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Charles And Camilla's Visit Rekindles Royal Ties To Kentucky

Official_opening_of_the_Fourth_Assembly,_June_7_2011
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Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, wrap up a four-day visit to the U.S. today, and their final stop is Louisville. The Prince of Wales will join local leaders in a health and environment symposium. The Duchess of Cornwall will recognize programs that focus on child development and animal welfare. Louisville has bustled with preparations for their arrival--but the city is accustomed to royal visits.

Louisville Youth Choir Teacher Terri Foster is preparing the ensemble for its performance of the state song for the royals. It’s gotten a special arrangement just for the occasion.

“I’m going to be very picky, because I think that’s what you want, all right? You’re going to get one chance on Friday," Foster says.

This is first official visit by the Prince and Duchess to Kentucky. But they should feel right at home.

It’s been a popular destination for other members of the modern royal family--mainly because of their passion for horses and the Kentucky Derby.

"They’ve been coming here for years, says John McLeod, a history professor at the University of Louisville.

“The Queen of course was at the Derby in 2007. Her sister, Princess Margaret, was at the Derby way back in 1974 and the Queen herself is a fairly regular visitor to this state.”

There are many other deep Kentucky-British connections.

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Three U.S. Ambassadors to the United Kingdom have had Kentucky ties, including the current one: Matthew Barzun of Louisville.

For the royal couple, this Kentucky visit is focused more on issues than the sport of kings.

It was Ambassador Barzun’s mother-in-law who invited the Prince to attend the local health and environment symposium.

Prince Charles has praised Louisville’s efforts to increase access to sustainable healthy foods and has long admired Kentucky author and environmentalist Wendell Berry.

Jeremy Coxon is excited about the royal visit. He’s vice president of a company that installs solar and wind-powered systems in Kentucky and Indiana. He’s also a native of northern England.

“To see the prince come to Louisville to speak in exactly the area that we are most concerned about is just tremendous," Coxon says.

One of the Duchess’s stops will be at Neighborhood House, a community center in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood, where many people live below the poverty level.

The Neighborhood House provides educational and nutritional services for hundreds of at-risk children each year. These preschoolers are making dolls to present to the Duchess.

Denise Sears works at Neighborhood House.

She’s grateful for the attention the royal visit will bring to the center. And hopes it will inspire the children--to set their sights high.

“What do you want your life to be? What do you want to do? And if there was ever any hesitancy on their part to dream big, the fact that the duchess is coming to Neighborhood House will empower them to dream big," Sears says.

The royal visit won’t be completely without a nod to horse racing. The Duchess of Cornwall will attend a reception for an animal welfare organization at the home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs.

 

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.