Six months on from the attacks at the Market, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visit those affected, and spread the Christmas cheer
Words: Clare Finney
Images: Adrian Pope
“For thousands of years people have come here to be fed,” said the Dean of Southwark, “physically, but also spiritually. Today is the Feast of St Lucy, a fourth century martyr whose name means light.” The congregation—traders, local people, and two people whose faces have become synonymous with tradition, history and longevity—were silent as they remembered the horror that descended upon this side of the river a little more than six months ago.
“Her feast gives us the opportunity to remember that that light is unquenchable, and darkness not all powerful,” he continued. While we lost so much and so many that fateful evening, “hope and love have remained strong and continue to shine.”
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the bright bustle of Borough Market, just moments from where the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were sat. It was bright because it was advent, the Christmas lights were blazing, and mince pies, stollen and gingerbread men joined the usual bounty. But it was also bright as a result of the peculiar stardust a visit from the Royal Family seems to leave behind.
“It sounds silly, but I am just—a bit overwhelmed, really,” says Sandra at McClaren’s Christmas Pudding, grinning delightedly in the wake of the Royal visit. Her stall had been graced by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who had been drawn there by how “very pretty” Sandra’s handmade puddings looked. “She was just delightful. She asked where I’d got the recipe from, and I told her I’d created it.”
Though one of the main reasons for Charles and Camilla’s visit was to see how those traders who were caught up in the attacks were faring, the Royal couple also took the time to chat to Market shoppers, and the owners of other stalls.
“The Prince likes traditional British products,” said Roi at Gorwydd Caerphilly, “so he was pleased to see us here.” Indeed, so engaging did Charles and Camilla find the cheese, they left with a light scattering of caerphilly dust on their coats from having leaned in too close. They moved on to Hook and Son—“Charles is a raw milk man,” says Steve Hook proudly, “and I think Camilla’s son, a food writer, gave her a copy of The Moo Man, my documentary”—and from there to butchers Northfield Farm and Rhug Farm.
Lord Newborough of Rhug Estate being a friend of the Prince’s, it was only natural they stop and have a chat, while Camilla went on to School Food Matters, which had a stall selling homemade gingerbread men and vegetables. “We grew these ourselves,” their small spokesperson Amy told Camilla excitedly. “And do you eat them?” she asked the children. “Yes!” they chorused proudly.
The couple moved into Cathedral Street, where a small party of traders who had been directly affected by the attack in June were gathered to meet them: Monica of Brindisa, Borough Market security officer Ganga Garbuja, Federico Fugazza of Porteña and Jack Applebee, who happily reported that business was back to normal and Borough Market would “never give up”.
As if in answer, the heavens opened, and a good old British downpour forced their Royal Highnesses into the warm shelter of Bread Ahead bakery, filled with the sights and smells of handmade mince pies. They resisted the offer of eating one on the spot—caerphilly dust is one thing; mince pie crumbs quite another—but would certainly enjoy them later.
In the meantime, they had a service to get to in Southwark Cathedral: one attended by those of all faiths and none, united in the spirit that has kept Borough Market going in the last six months: that of community.