Arriving at a bus factory in Ballymena the Prince of Wales probably did not expect to receive a present for the world’s most talked about grandchild.
But in what could be seen as a strong hint that the baby due next month to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be a boy, Prince Charles said the model bus he had been presented with could be used as an “emergency” toy.
Accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, the royal couple had flown into the province for a surprise visit yesterday, travelling first to the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena.
Camilla, dressed in a white Anna Valentine dress with navy spots and a navy jacket and Prince Charles in a grey suit were greeted by awaiting dignitaries.
Climbing on board a new red double-decker London bus and after a trip around the grounds, the royal couple toured the factory where the new ultra-low carbon vehicles are being built.
The employees the Prince and Duchess met ranged from male and female apprentices to the company’s co-founder.
One of them was Ian Hutchinson (53), an apprentice tutor, who said it was a great day.
“I’ve worked for 36 years here and to have someone like Prince Charles come is a great day for the company.
“It is a day I’ll remember for a long time—and hopefully the younger apprentices, too,” the worker from Ballymena said.
The company is supplying 600 of the hybrid-engine vehicles to London Transport in a contract worth more than £200m.
It has expanded massively in recent years and is known as one of the most innovative companies in Northern Ireland.
The company's co-founder, William Wright CBE, received a special gift from the Prince, a replica saw.
The royal couple were also presented with a gift two models of the bus from the youngest apprentice at the company, 17-year-old Aaron Fleck.
Addressing the guests, Prince Charles said he wanted to praise the company for being an “enormous success”.
“Clearly what is happening here is an enormous success story for Northern Ireland and indeed for the whole of Britain,” he said. “When we see the buses on the streets of London we will remember all of you who actually make all these things happen.
“I just wanted to pay a very small tribute for what it is worth to the enormous effort that I know you put in to producing these very smart buses.”
The Prince also sparked laughter when he said the gift he and the Duchess received of the model buses could have a second use.
“But having been given this, (model of buses) that will not only be a marvellous memento of the happy occasion but also I suspect I might be able to wrench it off its plinth in an emergency and give it to small grandchildren who I’m sure will want to roll it about the floor,” the Prince said.
Mr Wright described the day as “tremendous” for the company.
Prince Charles also visited a group of farmers affected by the recent freezing weather at Larne Town Hall and a Prince’s Trust Centre in Belfast.
Camilla, meanwhile, joined celebrity chef Jenny Bristow to make oatmeal muffins for groups of excited four-year-olds at a library in Broughshane, Co Antrim.
The Duchess, a patron of a number of organisations which promote literacy, helped to bake some of the cakes and read a story to the children and took part in the “Goldilocks Rap”.
Anne McAleese, nursery teacher at Broughshane Primary, said: “It is lovely for the children, it is a real opportunity for them at their age to meet someone like that.”
The Duchess then travelled on to the Rowan Sexual assault referral unit in the grounds of Antrim Area Hospital to officially open the specialist centre.