Musician who performed as teenager for Queen is appointed Charles' official harpist

4th June 2007
Daily Mail

The Prince had only ever heard attractive blonde Claire Jones, 22, play once before.

But she has been confirmed as official harpist to the Prince of Wales - only the third person to hold the title in 140 years.

And she will be paid the right royal sum of 3,000-a-year to perform at royal engagements around the country. Her first booking for the prince and the duchess is at a black tie dinner in Cardiff Castle tomorrow night.

The Prince of Wales' new official harpist will make debut at black tie dinner

Claire, from the village of Crymych in Pembrokeshire, said she was "very proud and honoured" to be selected.

She said: "I am very proud to be able to promote the harp as an important part of our culture and heritage in Wales.

"I want to continue the work of the previous harpists in celebrating the instrument at official royal functions.

"I also hope I can visit schools during my term of appointment and inspire young people to learn this very special instrument."

Claire is studying at the Royal College of Music and will join the Royal Academy of Music as a postgraduate in the autumn.

She began playing the harp when she was 10 and performed for the Queen six years ago.

Claire performed for Charles and Camilla during their visit to Cardigan Castle last year. She has also performed at the Houses of Parliament, Portcullis House, Kensington Palace and the Welsh Assembly.

In 2006, she won the harp solo at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, was a finalist at the Third International Harp Contest in France and won the Royal College of Music Harp Competition.

She is working on her debut CD which is due to come out later this year.

Prince Charles recreated the ancient post seven years ago after hearing Welsh harpist Catrin Finch at a concert.

The title had not been used in the Royal Court since 1869 - but stretches back more than 500 years.

At the time the prince said he hoped the new title would "encourage Welsh culture and tradition".

He said: "I hope that by re-establishing this position I can not only give support and recognition to a young harpist.

"I can also help encourage appreciation of the harp and its importance to Welsh culture and tradition."

Catrin held the position for two years before handing over to another Welsh harpist Jemimah Phillips.

The earliest known Royal harpist was Robert Ap Huw who played for King James I in the 15th century.

The last Harpist to the Prince of Wales was Thomas Gruffydd (1815-1888 ) who was awarded the title in 1869.

Emma Lile, of the Museum of Welsh Life, said harp playing in Wales dates back to more than 1,000 years ago.

She said: "It was seen that having a harpist was a status symbol and made you a better person in society.

"In the old times they played with 30-string smaller harps which had a strong celtic tradition.

"But in the 1600s the Italian triple harp became all the trend which had 90-strings.

"It is still seen as the national instrument of Wales and is as important to our heritage as rugby and leeks."

As well as aquiring a new harpist, the Prince of Wales has taken some of the newest environmentally-friendly vehicles, known as "ecocars", for a spin.

The Royal test drive took place in a car park at Hampton Court Palace ahead of the Brighton to London Eco-Car Rally.

The prince chartered a private twin turbo propeller engined plane to bring him down to London from Scotland.

At the green event, he was joined by the former racing driver Sir Stirling Moss and Zac Goldsmith.

The Prince stepped into the driving seat of a Honda Civic Hybrid - the exterior of which was painted with rainbows, clouds and a smiling sun.

The automatic petrol and electric motored car was launched in 2006 and sales went up by 500 per cent this year.

Charles also drove a Saab Bio-power 9-3 convertible which runs on bio-ethanol E85 made from fermented plant matter.

Sir Stirling approached the car after the Prince held up the unusual plastic smart key which plugs into the centre of the car near the gear stick rather than by the wheel.

Sir Stirling said after helping the Prince: "He got into the Saab and they're notorious for the keys. I was just showing him a little bit of that."

He added of the eco-vehicles: "I've driven the electric bike and the BMW and I think it's obviously the way to go. They're quiet and the acceleration is terrific."

The Prince was driven to Hampton Court in his bio-fuel navy blue Jaguar, which was converted in March this year.

Prince Charles test drives an 'ecocar'

He chartered a private twin turbo propeller engined plane to bring him down to London from Scotland.

Aides declined to reveal what the cost of the plane to the tax payer was but said: "He specifically chose to use a propeller plane rather than a jet because its CO2 emissions per kilometre are significantly fewer. It is one third cleaner than the usual Royal Flight.

"When the Prince announced he wanted to make his travel more environmentally friendly he did not say that he would never get a flight again, only that he would endeavour to take a more environmentally friendly option where possible."