Heritage

Prince William and Kate Middleton Made a Somber Visit to Leicester

The royals paid tribute to five people who died in a devastating helicopter accident.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / NEIL P. MOCKFORD
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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have paid a poignant tribute to the owner of a British soccer club and four other people who died alongside him in a devastating helicopter accident.

The royal couple visited the home of Leicester City Football Club to see the thousands of flowers, football shirts, and scarves that have become a temporary shrine to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the other victims.

In contrast to the cheers and excitement that often accompany royal arrivals, there was a respectful silence from the small crowd as William and Kate stepped out of their car upon arriving at the King Power Stadium.


The Duke and Duchess arriving at the memorial site

The Duchess, who wore a gray Catherine Walker coat, laid a bouquet of white flowers with a card. William, who is president of England’s Football Association, bowed his head.

Later, the Duke spoke of how he knew Vichai, describing him as “a man who cared deeply about his family and also his community."

He added: “Catherine and I also wanted to come to Leicester because of what the people of this city, and fans of this club, have shown us all over the last few weeks.”

Leicester City Football Club was catapulted into the spotlight in 2016 when, under Vichai’s ownership, the club won England’s Premier League against all odds.

William recalled the moment, saying: “Against odds that are now the stuff of legend, you took on the Goliaths and superstars of the world’s most famous football league. In powering past them all to win the title, you wrote the best underdog story in the history of modern sport.”

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He added: “And when the man that led this club to victory died so tragically, the people of this city revealed with their outpouring of admiration, that they too shared much of the character that was so central to who Vichai was.”

The Duke and Duchess have another personal connection to the tragedy. Prince William served as a helicopter pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance service for two years until July 2017, and he recalled how he had “the privilege” to fly with pilot Eric Swaffer who died alongside Viachi and other victims Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, and Izabela Lechowicz when the helicopter spiraled out of control on October 27, 2018.

Barbara Fothergill, 63, who watches Leicester City at home and away games was one of the fans and volunteers who helped move the floral and colorful tributes from their initial spot by the stadium to the new site. “Some of the messages we’ve received have been beautiful," Fothergill told T&C. "We have had people from all over the world—including teams we played in Europe. It has been poignant and we’ve worked together as a family.”

Fothergill added about William and Kate, “[They] were asking what the atmosphere has been like at matches. I know they knew Vichai and it’s lovely that they’ve come to see this and pay their respects, shown an interest.”

Later, the royals visited the University of Leicester where they heard about three educational programs that have been conducted alongside the city’s soccer club. They also met hundreds of students who had gathered outside to catch a glimpse of them.

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The Duchess upon arrival at Leicester University

Criminology student Lauren Hampton, 19, told T&C: “It was really surreal. We’ve been waiting out here so we’re very cold. She was taking her time, she came up to me and engaged in conversation. She said about how my coat was sensible because of the weather and then she asked what subject I did and what year I was in. She was very friendly and really engaging.”

Hampton added: “I think it’s really good [that they’ve come to Leicester]. Obviously, them going to see the memorial, I think that was really nice.”

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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