King Charles and Queen Camilla Step Out for First Joint Public Duty Since Prince Harry's 'Spare'

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King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort leave after visiting Bolton Town Hall
King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort leave after visiting Bolton Town Hall

OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

King Charles and Queen Camilla stepped out together on Friday for their first joint public appearance since the publication of Prince Harry's groundbreaking memoir, Spare.

The couple immersed themselves in the community of Bolton as they spent the day getting to know people in the northwest English region around Manchester.

The King and Queen Consort received a warm welcome at the local town hall, exiting a gleaming Bentley to a rapturous welcome and flag waving from several thousand people packed along the railings at Victoria Square. Charles, 74, and Camilla, 75, were welcomed by civic leaders, including representatives of the local Polish community, before being treated to a performance from the Polonez folk dance group.

To a small section of the waiting crowd's delight, the royal couple undertook a short walkabout shaking hands, asking if people were staying warm in the chill and receiving their good wishes. Eleven-year-old Aafreen from Haslam Park school, was one of the fortunate children to meet the King.

"I was in shock when he shook my hand. He asked us if we had missed our lunch," Aafreen tells PEOPLE of meeting Charles. "They are both so caring and kind."

King Charles III (top row, centre R)and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort (centre L) arrive to visit Bolton Town Hall
King Charles III (top row, centre R)and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort (centre L) arrive to visit Bolton Town Hall

OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Suzanne Hartop from St. James's Daisy Hill primary school also spoke with PEOPLE about the "once in a lifetime opportunity" of meeting the King. "He had a lot of people to get through but he shook hands and spoke to as many as he could," she says.

Mother-daughter duo Gillian Spencer and Lucy Hobbs similarly got the chance to chat with the royals, who commented on their festive hats in Union Jack hues.

"Camilla said 'You must be cold from being out here but at least you've got those hats to keep you warm,' " Hobbs, 27, tells PEOPLE. "The King asked us if we keep them in a bottom drawer," jokes Spencer, 54.

King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort leave after visiting Bolton Town Hall
King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort leave after visiting Bolton Town Hall

OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

The women won't pack the caps away for long, as they plan to attend King Charles' coronation in London on May 6.

Inside the town hall, the King and Queen passed by the Hall of Memories, where they were shown artist L.S. Lowry's "Going to the Match" painting, which was inspired by Bolton Wanderers soccer club's Burnden Park ground.

Then, the couple was taken to meet representatives of a collection of groups, from the town's Interfaith Council and Solidarity Community Association to Bolton Asian Elders (who support diaspora groups) to Bolton Holiday Activities and Food Program which supports low-income families with meals and sporting activities.

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Young and adult carers in the community and members of the local Polish community were also introduced to the royal couple.

Elsewhere during the stop, the royals met Lucy Mooney, 16, and Harry Brannagan, 15, who are both members of the youth parliament in Bolton. Mooney tells PEOPLE she and Charles spoke about the Bigger Bolton campaign that promotes the town and aims to improve facilities in the area.

"It was amazing to speak to both of them. They were so lovely. They took the time to speak to us and were really interested us," Mooney says. "They even asked me about school and what I wanted to do in the future. It was just really lovely."

"He said the amount we were doing was amazing and hopes it really takes off," she adds.

Charles and Camilla entered together — when Brannagan presented the King with a ceremonial key to the town hall — and then split up to move through the room, coming together at the end.

"They were very, very relaxed. I thought they'd be more uptight. They are lovely people," Brannagan tells PEOPLE. He did the honors of delivering the key as the Hand Made Sign Language choir performed "God Save The King."

According to Mooney, it was a real boost for Bolton for the King and Queen to come visit. Just a short walk from town hall are boarded-up stores, familiar in many town centers today as communities grapple with harsh cost of living.

King Charles III is welcomed by a crowd as he and Camila, Queen Consort arrive at Bolton Town House
King Charles III is welcomed by a crowd as he and Camila, Queen Consort arrive at Bolton Town House

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

"This isn't the kind of place you'd picture the King And Queen coming," Brannagan explains.

"I was shocked," Mooney agrees. "Hopefully it'll highlight all the great things that happen in Bolton and put a limelight on our amazing voice and the campaigns we've got going."

And in Charles, they have a sympathetic ear. "He's a very nice person and seems to care a lot about us. They didn't want to simply blitz through here and be done with it and get on to the next one." Adds Mooney: "He took his time and really tried to get to know people."

Earlier, Charles visited Manchester's Kellogg's factory, which is the largest cereal-making facility in Europe and the biggest Corn Flakes factory in the world.

King Charles III (C) visits the kitchen inside the headquarters of cereal manufacturer Kellogg's marking its 100th anniversary in Manchester
King Charles III (C) visits the kitchen inside the headquarters of cereal manufacturer Kellogg's marking its 100th anniversary in Manchester

PAUL ELLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

RELATED: Prince William Steps Out for Solo Appearance as Royal Family Stays Silent amid 'Spare' Allegations

Kellogg's has been a holder of the Royal Warrant (meaning the company supplies the royal household) since the reign of Charles's grandfather King George VI. Cereal from the business was historically delivered to the royals in a small van called Genevieve, the palace said.

King Charles III (L) speaks to staff on the cornflakes production line during a visit to the headquarters of cereal manufacturer Kellogg's marking its 100th anniversary in Manchester
King Charles III (L) speaks to staff on the cornflakes production line during a visit to the headquarters of cereal manufacturer Kellogg's marking its 100th anniversary in Manchester

PAUL ELLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The breakfast cereal creator has also been a key supplier to FareShare Greater Manchester, which works to combat food poverty and funds school breakfast clubs.

Charles and senior members of the royal family members have been appearing in public this week for their first public outings since the publication of Harry's memoir.

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Charles and Camilla's relationship is a prominent theme in Spare. In the revealing text, published Jan. 10, Prince Harry writes that he and Prince William asked their father not to marry Camilla, whom Charles had an on-again, off-again relationship with since the 1970s. The romance overlapped with both of their marriages to other people — Camilla to Andrew Parker Bowles, and Charles to Princess Diana.

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Prince Harry book
Prince Harry book

PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE The book jacket of Prince Harry's memoir 'Spare'

In the book, the Duke of Sussex, 38, likened his first meeting with Camilla, who he described as "the other woman," to "getting an injection," and said they probably spoke about a shared passion for horses.

"I recall wondering, right before the tea, if she'd be mean to me. If she'd be like all the wicked stepmothers in the storybooks. But she wasn't. Like Willy, I did feel a real gratitude for that," Harry wrote.

Harry also accused his stepmother of leaking private conversations and information to the media to improve her reputation.

"That made her dangerous because of the connections that she was forging within the British press," he said in an interview with Anderson Cooper for 60 Minutes. "There was open willingness on both sides to trade information. And with a family built on hierarchy, and with her on the way to being queen consort, there was gonna be people or bodies left in the street."

Buckingham Palace has not issued any statements on Spare or Harry's accompanying television interviews.