Today the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry joined their father, the Prince of Wales, in northern France to commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Earlier, the Queen issued a public message honoring the Canadian soldiers who “stood far from home together with their allies in defense of peace and freedom.”
First up, Charles, William and Harry were given a tour of a preserved tunnel in the trenches on the site of the battle field near Arras. They later joined Canadian President Justin Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande for a ceremony honoring the soldiers who fought and lost their lives.
The battle, fought during World War I, actually took three days in April 1917. Canadian troops fought Germans in the first phase of the British-led Battle of Arras and what became a sweeping victory. Historians look back on the battle today as evidence of tactical know-how, superior artillery support and the culmination of organized and thorough training. It makes sense, then, for Trudeau to make the journey from Canada and stand alongside the country’s WWI allies to honor this moment in history.
As Charles said in his remarks:
“Canadians displayed a strength of character and commitment to one another that is still evident today. They did not waver. This was Canada at its best; the Canadians at Vimy embodied the ‘True North Strong and Free.'”
Charles, Hollande and Trudeau all spoke during the ceremony and laid wreaths at the memorial, while William and Harry laid boots meant to represent the nearly 3,600 Canadians who died in the conflict.
Today’s service attracted an audience of 25,000, nearly half of whom are young Canadians who flew over to participate in the centennial.
This evening the royal trio, as well as Trudeau and Hollande, will attend a reception and meet some of today’s attendees.
William was obviously in France only a few weeks ago when he and the Duchess undertook a two-day mini-tour of Paris. Upon arriving he and Kate met with Hollande, who rather slyly asked about the recent Verbier ski trip and subsequent headlines. But he also met, relatively recently, with Trudeau when the Cambridges and their two children visited Canada last fall for a week-long tour.
In what may have been the single best moment of 2016, Prince George famously refused to high five Trudeau, instead leveling him with what is becoming a trademark withering, bemused expression. In short, he left Trudeau hanging. In the video below you can actually see George shaking his head in response.
But Trudeau’s name also cropped up recently in royal news when Vanity Fair ran a spread featuring Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle. Photos have been featured on her Instagram of her and the President meeting and speaking in the capacity of her philanthropy and advocacy work with the UN.
He even got the best of Kate last fall where you just know, for at least a moment, she forgot William was there.
But his charm got the best of William, too, and I assume Kate’s surprising hand on his leg is a reminder he’s married:
As for Harry, I think it’s a draw. Even Trudeau can’t compete with an unmarried prince:
The Queen’s full statement today:
Today, as people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean gather to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, there will be difficult memories of loss and of suffering, but also memories of many heroic acts of bravery and of sacrifice on the part of those who served.
On this day a century ago, thousands of Canadian soldiers stood far from home together with their allies in defence of peace and freedom. They fought courageously and with great ingenuity in winning the strategic high point of Vimy Ridge, though victory came at a heavy cost with more than 10,000 fallen and wounded.
I am pleased that my son The Prince of Wales, and my grandsons The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, are attending the commemorations today.
As Colonel-in-Chief; Captain General and Air Commodore-in-Chief of Canadian Armed Forces units, I have often borne witness to the professionalism and dedication, as well as the sense of equality, of respect, of perseverance, of sacrifice and of hope that infuses our military.
It is our duty to remember and honour those who served so valiantly and who gave so much here at Vimy Ridge and throughout the First World War.