It’s rare that the whole gang gets together, so today was a unique engagement in that the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Princess Royal, the Duke of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry all gathered in London for the unveiling of a new memorial to honor the veterans and civilians who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And unlike events which Kate, or William and Kate, carry out for their patronages, engagements which feature the extended family really show where they fit into the broader royal puzzle. In other words, they’re still the new kids on the block compared to the Queen and Prince Philip, or the Prince of Wales.
Today’s unveiling featured 2,500 invited guests who attended a Drumhead Service at Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall. A number of high-profile members of the government were in the mix, including Prime Minister Theresa May and former PM Tony Blair. The memorial was sculpted by Paul Day and commemorates the service of military personnel and civilians alike in the region from 1990 to 2015. It’s located on Victoria Embankment Gardens, between the Ministry of Defence and the River Thames, and will be open to the public.
The event has not been without some controversy, however, and a number of military widows have complained that they weren’t invited or informed. There has also been criticism of Blair’s attendance, with some believing that his presence was inappropriate given his association with the recent war effort.
The service was led by the Chaplain of the Fleet, the Venerable Ian Wheatley, who gave thanks to those who served in the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan. Remarking on the consternation of those not invited, he told the press:
“If you’ve got a site that can take 2,000 people and you’re casting your net… quite rightly so wide because you’re including the living and the dead, not withstanding the amazing sacrifice people have made, you won’t get everybody in so you have to draw the line somewhere.”
On a lighter note, a toddler who attended with his parents had the opportunity to meet the Queen and was thoroughly nonplussed by the event:
Kate recycled her Michael Kors coat dress, first debuted on William and Kate’s last day in Australia during their 2014 tour there. She re-wore it last May to open the Magic Garden at Hampton Court Palace. Today, she paired it with her tanzanite and diamond earrings and necklace set and a large navy hat, which complemented matching gloves.
Upon first seeing the photos this morning I was underwhelmed, not loving coat dresses in general, and really not enjoying the large hat. But in the hours since, as I’ve been pulling images and reading through the news coverage, the outfit has grown on me. My favorite showing of the coat remains its first in Oz, but today’s look was elegant, appropriate and the coordinated hat and gloves did offer up a little something extra. So, well done, I’ll label this is a win in my book.
Prince Harry made a brief reading:
A shot from the parade in Whitehall:
One mother in attendance shared that she and Kate had a “mummy chat” following the event during which they compared notes on their toddlers, Kate sharing that Princess Charlotte and Prince George get along very well, but that Charlotte is slowly starting to rule to roost. My main reaction to that is I never want to use the phrase “mummy chat” again and good for Charlotte.
Moving on, today Kensington Palace also announced that prior to leaving for Paris, William and Kate will present shamrocks to the First Battalion Irish Guards at the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Friday, March 17. Last year Kate was sharply criticized for not attending; later this week I’ll follow up with a post with some more context on that whole kerfuffle.
You can catch up on all of Kate’s 2017 appearances here.