It was a joyous occasion for those who waited in the cold outside Independence Hall last Saturday, holding welcome signs and waving small British and American flags to welcome Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to the City of Brotherly Love.
Bundled in a hooded black coat, 7-year-old Shirla Hector stood, patiently waiting to greet the Prince and his wife with a bouquet of purple lilies upon their arrival.
Hector, a second grade student from Girard College, was selected by the school to meet the couple. She was joined by two of her teachers and five classmates who cheered her on, snapping pictures of the exchange.
In 1860, during a visit to the private boarding school, Prince Edward VII planted horse chestnut trees on the Girard College campus, which is located in the Art Museum area.
Kimberly Coleman, the school’s weekend dean, said it was a great feeling knowing that one of her students was a part of this historical moment. Nearing 11:30 a.m., a siren sounded in the distance and a convoy of black limousines pulled up in front of Independence Hall. The couple emerged and was welcomed by applause and cheers.
Hector was one of the first to greet the couple, handing Camilla the bouquet of flowers with a smile. “I felt kind of weird because I was nervous,” Hector said of the experience. “Actually my favorite part is that I am going to be on TV.”
With every few steps they took, the couple stopped to shake hands or wave, read signs and comment on the cold weather.
Cindy Marselis, a Temple management and information systems professor who has traveled to England three times, said she never thought she would have the opportunity to meet Prince Charles in her own city.
“I was this close to him,” Marselis said.
“He talked to the person next to me and he told us, ‘It’s cold and we should get a stiff drink’ and Camilla said that we needed hats.”
Although not close enough to shake his hand, Zach Durham, a senior at Christiana High School in Delaware, said being in Prince Charles’ presence was an enlightening experience.
“I love this city to death. So [Prince Charles] coming to Philly, period, is like, wow,” Durham said.
After touring Independence Hall, the couple made their way across the street to visit the Liberty Bell where they were welcomed by Mayor John Street and Gov. Ed Rendell.
In preparation for the event, National Parks Service Ranger Paul Campbell said he and his colleagues followed a strict protocol while in contact with the royal couple. “For instance, we were told not to offer our hand first,” Campbell said, adding that he was told to address the couple using the term “your royal highness.”
“If he wants to shake our hands, he will offer his hand. We were also not supposed to bow because we are not British subjects.” The couple spent the remainder of the day viewing murals in West Philadelphia, meeting with students to discuss urban regeneration and attending a ball at the Academy of Music before taking a private train to New York City.
Malaika T. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.