Prince Charles and Camilla have shed their masks indoors during a visit to Exeter Cathedral as they kicked off a three-day tour of the area.
Monday has marked "freedom day" for England, with most COVID-19 restrictions lifted including the need to wear masks indoors.
While some places will choose to continue asking visitors to wear them, the airy Devon cathedral is not one of them, and the royals looked pleased to be walking through the place of worship without their coverings on.
Camilla, who turned 74 on Saturday, has previously said she was looking forward to "getting rid" of masks.
Prior to their visit, it was reported the couple would wear masks if requested by venues on arrival. According to the Daily Express, an aide said: “If he [Charles] is visiting a museum and the museum's policy is that it still asks people to wear masks then he will respect that."
Despite going maskless, Camilla sounded a cautious note when talking to wellwishers outside, and said she hoped that the country was over the worse.
Exeter resident Sarah Clarke spoke to Camilla and said afterwards: “She said it’s lovely to be here and hopefully we’re over the worst of it and I said ‘Fingers crossed’.
“She also said we’ve just got to be careful.”
They also met Tuesday Masding, a senior healthcare assistant with North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, who said of Camilla: "We were just discussing the relaxation of rules and how she hasn’t quite got around to shaking hands with people, and I said that’s probably an appropriate reaction."
Over the weekend the Queen was pictured driving around her Sandringham Estate in Norfolk with two male friends in the car. None of them wore masks, despite it being before the rules changed.
On Monday, Charles, 72, visited the church in his role of patron of the Exeter Cathedral Development Appeal, and he and Camilla heard about restoration work going on in the building, which is nearly a century old.
They also met people from the Devon Wildlife Trust, Exeter City Community Trust and the Met Office, which works with the Cathedral and Exeter University on climate change research.
Despite the easing of restrictions, the couple still met many people outside during the visit, and appeared to keep some distance on their indoor tour of the cathedral.
They were shown around by the Very Reverend Jonathan Greener, dean of Exeter, who showed them the Exeter Book, a key element of the city’s Unesco City of Literature application.
Charles then formally launched the Royal College of Nursing Prince of Wales Nursing Cadet Scheme in England.
Camilla met separately with a group responsible for the city’s Unesco designation and learned about Exeter’s literary heritage and some of the initiatives underway in the city to promote children’s literacy.
The duchess is passionate about reading and works closely with many literacy charities in her royal work.
The Prince of Wales Nursing Cadet Scheme stems from an idea Charles proposed to the Royal College of Nursing in 2017: to offer blended learning for people who would not otherwise consider or be eligible, to follow a course in nursing or other health and social care related careers.
Cadets do a mixture of online and classroom learning as well as observational clinical placements and get certificates for the units they pass.
It was launched in Wales in July 2019 and now also runs in Exeter, North Devon, Plymouth, Birmingham, Southampton and London.
Clarence House said 169 cadets have commenced the course, with many of those who have completed going on to work in health or further study health-related subjects at universities across the UK.
After the visit the dean said: "It was a wonderful experience on such a lovely day – the first day of freedom – what more could you ask for?
"The sun’s shining, we don’t have to wear masks, they were both on sunny form – it was marvellous, and they were so interested in what people were telling them."
After visiting the cathedral, the couple divided up for the afternoon, going on separate engagements.
Charles visited St Sidwell’s Bus Depot, while Camilla headed to Weaver Green at Heron Valley Orchards, in Loddiswell.
Camilla met Tasha and Barney Green who created Weaver Green rugs after travelling in India and seeing the extent of plastic pollution in the riverways and oceans. Each rug is made single use plastic bottles and so far they have recycled 160m bottles into home furnishings.
She then went to Heron Valley cider company, though tried some of the organisation's elderflower drink rather than the hard stuff.
Charles meanwhile transport workers and ‘Net Zero Heroes’ involved in Exeter City Council’s ambition to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2030.
He spoke to bus drivers about their work during the pandemic.
Charles met Mike Prowse, the company's longest serving bus driver, who has been there for nearly 60 years, and saw a restored bus originally used in 1961.
Both royals unveiled plaques marking each of their visits.
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