Princess Anne to visit the Czech Republic

Princess Anne

Buckingham Palace has confirmed that Princess Anne is to make an official visit to the Czech Republic. Her itinerary, which is still in its preparatory stages, will include the annual steeplechase at Pardubice, east Bohemia, as well as other events designed to strengthen cultural and educational links between the Czech Republic and Great Britain. The visit is scheduled to take place in October, and continues a long tradition of visits by British royals and statesmen to Bohemia.

This is far from the first time that British royalty has visited the Czech lands. The tradition stretches back hundreds of years, when there were frequent exchanges between the British monarchies and royal personages in Bohemia. Among other important public figures, Sir Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine spent part of their holiday here in the autumn of 1908, an event which is so well received by Czechs that there is still a plaque at the entrance to Veveri castle in Moravia dedicated to their visit. In more recent times, there have been visits by the Duke of York, in 2003, and the Earl of Wessex last year.

So what is the motivation behind this new visit? Peter Wickenden is from the British embassy in Prague:

"The visit arose from an invitation from President Klaus when he visited the UK last year. He's a fairly regular visitor to Britain and on one of his visits recently he met some members of the Royal family including the Princess Royal and he extended an invitation to her to visit the Czech Republic. It is still very much in the process of being organised and finalised and in fact there is an advance team from her office here in Prague this week. She will of course call on President Klaus who'll host a dinner at the castle, and she'll also go to Velka Pardubicka, the major annual horserace there in Pardubice."

Though they can sometimes appear so to the general public, such visits are more than mere stage pieces. There are unconfirmed plans for the Princess Royal to visit a ceremony marking the inauguration of British Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University.

The course will feature lecturers from Britain, and the faculty aims to provide 15 places each year to students. And that's not the only thing the royals seem to be doing to raise awareness about Britain among young Czechs. Peter Wickenden again:

"There has been a proposal for some time to establish a new faculty of British Studies at Charles University and it appears that this has now come to fruition, so this would be a good opportunity to cut the ribbon for this new department. Last year we had a visit by the Earl of Wessex, who used to be known as Prince Edward, to promote the Duke of Edinburgh award, which has a thriving and growing branch here in the Czech Republic. Quite a growing number of young Czechs are taking this award. They are awarded every year either by the ambassador here, or if we have a suitable VIP in town they awarded by him. Last year they were awarded by the Earl of Wessex and this year of course we have the Princess Royal."