Prince Charles hails UK's 'firmly embedded' relationship with Italy

Robert Jobson
Italy visit: Prince Charles: AFP/Getty Images

The Prince of Wales has spoken of the enduring bonds between the UK and Italy less than a week after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the start of the withdrawal from the European Union.

Prince Charles praised the "partnership" that has benefited the economies and societies of both countries during an address to a gala dinner in Florence that saw him receive the Renaissance Man of the Year award.

The heir to the throne is on a nine-day tour of Europe with the Duchess of Cornwall which has been widely interpreted as a bridge building exercise with the continent as Brexit begins.

He said, "Although our relationship is deeply rooted in our shared history, today, I am delighted to say, it is more firmly embedded than ever before.

"In almost any field that one can think of – in culture, business, education, defence and security co-operation, innovation and research , even sport – the partnership between the United Kingdom and Italy brings tremendous benefits to our economies and to our societies," he said.

Charles spoke out after receiving the "Renaissance Man of the Year Award."

The Award is presented to someone who over the course of their lives has demonstrated the values of Renaissance humanism and had an impact in different fields, such as entrepreneurship, philanthropy, the arts, social causes and fostering global understanding of international economic and social issues.

The winner will also have served their or the international community for the common good. The Award reflects what the Foundation considers to be the central values of our time - openness, mutual understanding and progress.

The roots of these values are to be found in Renaissance Florence, and before that in Classical Rome and Athens.

Europe Minister Sir Alan Duncan who joined the prince in Florence praised the Royal Family as Britain's "great national resource".

He made the address at the black-tie event staged at Florence's famous Palazzo Vecchio.

He was joined by the Europe Minister at an event where he unveiled a Henry Moore sculpture to mark the centenary of the British Institute in Florence, met the organisation's staff and interacted with local children.

Asked about the diplomacy role the monarchy play Sir Alan replied: "Obviously they are above politics but they work on such a human level.

"You can see the children just now and the way in which he's so approachable and talks to them in a very natural way - the Royal Family are our great, great national resource, if you like."

Charles' words echoed those of his son the Duke of Cambridge who visited Paris last month and, speaking at the launch of a project celebrating UK-French links, said: "...our two nations continually inspire one another to become better: more creative, more prosperous, more innovative.

"This partnership will continue despite Britain's recent decision to leave the European Union."

The monarchy are seen as the nation's most important figureheads, with their soft style of diplomacy renewing ties and strengthening bonds with nations through official visits.

By the end of the year the Royal Family, dubbed Brexit Ambassadors by the press, will have visited the majority of the EU's major member states, France, Germany, Italy and Poland with the King of Spain coming to the UK for a state visit.

Tomorrow the royal couple fly to Rome where they will meet the Pope before flying onto Vienna.