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Queen’s visits to Aberfan were an example of ‘soft power’, says Archbishop of Wales

16 September 2022

Final leg of King’s national tour arrives in Wales


The King arrives at Llandaff Cathedral, on Friday morning, for a service of prayer and reflection for the life ofthe late Queen

The King arrives at Llandaff Cathedral, on Friday morning, for a service of prayer and reflection for the life ofthe late Queen

THE Queen’s repeated visits to the small Welsh mining town of Aberfan, after a disaster which killed 116 children and 28 adults, were an example of her “soft power”, which shaped the UK and its relations with the world, the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, said on Friday.

The tragedy, in 1966, when a colliery spoil tip collapsed engulfing a primary school, led to four visits to the town from the Queen — the last in 2012, to open a new school. Archbishop John said that the people of Aberfan found her “deeply consoling”.

“In her role as head of the Commonwealth,” he said, “she presided over a growing fellowship of nations, and she embraced our diverse histories, cultures, and languages, delighting in the sheer variety of this unique assembly. At times, when countries threatened to forsake each other, she displayed the skilful use of that ‘soft power’ . . . that way of exercising power that has depth and reach.

“In Wales, that skill was never more evident than when she visited Aberfan, in 1966. The community of Aberfan found her presence deeply consoling, and Her Majesty would return four more times to this community.”

The Archbishop was speaking at a service of prayer and reflection in Llandaff Cathedral, attended by the King and the Queen Consort, on the final leg of their tour of the home nations after the Queen’s death on Thursday of last week.

The late Queen had truly lived a “life of grace and wisdom”, the Archbishop told the congregation of invited guests from around Wales.

Referring to the growing sense of nationhood in Wales, and the Queen’s opening of the Senedd building in 2006, he said that “shared tradition” still counted, and the Queen’s example of grace and wisdom were needed to “build a prosperous and compassionate society”.

He continued: “Our roots as a people are deep, our culture and language, stories and legends ground us in a unique heritage, but also point us forward to a future with promise and potential.”

He gave thanks for the late Queen’s faith, which shaped her life and service, and prayed for the King and his family.

The service was organised by the Welsh government, and was led by the Acting Dean of Llandaff, the Ven. Michael Komor. The Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd June Osborne, led the prayers. The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, read a lesson, and members of other churches and faith communities read prayers.

The visit to Wales coincided with Owain Glyndwr Day, a celebration of the last Welshman to be known as the Prince of Wales: a title that has now been granted by the new King to Prince William. A silent protest against the monarchy was due to begin outside at Cardiff Castle, another stop on the King’s tour.

Bishop Osborne welcomed the granting of the title to Prince William. She said that the “vast majority of the people in Wales will be delighted to have William as Prince of Wales. Its going to bring many happy years to Wales.”

Earlier this week, the King and Queen Consort attended similar services in Edinburgh and Belfast (News, 16 September), before returning to London to process behind the Queen’s coffin on its final departure from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, where it is to lie in state until the funeral on Monday.

The King and Queen Consort were then due to spend quiet day at King Charles’s estate at Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, before returning to London to stand vigil by the coffin on Friday night.

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