King Charles in first visit to Northern Ireland as British Army salutes new monarch

His Majesty King Charles III and Her Majesty The Queen Consort visited Northern Ireland as part of their tour of the Devolved Nations.   

The Royal Flight landed at windy and overcast George Best Belfast City Airport at midday on Tuesday where the royal party was met by the Lord Lieutenant for the County Borough of Belfast Dame Fionnuala Mary Jay-O'Boyle, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris and the Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport Mr Matthew Hall.  

The royal couple travelled to the County Down village of Royal Hillsborough to Hillsborough Castle, the only royal residence in Northern Ireland. As the motorcycle outriders appeared, the assembled crowd that lined the approach roads to the castle began to cheer and wave as the King’s car came into sight.  

As the car entered the castle grounds, the gunners of 206 (Ulster) Battery 105th Regiment Royal Artillery (Scottish and Ulster Gunners) fired a 21-gun-salute in honour of the royal couple. The fourth gun-salute in five days, following the sad news of Her Majesty The Queen’s passing, and the first honouring the new monarch. 

The unit, which has bases in the market towns of Newtownards and Coleraine, is a reserve unit and covers all ceremonial gun salutes through-out the year. 

As soon as the news of the death broke, the unit quickly swung into action preparing and moving the guns, blank ammunition and personnel to the firing point at the rear of Hillsborough Castle. The team worked through the night to ensure that everyone was prepared for the tasks ahead. 

Battery Sergeant Major (BSM) Del McCausland from County Down, said: ‘It’s been a sombre duty for the unit to mark the passing of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and an honour to mark the accession of His Majesty King Charles III. 

‘All members of 206 Battery worked tirelessly to ensure that the gun salutes were conducted with great respect and military precision.’  

The guns used by 206 Battery are the L118 Light 105 mm gun and were moved by six-wheel drive Pinzgauer vehicles and man-handled to the firing point by the gun crews.  

BSM McCausland spoke with King Charles after the salute. The King asked him how the unit got the guns in place, and he said: ‘I told His Royal Highness that they were man-handled by each gun crew who took great pride in their ‘colours’. 

The Commanding Officer (CO) of the Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert who was present at the salute, said: ‘I am always immensely proud of the young men and women, their attitude and their application to the task at hand. This has been a historic and momentous time and the conduct and dedication of the unit has been outstanding.’ 

After their visit to Hillsborough Castle, His Majesty the King and the Queen Consort travelled to Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral to attend a service of reflection for the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 

They were greeted at the cathedral by members of the fanfare from the Band of the Royal Irish Regiment

Commanding Officer (CO), Colonel Thomas, said: ‘Along with their other commitments over this period, the musicians had a short period of time to rehearse and perfect the fanfare.’ 

He added: ‘They are all reservists and dedicate a lot of their spare time to rehearsals and training in preparation for events throughout the year. It’s been a historic and momentous time and I am proud of way they have conducted themselves.’  

After the service, the Bishop of Connor escorted their Majesties out of the cathedral to meet members of the public before departing to London from his first visit as The King, and Commander-in-Chief of the British forces.