Princess of Wales comes up roses in market visit to promote early years campaign
The Princess of Wales admitted that the Prince was unlikely to buy her roses on Valentine’s Day as she toured a market to promote a major new public awareness campaign about early childhood.
Wearing a long green coat, she spoke to vendors at Leeds Kirkgate Market about their views on the project and their understanding of the importance of a child’s first five years.
The Princess smiled and waved to the scores of surprised shoppers who lined the route, cheering and waving at the unexpected royal visitor.
However, she politely ignored a distinct wolf whistle as she made her way through the busy market.
Optimistic florist Neil Ashcroft tried his best to make a sale, giving the Princess his sales patter as she inspected his merchandise before gifting her some of her favourite hyacinths.
“No doubt William will be buying you some red roses,” he said.
Mr Ashcroft revealed afterwards that she had replied: “I don’t think he will do.”
The florist, who has run the M&D Flowers in the market for 32 years, lamented failing to make a sale.
“I offered her a discount. I said I would give her a card and knock off the VAT,” he said, but to no avail, although he did enjoy talking to her. “She acted very genuine.”
The visit coincides with the launch of a cinema and billboard campaign called Shaping Us, which aims to influence attitudes about the unique importance of a child’s first five years and the impact they have on adulthood.
On arriving at the market, the Princess viewed a 90-second claymation video, charting the development of a young girl from birth until her fifth birthday. This was commissioned to illustrate how the brain is stimulated by social interactions, support and affection.
The royal visit was announced just 40 minutes in advance and proved a pleasant surprise for many shoppers.
One of the shoppers, Shirley Wainwright, 75, had just got off a bus from Harrogate and was delighted to find herself talking to a future Queen.
“I didn’t know, love, you were coming. It was a complete surprise,” she told the Princess.
Upstairs, she met traders to discuss their reaction to her campaign. She also met representatives of organisations that work with local children and parents as part of the Child Friendly Leeds initiative, which offers a co-ordinated approach to investing in and supporting children, young people and their families.
Over the past decade, Leeds has seen a reduction in the number of children and young people taken into care.
It has also recorded better school attendance and experienced more young people going into further education, training and employment.
The Princess said: “What Leeds is doing in general… what the city is doing is really extraordinary. Actually, you are leading the way and putting children and young people at the heart of the city and community here. It’s really impressive to hear.”
The Princess later travelled to the University of Leeds, where she joined students for a lecture called Psychological Approaches to Understanding and Supporting Children’s Learning.
Earlier, she suggested that if society focused more “time, energy and resources” on the early years, it would make a “huge difference” to the health of future generations.
In a video posted on Instagram, below, by the Royal Foundation’s Centre for Early Childhood, which is spearheading the campaign, she said: “Our early childhood, the time from pregnancy to the age of five, fundamentally shapes the rest of our lives.”
A post shared by The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood (@earlychildhood)
She continued: “But as a society, we currently spend much more of our time and energy on later life.
“Today the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood is launching a new campaign, Shaping Us, to raise awareness of the life-changing impact we can have when we build a supportive, nurturing world around children and those who care for them.
“Because by focusing our collective time, energy and resources on these most preventative years, we can make a huge difference to the physical and mental health and happiness of generations to come.”
The long-term public awareness drive is thought to be the first of its kind to be launched by a member of the Royal family.
This is the next step in a lifelong project for the Princess, who hopes to instigate a fundamental shift in public opinion that will result in better mental health support for parents, improved investment and training in the early years sector and systemic change in how development is measured. In turn, this will prevent issues such as homelessness and addiction in later life.