The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Ypres, Belgium today to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendale. Accompanied by Prime Minister Theresa May, they joined King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians to honor those who lost their lives during one of the bloodiest battles of World War I.
With conflict ongoing through the summer and autumn of 1917, roughly 500,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing by its conclusion. The Menin Gate in Ypres now features the names of the 54,391 British soldiers who lost their lives there, as reported by the BBC courtesy of data from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Among the attendees today were some 200 descendants of soldiers who fought during the battle.
William gave a speech at the ceremony, during which he said:
“During the First World War Britain and Belgium stood shoulder to shoulder. One hundred years on, we still stand together, gathering as so many do every night, in remembrance of that sacrifice.”
The event concluded with a rendition of “Last Post,” which has played at Menin Gate nearly every morning since 1928. You can see an earlier clip of it here:
There were several poignant moments throughout the evening, including when members of the royal families and honored guests were seen watching falling poppies fall from Menin Gate.
It can also be viewed on this short video captured by royal reporter Jack Royston:
But Belgium pulled out all the stops for this one – Cloth Hall was lit up during a series of evening performances.
Testimony from Allied and German soldiers was beamed up onto the side of the building to help bring the moment and history to life.
And actress Helen Mirren, best-known for playing Queen Elizabeth in the 2006 film The Queen, gave an emotional reading.
Kate wore her cream Alexander McQueen coat dress first debuted at Princess Charlotte’s christening in July 2015. She paired it with grey accessories and a white Lock & Co hat that she first wore during the 2015 Trooping the Colour.
While certainly today was not the day for a big “wow” fashion moment, I will note that as far as Kate’s white coats go (and there are many), this one isn’t my favorite. I’ve never been a fan of the collar and I think its best showing was actually its christening debut. The hat, frankly, I would burn – it looks like a flying saucer.
But, of course, hair and makeup were on point and, all told, Kate looked perfectly appropriate and lovely for the day’s events. And for those of you dying for a Kate/Theresa May photo-op:
Beyond the fashion and today’s anniversary, the last few days have been eventful enough on their own. Following last week’s debut of the Diana documentary, the news has been wrapped up in whether or not private tapes the late Princess of Wales recorded in the mid-1990s about her marriage will be run in the UK. The details from these tapes are not exactly secret – they aired abroad back in the day, but were considered too “hot” for British airwaves. The argument appears to be that William and Prince Harry’s involvement in the documentary has opened the door for the release of the tapes – emphatically not the point they were trying to make.
And while that question looms, William has passed another personal milestone, one that is no doubt rather bittersweet – his last shift as an air ambulance pilot. He completed his last flight on Thursday marking the end of an era. Going forward, he and his family are expected to return to London and he will be carrying out engagements as a full-time working member of the Royal Family.
The above and below videos are courtesy of royal reporter Rebecca English:
The dawn of a new period signifies the end of another: the Duke of Edinburgh will carry out his last engagement on Wednesday and then he and the Queen will enjoy the rest of their summer privately from Balmoral, their home in the Highlands. The Queen has already been spotted out and about in Scotland, however Balmoral is not yet closed to the public indicating that she is biding her time at another residence until she can officially begin her seasonal respite. Well, “respite” – the red boxes will always follow her.
I’ll do my best to cover Prince Philip’s final engagement this week, at which point I’ll touch on the staff shake-ups that are going on and what they could mean.
In the meantime, since we’re catching up here, Meghan Markle was spotted arriving in London. As a bit of a reminder, August 4th was once set aside as a potential date for an engagement announcement – it’s a shared birthday between Meghan and the late Queen Mother, so a nice touch of sentimentality on both sides, if you will. We’ll see…
Tomorrow William and Kate will stay on in Belgium and be met for a further event by the Prince of Wales. More then!