Inclement weather changes plans for Queen’s visit

The royal family retain an "enduring affection" for Malta, but severe weather conditons caused their plans to change

Severe weather conditions have caused unexpected changes in plans for the royal family’s two-day visit to Malta on occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) being held in Malta this year.

Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will land in Malta for a full programme of events, with the stay serving both as a state visit and as part of the CHOGM programme, which the Queen still helms.

What may be the 89-year-old monarch’s last presence at a Commonwealth summit, after her decision to avoid long-haul travel has already seen significant changes due to the soggy, windy weather currently sweeping the island.

Scheduled to land in Malta shortly before 3:30pm, the original plan was for the Queen and the Duke to go to St. George’s Square in Valletta to be greeted by enthusiastic crowds eager to see Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Republic Street in Valletta was also adorned with commemorative bronze plaques on occasion of the Queen’s visit.

Should the weather persist, it could also jeopardize plans for the Queen to wave off the public as she makes the ferry crossing from Kalkara to Valletta, but the High Commission has ensured there will be opportunities for the public to participate in proceedings. Other plans, potentially on the chopping block include a dinner to be held at Hagar Qim on Saturday evening, but sources have confirmed that alternative plans have been made for both occasions.

The weather has also impinged on other plans related to CHOGM, where an event being held in Gozo for some 150 delegates were going to visit a number of businesses, factories and restaurants on our sister island. Many businesses have reacted to the cancellations with disappointment and anger, leading to some including Labour MP Franco Mercieca to use the occasion to highlight the necessity of a permanent link between the islands.

Although the last CHOGM to be held in Malta, in 2005, was accompanied by characteristic sunny skies, this is not the first important event to be held against the backdrop of lashing waves and leaden skies. Perhaps the most notable of such meetings was the onebetween former US President George W. H. Bush and former USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1989, a summit that is still held in collective memory as the official end of the Cold War, however disputed this might be.

The visit also marks a return to an island where the monarch reportedly “spent her happiest years a carefree princess” between 1949 and 1951, when Malta was still a British colony and Prince Philip was stationed on the island as a naval officer where she had been encouraged to join. According to British High Commissioner to Malta Rob Luke, the Royal Family still retained an "enduring affection" for Malta.