The Prince of Wales joined the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for a second day of engagements acknowledging the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. Today’s event was held at the Tyne Cot cemetery located just outside of Ypres, the largest Commonwealth burial ground in the world. The site contains the graves of 11,971 servicemen and is an important stop in remembering Passchendaele given the sheer volume of casualties from the summer of 1917.
Today Charles was the speaker, representing the Queen, saying:
“We remember it not only for the rain that fell, the mud that weighed down the living and swallowed the dead, but also for the courage and bravery of the men who fought here.
“In 1920, the war reporter Philip Gibbs – who had himself witnessed Third Ypres – wrote that ‘nothing that has been written is more than the pale image of the abomination of those battlefields, and that no pen or brush has yet achieved the picture of that Armageddon in which so many of our men perished.’
“Drawn from many nations, we come together in their resting place, cared for with such dedication by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to commemorate their sacrifice and to promise that we will never forget.”
Once again, the royals were joined by Prime Minister Theresa May, who even offered up a curtsy to Kate at one point, and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians. Also in attendance, I was surprised to see, was the husband of the Princess Royal, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence. Anne, however, was not there.
I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of events the British Royal Family has attended to commemorate these milestones for World War I – certainly the war had a huge impact on the course of Western history, including for the continent’s monarchies, but it’s particularly nice to see that these anniversaries are not only acknowledged but covered by senior members of the family. Given their role with the British military – not to mention their own careers – it’s absolutely fitting and, frankly, a nice way to re-raise that particular moment in time for a new generation.
Kate has won wave reviews for her new Catherine Walker coat dress, but descriptions of it have run the gamut of peach to grey to cream. In reality, it’s a pale dove grey, while her hat was by Jane Taylor. It was pitch perfect for the venue and the detailing on the hem of the dress was gorgeous.
I say that having no particular love for Kate’s coat dresses, but as far as they go, this one is certainly palatable. And a step up from yesterday’s Alexander McQueen, which continues to irk me. There’s a short poll at the end of the post where you can vote on whether today’s ensemble worked for you.
Charles and William wore suits, I suppose.
Anyway, the big news of the week continues to be the airing of the interviews with the late Princess of Wales that were taped in the early 1990s. Newspapers are running opinion piece after opinion piece capturing arguments for and against the documentary airing in Britain, with the majority landing on the side that deems them exploitative. I suppose I can see both sides of the argument – for all that the tapes entering the public sphere is problematic, the information has been public for years. Indeed, portions of them aired in the U.S. 13 years ago, so non of this information is new.
Right now the issue is more moral and one about Britain holding up a standard, which isn’t insignificant. These tapes were private and never meant to be aired. They were also filmed right around the time Charles and Diana first separated, so to say they captured a rough moment for all involved would be an understatement.
The timing is distasteful, certainly, but to be clear, these weren’t illegally obtained. The owner was Peter Settleton, who Diana once hired for help with public speaking preparedness, and he sold the tapes after a protracted legal battle with the RF for the rights to the recordings. The sale of the tapes is horrible all around, but it’s important to separate out their sale from their airing. The media didn’t break into a safe to procure them – they were handed incredibly candid audio files of one of the most famous women in the world.
In short, I think it would be an admirable move to hold these tapes back from broadcast, but if Channel 4 doesn’t, then no particular harm has been done. If they offend you, ignore them and focus on any of the other commemorative material that has been put out this year.
And as for Charles, no, I’m sure this hasn’t been particularly fun, but I’m also sure the re-opening of old wounds as we reach the 20th anniversary of her death isn’t particularly surprising. As I said last week, in an ideal world we could acknowledge Diana’s life and work without pitting her against Charles once again.
With the close of today, we are officially in the typically quiet month of August when the RF decamps for holidays and engagements slow. After a busy July full of overseas tours, a state visit and a slew of engagements, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see much of anyone over the next few weeks, but sometimes they do pop up here and there.
Wednesday marks the Duke of Edinburgh’s final engagement before his retirement, which I plan to cover alongside the staff changes at Buckingham and Kensington, so keep an eye out for that.