Saturday, 20 Apr 2024

Charles drives Camilla in 1953 open-top MG to British classic car

King of the road: Charles drives Camilla in 1953 open-top MG to British classic car event in Cuban capital Havana during Royal Caribbean tour

  • Prince of Wales drives Duchess of Cornwall in a black MG TD from 1953 to classic car rally in Havana
  • They arrived at event along with members of the British Classic Motorbike Enthusiasts Representative 
  • Royal couple will later meet members of the Buena Vista Social Club at a Havana recording studio
  • Charles and Camilla’s visit has already been hailed as a boost to Britain’s post-Brexit ambitions
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Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were easy royal riders today as they arrived at a British classic car event in Havana.

With their heir to the throne behind the wheel in borrowed black MG TD, and his wife at his side, they made a stylish entrance as they pulled up outside the Cuban capital’s famous John Lennon Park.

Charles had apparently grabbed the chance to test drive the vintage 1953 vehicle that mysteriously found its way to Havana the previous day.

He told onlookers: ‘The one I was driving is the most beautiful car. It has an incredibly powerful accelerator. It is incredibly close to the brake so you have to be careful you don’t press the wrong one.’

His wife, elegant in a mint green Anna Valentine dress and parasol, needed a little help to get out of the low-slung car. She joked: ‘You try getting out of that elegantly!’ 


Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrive at a British Classic Car event in Havana today during their tour of Cuba


The rally in Havana today features other lovingly restored vehicles from the golden age of British sports cars


The Prince of Wales holds a cigar as he attends the British classic car event at John Lennon Square in Havana today


The car had been loaned to the royal couple by Eduardo Bermudez, 47, a local restaurant owner and band manager

Turning to look at the range of cars on show, she laughed and said: ‘I remember most of these cars. Shows how old I am!’

The car had been lent to the royal couple by Eduardo Bermudez, 47, a local restaurant owner and band manager, who spotted it eight years ago rusting in a garage and persuaded the owner to sell it.

He spent two years doing it up and says it is the pride and joy of his collection. ‘It’s just like my baby! ‘ he said/ ‘He was crazy to sell it – crazy like me!’

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Asked whether he drives it himself, he exclaimed: ‘No, never! Well maybe once a month. Everyone knows my car. It is the best British car in Cuba. ‘

But did he have any reservations about allowing the heir to the throne to get behind the wheel? ‘No! Of course I trust him, I know it is in safe hands,’ he smiled. ‘I am so excited, actually.

‘Everyone in Cuba has American cars but for me the British ones are unique, different. The best sports cars come from England in the 1950s. 


Cuba is well known for its classic cars which are still in use today due to the draconian communist regime


The Prince of Wales drives the Duchess of Cornwall to the classic British car rally in Havana in an MG TD sportscar from 1953


Charles, the owner of an Aston Martin DB5 Volante convertible, had a practice run in the MG before his journey today

‘The ambassador rang me a week ago and asked me if the prince could borrow it and I said yes, of course. He took it for a practice yesterday, I was told. ‘

Cuba is well known for its classic cars which are still in use today due to the draconian communist regime. 

While most are American classics, there are some British cars and motorbikes from the 1950s on the road and their owners regularly get together.

The couple were greeted by Nelida Lupe Fuentes Macias, a representative of British car enthusiasts, before walking up and down, viewing the vehicles on show.

The Prince – who has a classic Aston Martin himself – was clearly in his element, lagging behind his wife and chatting enthusiastically with the owners standing by their vehicles, which included everything from Jaguars to Morris Minors.

‘He’s never going to leave, he loves his cars,’ Camilla remarked, smiling. ‘He’s really rather in his element.’ 


Prince Charles and Camilla greet well-wishers in Havana today as their landmark tour of Cuba continues


The Prince of Wales helps the Duchess of Cornwall out of an MG TD sportscar from 1953 as they arrive at the event today


The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall ride in the MG TD sportscar today during their historic trip to Cuba


The Prince – who has a classic Aston Martin himself – was clearly in his element at the event in Havana today

They also met Lazaro William Gonzalez Ruiz, head of The British Classic Motorbike Enthusiasts, who was wearing a bandanna and sporting leathers and metal jewellery.

Charles and Camilla seemed rather tickled by his appearance and chatted at length to him, through an interpreter, about his passion before looking at the bikes on show, including a 1956 Norton.

‘Now motorbikes, that’s something else he loves,’ said the duchess.

Afterward they were introduced to musicians from Submarino Amarillo (Yellow Submarine) Bar in Vedado, who had been serenading them with a variety of Beatles classics.

The legendary Liverpudlian band is hugely popular in Cuba as during the 50s and 60s, the ruling Communist party banned citizens from listening to American music due to the aggression between the two nations.


The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall get out of their vintage MG to visit the classic car event in Havana today


The Prince of Wales embraced Cuba’s love of vintage motoring as he met people at the event in Havana today


Charles and Camilla sit on a bench at John Lennon Park in Havana today as their tour of Cuba continues

Many turned to British music instead, particularly The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

They then walked along into the park’s John Lennon square where they sat on bench which has a statue of the distinctive Beatles singer sculpted by Cuban artist, Jose Villa Soberon, sitting on it, alongside a marble plaque inscribed with lyrics from John Lennon’s song, ‘Imagine’.

Before leaving the park they chatted with members of the local British community in Havana, organised by the British Embassy.

Amanda Fenton, who runs a B&B and has lived in Havana for five years said: ‘She said it was an interesting place, very nice – but a bit hot on occasions.’ 

The couple will later meet members of the Buena Vista Social Club at a Havana recording studio. The group became worldwide celebrities when their 1997 album became a surprise global hit and Grammy award winner.  


Charles was loaned a car once owned by Britain’s ambassador to Cuba in 1957 – two years before Fidel Castro’s revolution

Yesterday, the Prince of Wales was formally welcomed to Cuba by its president as the royal visit was hailed as a boost to Britain’s post-Brexit ambitions.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his wife Lis Cuesta greeted Charles and Camilla on Monday evening at the end of their first full day in the communist country.

In a ceremony at Havana’s Palace of the Revolution, the prince inspected a guard of honour before introducing Mr Diaz-Canel to his entourage of aides – including his wife.

The duchess and the president had met earlier in the palace where they shook hands and chatted before the formal ceremony began, followed by talks between the Cuban leader and the heir to the throne and dinner.

Earlier that day Carlos Acosta, who is artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, said that as the Communist country of his birth continued to open up culturally and economically, it was time for the UK to also build bridges as it left the EU. 


Members of The British Classic Motorbike Enthusiasts Representative arrive at the classic car event in Havana today


Charles and Camilla have made history by becoming the first members of the royal family to visit Cuba in an official capacity

And Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the visit as ‘a great example of bold & pragmatic UK diplomacy’ in a tweet.

Countries of the world still awaiting a royal visit

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall became the first representatives of the British royal family to visit Cuba when their plane touched down in Havana.

Charles and Camilla’s groundbreaking trip is likely to usher in a new chapter in the relationship between the UK and the Communist state once ruled by Fidel Castro.

The Queen is, unsurprisingly, the most well-travelled of the royal family, having paid official visits to more than 100 countries during her time on the throne. 

Her reign began on foreign soil after her father George VI died while she was staying in Kenya. There are a number of countries and territories which the Queen has not visited, including some former members of the Soviet Bloc.

In contrast, vast swathes of the South Pacific have been covered by royal visits from the Queen such as Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Royal visits to South America have been rare – possibly due to the reach of Britain’s empire not extending beyond British Guiana and the Falkland Islands.

The Queen visited Brazil and Chile in 1968 and Guyana in 1994. Closer to home, and the changing face of Europe over the last 30 years has meant there are newer countries which have not been visited.

Albania and Belarus are still to be visited, while the Queen took in Belgrade, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb when it was part of Yugoslavia in 1974.

Many Commonwealth members have received the British head of state or a representative, but many other African countries have not, including Mali in the west and Djibouti in the east.

A number of Asian countries are also awaiting their first glimpse of British royalty, including North Korea.

Acosta met the prince and his wife after they began their historic trip to Cuba by touring the old quarter of Havana, where they were mobbed by press and the public in chaotic scenes.

Charles played the tourist when they stopped to listen to a traditional band and dropped a coin in their collection hat, while Camilla’s visit to the capital was sealed with a kiss – a peck on the hand from a street performer.

The ballet star welcomed Charles and Camilla to his dance company, which is helping disadvantaged young people from across the region fulfil their potential.

Speaking about the visit – a first by members of the royal family – the dancer said: ‘I think it’s a big, big deal, especially with all the Brexit, the UK is looking for emerging markets and different partnerships and to sort of build bridges with other nations, and Cuba is doing the same, which is really great.’

Acosta was principal guest dancer for seventeen years with the Royal Ballet and performed many times in front of the prince.

He added: ‘From the Cuban perspective it is a time for building bridges, to reach out to the world, and I think also for the UK they are doing the same with this inevitable Brexit going forward, so I think it’s just the perfect fit.’

Charles’s visit offers an opportunity for the UK and Cuban governments to forge closer ties in the wake of the soft diplomacy employed by members of the royal family, who use it to make friends and build bridges during foreign tours.

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: ‘While Charles and Camilla aren’t formal representatives of the Government, they obviously have influence and if they can use their visit to Havana as an opportunity to raise human rights issues that would be most welcome.’

Antony Stokes, Britain’s ambassador to Cuba, said the recent widening of internet availability by the Cuban government allowed the views of ordinary people to be heard.

He added: ‘That gives us an opportunity to talk about freedom of expression. By engaging at a high level, we can have an interchange about how we see the advantages of freedom of expression, and what the government might do here to improve its human rights record.’

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