Prince Charles and Camilla arrive in Greece for Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations

The Prince of Wales gives a speech at the presidential mansion in Athens Credit: PA

Prince Charles paid tribute to the country where his father was born almost 100 years ago, saying it has the "most special place in my heart".

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are in Greece to celebrate the country's Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations.

During an official state dinner at the presidential mansion in Athens, Charles hailed the “strong and vital” ties between the UK and Greece, and described Greece as "the land of my grandfather".

The Duke of Edinburgh was born a prince of Greece and Denmark, allegedly on the kitchen table of his family home, Mon Repos, on the Greek island of Corfu, in 1921.

Speaking at the dinner hosted by the President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Prince of Wales said: “My wife and I could not be more delighted to be back in Greece, which has long held the most special place in my heart.

With hand-shaking still ruled out due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Charles greeted people with a namaste welcome Credit: PA

“After all, Greece is the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth, nearly one hundred years ago, in the centenary year of Greek Independence.

“Later, it was in Athens that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice, during the dark years of Nazi occupation, sheltered a Jewish family – an act for which in Israel she is counted as ‘Righteous Among The Nations’.”

The couple’s official two-day visit to Greece comes after Greece's prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis invited them to join in the 200-anniversary celebrations.

In his speech, Charles said: ”In feeling a profound connection to Greece – her landscapes, her history and her culture – I am hardly alone: there is something of her essence in us all.

“As the wellspring of Western civilization, Greece’s spirit runs through our societies and our democracies.

“Without her, our laws, our art, our way of life, would never have flourished as they have.”

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive at the presidential mansion in Athens for a dinner Credit: PA

Charles said he was "deeply touched" that Athens wants to enact his ambitious Terra Carta, or Earth Charter, which has parallels with the Magna Carta.

It aims to encourage the private sector to adopt sustainable practices and to invest 10 billion dollars (£7.3 billion) in “natural capital” by 2022.

Charles said: “As we all work to rebuild our societies and our economies from this year of previously unimaginable upheaval, and to set our world on a more sustainable path, perhaps we can take some inspiration from the courage, determination and ambition of 1821.

“Once again, the stakes could hardly be higher.

“The choices we make will determine the fate not only of our nations, but of this singular planet which we all share.

Charles and Camilla will be in the chamber. Credit: PA

“For my part, to support this vital endeavour, I have worked with hundreds of CEOs around the world to develop a road map that places people, planet and nature at the heart of our economic transition.

“I have called this plan the ‘Terra Carta’, and I am deeply touched that Athens wishes to enact the ideas it offers.”

He concluded by saying: “Your Excellency – today, as in 1821, Greece can count on her friends in the United Kingdom.

“The ties between us are strong and vital, and make a profound difference to our shared prosperity and security.

“Just as our histories are closely bound together, so too are our futures.”

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall landed at Athens International Airport at just before 5.30pm local time on Wednesday for the official two-day visit.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arriving in Greece Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

A guard provided by the Hellenic Armed Forces lined the red carpet for the arrival.

They then attended the official opening ceremony of the National Gallery, and were shown around by Mr Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki.

They viewed the paintings of British artists Thomas Gordon and Frank Abney Hastings.

With hand-shaking still ruled out due to the pandemic, Charles greeted people with a namaste welcome, clasping his hands together and bowing his head.

Charles and Camilla with Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis at the National Gallery in Athens Credit: PA

On Thursday, the couple will attend a wreath laying at the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier and watch the Independence Day Military Parade, which celebrates Greece’s uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.

In pre-pandemic times, thousands of people waving Greek flags have lined the streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 parade.

The two-day tour will be Charles’ third official visit to Greece. He first visited the country in 1998 and had his second trip in 2018 with Camilla.

The Prince of Wales tries his hand at Greek dancing during a walkabout in Archanes, Crete Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

The couple have already travelled overseas during the pandemic, visiting Germany in November for a brief two-day trip to attend commemorations marking the country’s National Day of Mourning.

Clarence House announced the visit to Athens last week in a statement which said: “At the request of the British Government, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend the Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations in Athens from March 24-25.

“This follows an invitation from the prime minister of Greece, Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“The Bicentenary Event’s Independence Day celebrations will take place from the evening of Wednesday March 24 and will conclude on Thursday March 25.”

Charles and Camilla's last overseas trip was in November, when they briefly visited Germany to join the country’s National Day of Mourning.

Listen to our podcast about the Royal Family: