Who is the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales and what does their role involve?

Prince Charles reinstated the role of Royal Harpist in 2000 and since then has had six harpists in the position, who now get to play a particularly unique instrument

KILLARNEY, IRELAND - JUNE 15: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are given a harp playing display on their visit to Muckross House on June 15, 2018 in Killarney, Ireland. The royal couple are on the final day of a four day visit to Northern Ireland and Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Who is the current Royal Harpist?

Welsh harpist Alis Huws took over from Anne Denholm in 2019 as the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales. The Powys-born harpist’s first performance in the role took place in July 2019 at the Welsh residence of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at Llwynywermod in Llandovery. She is the sixth harpist in the role since Prince Charles reinstated it in 2000.

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Alis Huws completed an undergraduate degree and masters at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.

When she was awarded the position, it was announced that her appointment would run for an initial period of two years.

What does the Royal Harpist actually do?

The role of Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales was a role revived by Prince Charles in 2000. It was the first time the role had been filled since Queen Victoria had granted it to John Thomas in 1971.

All the Royal Harpists in the position’s history have been Welsh, most likely in a hat tip to the Prince of Wales’s position and responsibilities.

What type of harp does the Royal Harpist play?

Before 2006, the Official Harpists to the Prince of Wales played their own instruments. Since then, they have been able to play a £150,000 gold leaf harp from Italian harp makers, Salvi Harps, since it was presented to Prince Charles.

‘It’s a magnificent creation,’ Anne Denholm told BBC Music Magazine, while she was in the post of Official Harpist. ‘Instead of the usual flowers on the soundboard of the harp, there are daffodils. There are dragons along the base, and the bit at the front of the harp – the column – is inspired by the crest of The Prince of Wales, with the three feathers. The top of the harp is actually the three feathers coming out of the coronet. It’s very intricately designed, and has a magnificent sound.’

You can see the harp in this series of photos presented on Clarence House’s Instagram account. The post makes reference to the fact that it was a gift from the Victor Salvi Foundation and the design itself, which incorporates The Prince of Wales feathers and Welsh symbols, including daffodils and dragons.

In the Google Arts and Culture tour of Clarence House, the official harp is shown in its home, The Garden Room, alongside a grand piano.

Who are the previous Official Harpists to the Prince of Wales?

Alis Huws: 2019-present

Anne Denholm: 2015-2019

Hannah Stone: 2011-2015

Claire Jones: 2007-2011

Jemima Phillips: 2004-2007

Catrin Finch: 2000-2004

John Thomas: 1871

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Why is the harp important to Wales?

Wales has a long tradition of harp playing and the harp is considered to be the country’s national instrument. The triple harp is of particular importance to the country historically, but at the beginning of the 20th century, the single-strung harp became popular, meaning that there are very few triple harp players still working in Wales.