The Prince of Wales said it was “great” that his working visit to Greece was able to go ahead during the coronavirus pandemic, amid criticism of the trip by an anti-monarchy group which compared him to a social media influencer.
Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have taken a two-day trip to Athens to observe the Independence Day Military Parade which marks Greece’s uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.
The heir to the throne told President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and her partner Pavlos Kotsonis he and his wife were “enormously touched” by the invite to their country, while having tea at their mansion on Thursday.
Charles said they were not quite sure whether the trip would have been possible before adding: “But the great thing is it has been possible.”
The pair have been pictured wearing face masks, which are mandatory in all public places both indoors and outdoors in Greece, while Charles has maintained social distancing during meetings with dignitaries.
Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis told reporters: “We’re very grateful that he’s here. It’s a great honour for us. It’s a great honour for the city of Athens. It’s a great honour for the Greek nation.
“Our ties – the ties between the British people and the Greek people – are very close, are very strong.”
He added: “For us it was an opportunity, despite the pandemic, despite the difficulties, to celebrate with our friends and our partners.”
But Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, an anti-monarchy campaign group, compared Charles to an influencer travelling to Dubai for work purposes, while former Home Office minister Norman Baker said “ordinary people” who are unable to travel will “take a dim view” of the visit.
A Clarence House spokesperson said: “This visit is being undertaken at the request of the British Government”.
This followed an invitation from the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Mr Smith said: “There’s really no difference between Prince Charles and some twenty-something influencer going to some other country in breach of the rules just to say: ‘Look at me, I’m here’.
“These royal trips are entirely unnecessary, they are certainly not essential travel, and there is no justification for them.
“The royals have a desperate need to look useful and they do that with these trips, and given that everyone else has been stuck in the UK for a year at the risk of large fines, I think it’s pretty poor taste.
“It’s going to cause some level of confusion about why there’s apparently no risk of Charles and Camilla catching and spreading coronavirus, but for everyone else, there is.
“The Government needs to explain why they have allowed that to happen and Prince Charles needs to explain why he agreed to go.
“People are quite upset about being told they can’t go overseas, when often this is the only break they get in a year.”
Former Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said: “Ordinary people in Britain having to endure lockdown and unable to take foreign holidays for the foreseeable future will take a dim view of Charles and Camilla escaping for a nice jolly in Greece.
“As so often with the monarchy, it looks like one rule for the royals and one for everybody else.”
The Government has told everyone in the UK to stay at home amid rising coronavirus cases in Europe, with some exceptions.
While it is illegal to travel abroad for holidays, travel for a range of professions, including defence personnel and some HGV drivers, is permitted.
Under the current road map for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England could go on holiday abroad would be May 17.