The Welsh village where a neighbour became King


s King Charles greeted thousands of well-wishers outside the Welsh Parliament, he made a beeline for one woman, and chatted to her for what seemed ages.The royal couple – pictured in 2009 – welcomed many guests to their Myddfai home© Getty Images

Jan Lewis called one word last Friday to grab his attention: “Myddfai”.

It’s a Carmarthenshire village of fewer than 400 people that is close to his heart, as he long had a home there.

So the question is: Are locals now likely see the home’s new owner, Prince William, at church on a Sunday instead?

When he was Prince of Wales, Charles was regularly seen walking in the area, and he helped redesign a new village hall as he felt original plans made it look too much “like a rugby ball”.

Following their meeting at the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay, the new King’s obvious love of the place was written on his face as he chatted to Mrs Lewis, 62, from the neighbouring county of Powys.

She said she had shouted to him because she has stayed in Myddfai.

“He said he had done a lot of the planting there (at his village home). It was lovely to have a few seconds with him.”Jan Lewis grabbed a few moments speaking to the new King about a place close to his heart© BBC

The King has indeed grown many organic plants on land at the Llwynywermod estate, near Llandovery, that he bought 15 years ago.

It followed what he described as a “30-year search to find a Welsh home” – but what did he use it for?

You can disappear there’

“When the Duke of Edinburgh died, he went there to retreat out of the limelight,” said BBC Wales correspondent Huw Thomas.

“It has the benefit that you can disappear there. Nobody would know he was there as you can’t see it from the road.”

He has begun writing a book on on the King’s time as the Prince of Wales and the monarchy’s relationship to Wales.

A large part of it centres around the retreat, which is surrounded by farmland and hidden away in the hills.

The King has pursued projects relating to Wales – ranging from conservation to architecture – at places such as the Vaynol estate, Bangor or Powis Castle, near Welshpool, with everyone else having to move out for a week while he was there.Plaques – such as this one at the community hall – are around the village© BBC

That all changed when he bought the Llwynywermod estate in 2007, with Mr Thomas saying: “There would be an extraordinary mix of people at events there: (former Welsh First Ministers) Mark Drakeford, Carwyn Jones; Howard Stringer, who used to head Sony in the UK; and the black cars of ambassadors from countries with interests in Wales.

“The fact ambassadors from countries like China, Italy and Belgium, who would be hard-pushed to come to Wales for anything, were prepared to come from London to a random rural spot to sit in a barn, watching students do Shakespeare skits and have drinks for two hours, was incredibly useful to him.

“He would see this as contributing to Welsh life, but is it more generally useful to Wales that the Prince of Wales has a home here? I guess it would depend on your viewpoint.”

There is no sign of Llwynywermod from the road, and while it is hardly a palace – the Victorian mansion that once dominated the site is now a ruin – it is described as a comfortable farmhouse.Myddfai is a rural village near Llandovery, with a royal neighbour living nearby© BBC

This is where the King would stay, on a courtyard, flanked by a barn and a couple of holiday lets, that newspaper journalists would book for a week to try to catch a glimpse of him.

Not that he was there for any consistent amount of time, according to Mr Thomas, certainly not as often as his Scottish property, where he spends about a third of the year.

‘Good neighbours’

That home is the property of the Duchy of Cornwall, and as Prince William has also inherited the title Duke of Cornwall its ownership has passed to him.

While it is not known whether the King and the Queen Consort will visit again, Mr Thomas described them as “active patrons in the village” and “good neighbours”, hosting drinks on many with local people on many occasions.Emlyn Morgan counts King Charles as a friend© BBC

They left their mark on locals, many of whom count them as friends.

“You see the clump of trees up on the hill… the path goes up that side, up to the mountain,” said Emlyn Morgan, a farmer, showing where the prince liked going for a walk.”I think the world of him. He has enjoyed coming here.”Nobody made a fuss out of him. If he came to church on Sundays, there would be one little man [a security officer] with him.”And he would then come into the cafe after the meeting to have a small cup of tea and shake hands with everyone.”The King left his mark on the village – including with the shape of the community hall© BBC

The King was not been shy to give his opinions either, after he joined a campaign for a new community hall that opened in 2011.

Mr Morgan added: “He saw the first plan and he didn’t like that at all, it was ‘like a rugby ball’, he said, and he told us, ‘I won’t put my weight behind that at all’.

“So we changed the architect then and got the design as it is today, and it has been extremely successful.”Carol Dyer is not expecting to see the new King and Queen Consort in the village any time soon© BBC

Carol Dyer is chairwoman of the Myddfai Community Council and has met the King many times.

“He bought the defibrillator for the village, that was placed on the wall of the hall. So his generosity has been quiet but there have been things given,” she said.”At the beginning when he came here, one of the things he did was have a social evening to meet local people. One of us guided the prince around to meet the people and the other guided Camilla.”His talk was so easy and he had something to say to everyone.”

But she doesn’t think the King will visit the village again for a while, and is keenly aware that he now has new duties.However, his elder son will be greeted warmly, with Emlyn Morgan saying: “He (King Charles) won’t come that often, we can see that, but I hope William and Kate will come – they will be very welcome.”

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