King Charles III appeared alongside energy secretary Grant ShappsUniversity of Cambridge with permission for Varsity

Students were shocked to see King Charles return to Cambridge this afternoon (09/05), so soon after his coronation on Saturday.

The new monarch was spotted breaking ground at the site of the future New Whittle Laboratory in West Cambridge. He was accompanied by Grant Shapps, the Secretary for Energy and Net Zero, and briefly toured the existing Whittle Laboratory, where he saw demonstrations of the propulsion technologies that are being developed inside.

First-year student Emmanuel Adesola witnessed the commotion that the King’s presence caused. “Before you know it, I see people running out of the building [...] Everyone was in awe.”

Today’s visit was the first Royal duty King Charles has undertaken post-coronation. He was travelling to Sandringham to unwind after the coronation celebrations, but stopped off in Cambridge along the way.

In the New Whittle Laboratory, research that aims to help the UK to reach net zero by 2050 will take place. The University has secured £58 million of funding with which to build the new Laboratory.


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King Charles has long been known for his environmental activism. Just before ceremonially ‘breaking the ground’, the King joked, “I was rather looking forward to doing a bit of gardening.”

Today marks the King’s third visit to the Whittle Laboratory site in as many years. Giving a speech to the crowd, the King reflected upon his time at Cambridge, and remarked that “to save this planet from increasing catastrophe [...] the aviation sector is critical”.

The former Prince of Wales graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1970, and has visited his alma mater many times since. He was Royal founding patron of the University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, opening the society’s ‘Entopia’ building last year.

King Charles’ coronation this weekend divided opinion in Cambridge. Dr Anthony Freeling, the University’s interim Vice-Chancellor, called the coronation “a day of celebration in Cambridge”, but among the celebrations, a significant number of anti-coronation events and protests took place.