Charles & William at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo


On Wednesday, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge attended the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – or, rather, the Duke of Rothesay and the Earl of Strathearn as the two men are known in Scotland. While normally this isn’t an engagement I would write up on its own, I do like to cover off when we get more than one senior royal for a notable event and, well, it’s August – it’s going to be a slow crawl when it comes to royal news.

And so, with that, let’s get into it. First things first, what’s the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo? Or, better yet, what’s a military tattoo? To answer the second, it’s a musical military performance that draws its name from an old Dutch phrase, doe den tap toe, which literally means “turn off the tap,” a signal drummers and other military musicians used to make when it was time for the innkeepers to cut off the soldiers’ drinks. The more you know.


As you will see from the photos, the practice has evolved from a cut and dry musical performance to downright theatrics. The first official military tattoo thrown by the City of Edinburgh was in 1950 and it quickly grew into quite the annual event. Today it’s held every Monday through Saturday in the month of August, drawing attendees and performers from all over the world. Each year it pulls in an audience of around 220,000 people and this year that included Charles and William.


In fact, this was the first year that either attended. The 2017 Tattoo has been named the Year of the Royal Navy, coming ahead of plans to name the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales and marking Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.


Prior to the show, Charles and William turned up at Holyrood House and were treated to a bit of a pre-performance that was appropriately full of tartan. I will say that my first impression was raised eyebrows that William was in black tie and Charles a double-breasted pinstripe grey suit. WHAT A FAUX-PAS. But, of course, Charles later changed, and while I’m sure that was planned, I prefer to think he freaked out at the idea of not being the best-dressed man in the room.

The main event was held at Edinburgh Castle and, as The Telegraph put it:

A cast of more than 1,200 people from across the globe performed at Edinburgh Castle in front of the royal duo. The line-up included more than 250 pipers and drummers, five UK military bands and the event’s first Japanese act, as well as major contingents from France, India and the United States.


The highlights are for sure the photos of Charles and William mixing with guests and performers, but a close second are the two drinking from a dram of whiskey and William wincing. I expect more from the Verbier Mountain Man, quite frankly.


Worth noting is that the Princess Royal was spotted at a rehearsal earlier this month.

Embed from Getty Images

Moving on, I think part of why I wanted to cover this engagement is that’s rare – though not unheard of – for these two to make a father-son appearance without the addition of Prince Harry. And while I’m all for a more the merrier approach, Charles and William stand out from the rest of the family in that they are future kings – how they behave is a bit more significant and how they interact with one another is interesting.


In light of the coverage of the late Princess of Wales – and the negative attention Charles has re-received thanks to that disastrous marriage – I will admit the thought crossed my mind that some press savvy flak had the notion right about now would be a good time for two to show up standing shoulder-to-shoulder. And it was – it gives the sense that whatever might have happened years ago, time has healed some wounds.


Earlier this week Charles was spotted with the Duchess of Cornwall, his parents, his siblings and some of their families at Balmoral Castle where those particular generations are used to spending their late summers. They were photographed on their way to church and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say none of the past several days’ newspapers were remarked upon.


As for those of you wondering when we’ll next see the Duchess of Cambridge, your guess is as good as mine. While August is always a quiet month, we usually get at least one or two appearances, so that’s certainly a possibility in the next two weeks. Then again, given how busy July was and the family’s upcoming “move” back to London, I wouldn’t be shocked if Kate keeps a low-profile, enjoying the last bit of summer with her children in Norfolk. I would guess, too, that the family took or will take a holiday under the radar. It remains to be seen whether they’ll show up at Balmoral.

Performers outside Holyrood House on Wednesday

Finally, for those of you wondering about Harry and Meghan Markle, no word on how long the trip to Botswana lasted (at least that I’ve seen) – for all we know they’re still there. Engagement speculation continues to swirl thanks to the fact that 1) everyone wants another royal wedding and 2) William proposed to Kate in Kenya. I don’t know – I go back and forth on whether or not an announcement is likely to be made coming out of this trip. If it did, our questions will be answered in September. And if it didn’t, then so it continues…

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