Members of the British royal family have visited Finland at rather low incidence. The latest visit by a British royal occurred in November 2017, when His Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, spent two days in Helsinki. During his visit, the Prince, who is reckoned to accede to the British throne, met with politicians, people from the start-up scene as well as school children. The visit was hosted by President Sauli Niinistö.
Ice hockey and child welfare on the agenda
The first day of the Prince’s visit included a discussion with President Niinistö, a reception at the British Embassy and dinner at the presidential residence in Mäntyniemi, Helsinki, hosted by the President and his spouse, Mrs Jenni Haukio.
The formal programme was animated by a meeting with Icehearts, an organisation dedicated to grassroots child welfare work. At a local ice stadium, the Prince met representatives of the organisation, which supports children and youth through team sports, and families that had participated in its work. Prince William was also familiarised with ice hockey by a young Icehearts hockey player.
Start-up buzz, hobby horses and drizzle
The following day, the Prince’s visit continued with a rather different agenda. The day began at the opening of start-up and technology event Slush, where Prince William met people from the tech scene with another royal, Prince Daniel of Sweden, and host President Niinistö.
At Slush, the Duke of Cambridge also stopped by at the Finnish state’s booth, where he was given two hobby horses specially made for his children, Prince George, who was four at the time, and Princess Charlotte, who was two. In recent years, hobby horses have been a popular toy among Finnish children.
After the opening, the Prince and his entourage headed to a primary school in Lauttasaari, Helsinki, where Prince William chatted with the pupils, who introduced to him their coding assignments. Next up was a walk through the Christmas market at Esplanade Park in a cold November drizzle, with Mayor Jan Vapaavuori and Tuuli Kousa, chairperson of the City Council. Even Santa Claus greeted the Prince at the market.
Trying out a Hornet cockpit at Helsinki Airport
At the very end of the visit, Prince William was introduced to the Finnish Air Force and a small aircraft exhibition at Helsinki Airport. The Finnish Defence Forces and Border Guards had brought some of their equipment in front of the airport’s VIP terminal for the Duke of Cambridge to see. Having worked as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Air Force and as a civil ambulance helicopter pilot in the UK, Prince William was very interested in the aircraft.
The equipment exhibition featured the Border Guards’ Super Puma rescue helicopter and three military aircraft. Representatives of the Defence Forces showed the Prince an NH90 transport helicopter, an Air Force Hawk Mk51 jet aircraft and an F/A-18C Hornet fighter plane. The Prince used the stairs brought out for him to climb into the Hornet’s cockpit, and he got to test the pilot’s seat in the NH90 helicopter. According to media outlets, Prince William was especially interested in flying in winter conditions and in the education path of Hornet pilots in Finland.
The Prince left the country in a small Cessna 560XL Citation Excel private jet. Perhaps in the future Helsinki Airport will have the privilege to welcome Prince Harry, who also has a background as a helicopter pilot.
Sources: Icehearts, Iltalehti, Lentoposti, MTV Uutiset, Yle uutiset