Arsenal footballer Bukayo Saka has been given a day off from training with the England squad so he can take a ‘unique opportunity’ to meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at Buckingham Palace.
He was among 500 guests at a reception hosted by the royal couple to celebrate the contribution of the people of the Commonwealth to the UK.
The 20-year-old international striker said he didn’t have to convince England manager Gareth Southgate to give him a training pass because the event was “really important” to him.
England are preparing to meet Italy and then Hungary in the Nations League.
Saka, who was voted Arsenal’s Player of the Season, said: “It’s an honor to be invited here. Obviously I know how precious the royal family is and to be able to be here to meet them.
“Obviously I had to leave the England camp so I have to thank Gareth for letting me go because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m very happy.
“I didn’t have to convince Gareth.
“He understood how important it is and how special it is, so he was happy that I came. Not everyone has the honor of being invited here. I will remember forever.”
High commissioners, politicians, celebrities, representatives from the business, arts, education and charity sectors, and the NHS were among those who attended the event.
Loose Women panelist Brenda Edwards – who this week shared her devastation that her son, music entrepreneur Jamal, died after taking drugs – also chatted with Charles.
Politicians at the event included Baroness Scotland and Lord Woolley, the founding director of Operation Black Vote, which works with ethnic minorities in the UK to increase civil society understanding, participation in Parliament and the public life.
Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, architect Sir David Adjaye and director Gurinder Chadha were also present.
England rugby player Maro Itoje said: “I think representation is always so important. There’s that old phrase that says, “You can’t be if you can’t see it.”
He added that it is important that children and their parents have a chance “to broaden their horizons and be exposed to different things”.
He said: “If you see someone doing something, it acts as an inspiration and can help them strive for success.”
Rwandan genocide survivor Eric Murangwa Eugene also spoke with the royal couple, who are due to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in their hometown of Kigali this month.
He is a Tutsi, former football player, and he advised Charles to visit the site of genocide atrocities during his trip to Rwanda.