for the year up to 4,993. Further arrivals on Easter Sunday saw the figure breach the 5,000 threshold in March for the first time since records began, despite Rishi Sunak having made his pledge to “stop the boats” a key focus of his premiership.

The total number of arrivals is up by almost a third on the same point in 2023, when 3,793 migrants had reached the UK in small boats by March 31.

It took until April 17 last year for 5,000 people to cross the Channel, a milestone that was also not reached until April 13 in 2022 and June 14 in 2021.

Out of the first 100 boats to arrive in 2024, the average number of people in each dinghy was more than 47, up from just under 42 the previous year.

Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, said: “A year which started with Rishi Sunak and James Cleverly boasting about the success of their small boats strategy is now setting one unwanted record after another for the number of arrivals.

“Their complacency has been laid bare, and their pledge to stop the boats has been left in tatters. We can also see from these figures that there is a major tragedy waiting to happen in the Channel.

“Poor-quality, over-crowded dinghies are putting to sea and getting into trouble early in their journeys, while the smuggling gangs responsible are left to count their profits.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The unacceptable number of people who continue to cross the Channel demonstrates exactly why we must get flights to Rwanda off the ground as soon as possible.

“We continue to work closely with French police who are facing increasing violence and disruption on their beaches as they work tirelessly to prevent these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys.

“We remain committed to building on the successes that saw arrivals drop by more than a third last year, including tougher legislation and agreements with international partners, in order to save lives and stop the boats.”

Another round of ‘ping pong’ expected

The Rwanda Bill is nearing the end of its journey through Parliament but has been delayed until after the Easter recess following a series of defeats in the House of Lords.

Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said it was “frustrating” that peers had chosen not to pass the Bill, which is a central plank of the Prime Minister’s pledge to end migrant crossings and start deportation flights to Rwanda in the spring.

Another round of “ping pong” is expected when MPs return on April 15 as the Government seeks to overturn the amendments supported by the Lords.

While there have been concerns among centrist Tories in the One Nation caucus, the majority of the backlash to the Rwanda scheme has been from the Right of the party.

Robert Jenrick quit as immigration minister in December, describing the Bill as a “triumph of hope over experience” after Mr Sunak defied demands to opt out of European human rights laws.

In January, dozens of Tory MPs rebelled to support amendments aimed at toughening the Bill, although only a handful would ultimately vote to oppose it in its current form.

Polling has shown the Government’s record on both illegal and legal migration is a major factor in driving voters who had backed the Conservatives in 2019 to Reform UK, Richard Tice’s insurgent Right-of-centre party.

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Green party council candidate has fingertip bitten off by dog through letterbox

A Green Party council candidate had a fingertip bitten off by a dog as she posted a leaflet through a letterbox while out canvassing for upcoming local elections.

Danica Priest was taken to hospital after she suffered the injury while she was out on the campaign trail in Bristol ahead of the May 2 poll.

When she tried posting the leaflet through a letterbox because the owner was out, a dog inside jumped up and bit off the end of her finger.

She went to hospital after managing to stem the blood. The owner returned home to find Ms Priest’s fingertip alongside a blood-stained leaflet and then brought it to the hospital, but doctors told the Green candidate they were unable to reattach it.

The incident has prompted warnings from other local politicians to use a spatula or a similar implement to open a letterbox as a precaution against aggressive dogs when posting leaflets.

Ms Priest is standing to represent the Green Party on Bristol City Council’s Filwood ward. In posts on X (formerly Twitter), she had described how her election battle was dramatically interrupted by the incident on Friday evening.

She wrote: “Leafleting took a dark turn today unfortunately. I have sadly lost half of my finger and am in the hospital waiting to see if they can attach it again.”

She added a couple of hours later: “Sadly it couldn’t be reattached but I’m being looked after well at the hospital.”

The environmental campaigner told Bristol Live: “I was leafleting and a dog bit off the tip of my finger through the letterbox. So the owner came home to find a ‘Vote for Danica’ leaflet plus my finger and blood.

“They were lovely and returned my finger to hospital but sadly the surgeon just confirmed they couldn’t save it.”

She thanked fellow candidate Ellie Freeman for helping to get her to hospital. Ms Freeman tweeted: “Made me extra grateful for our NHS, free care and the lovely staff. Danica was incredible and I’m sure will make a full recovery.”

Bristol Green Party councillor Patrick McAllister wished Danica a speedy recovery while urging activists and canvassers to take precautions when leafleting.

Incredibly unlucky

He posted on X: “Hoping for a swift recovery for Danica; this is an awful injury and incredibly unlucky.

“A good reminder to all campaigners to use an implement like a spatula or wooden spoon to post your leaflets. I had to retire my first spatula because a dog took a bite from it.”

He also called on dog owners to “take responsibility” to ensure people’s safety around their pets.

“Put a cage around the letterbox or restrict the dog from the door – it’s your responsibility,” he posted.

Ms Priest is one of two ward candidates for the Green Party alongside Jai Breitnauer. In the previous council election, the Green candidates were the runners-up to Labour in the ward.

In 2019, a Sheffield councillor needed surgery after being bitten by a dog while posting leaflets.

Delivering leaflets

Ms Priest told The Telegraph: “I think going forward spatulas should be mandatory for anyone delivering leaflets of any kind and going out alone should be avoided.

“The scariest part was that I was on my own and had to call 999 myself. I was very lucky that some amazing neighbours came out to wait with me until the ambulance came but the initial shock of the injury while being alone was terrifying and that fear will stick with me for a while.

“I’m always extremely cautious when leafleting, especially when it comes to dogs so this was a massive shock and could have happened to anyone.

“I want to stress that this is no one’s fault. The dog had no history of aggression and the owners were equally shocked. It’s just an unfortunate accident.”

Bristol Green Party said: “We take the safety of our volunteers very seriously, and are carrying out an internal investigation regarding this incident and our training procedures.

“We thank all those who’ve been in touch to express concern for Danica and the NHS staff who cared for her, demonstrating what a well-loved, dedicated member of the community she is.

“She’s poured her heart, blood and soul into her campaign, although slightly too literally this weekend. We look forward to welcoming her into the Green council group in May.”

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