The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrived in India yesterday for a quick trip at the tail end of a tour that also included stops in Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. It was just last year that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge completed a high-profile visit to India, but the timing of Charles and Camilla’s presence aligned with the Queen’s announcement that 2017 would be celebrated as a “year of culture” for the UK and India.
If you recall, in February there was a lavish reception hosted by the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace. Kate wore a sparkling gold Erdem dress, the Palace was aglow with a colorful light display and the chefs pulled out all the stops for a jealousy-inducing menu. It’s hard to believe that was nine months ago.
This was a quick visit for the couple – less than two days – and as we speak, they are on their way back to London where they will have about 36 hours to recover before they’re on display again for the Remembrance Day Festival. This year, Charles will be laying two wreaths – one for him and one on behalf of his mother, who has decided not lay to a wreath for the first time in years, a concession to age. Camilla, meanwhile, will be up on the balcony with Kate, who will be attending sans William for the first time. It’s going to be quite the strange set up and I’m looking forward to covering it over the weekend.
But before we get to that, let’s cover off on the last 24 hours in India, as well as Prince Harry’s engagement at Westminster Abbey earlier today.
Charles and Camilla attended a cultural event at the British Council in New Delhi, during which the two watched a performance selected by the Prince and met with the performance to learn more about “collaborative storytelling.”
The engagement ended with a good ‘ole planting of a commemorative tree. As one does, I guess.
Followed by the Parade of Elephants:
Another image here better shows the scope:
From there, the two met with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House.
I love these images of the three walking through the hallways of flags:
Today began with a visit to the India Gate in New Delhi, which serves as the country’s national war memorial for soldiers, fitting for the month of November. You can get a feel for the sheer size of the monument in the image below:
A wreath was laid, followed by a two-minute moment of silence.
A handful of other engagements followed, which I won’t cover in detail. I do want to highlight a speech Charles made later in the day, as well as link to the full text here:
“I cannot tell you how delighted my mehaboobaa and I are to be back in India again, a country that is so very special to us both. I think it is forty-three years ago that I first came to India, so this is my ninth visit and the fourth that we have made together. The last time we were here, four years ago, we were lucky enough to spend nine fascinating days in Delhi and Dehradun; Mumbai , Pune and Kochi. On this occasion our time here, very sadly, is rather more brief, but it was nevertheless tremendously important to us both that, as we look forward to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April, we should conclude this Commonwealth Tour in India, home as you are to sixty per cent of the Commonwealth’s population.”
Now the two are up in the air. I have a feeling that Camilla is wildly relieved to be on her way home given her remarks last week about her exhaustion and the heat. I’d say November weather in London is sounding just about perfect right now.
Back home, Harry opened the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, a memorial garden created every year by the Poppy Legion (great name). Harry was on hand for its opening last year as well, though he attended with his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh. Today, perhaps in light of Philip’s retirement, he handled the engagement solo.
Harry wore his Household Division ceremonial uniform of a black frock today, which is one rung below full dress. His cap featured the Blue and Royals badge, as well as the remembrance red poppy.
The opening included Harry ceremonially laying down a wooden cross, saluting and then leading a moment of silence for attendees, including veterans and their families, while Last Post played. This event has been held annually since 1928.
Despite the solemnity of the event, there were moments of levity. Harry took a moment to share a salute with a young boy who has been in attendance for the past four years in honor of an uncle who died in Afghanistan. The boy’s mother said:
“Harry recognised him – they have a bond, as they share a birthday. Harry asked him about his uncle Aaron, and he said how proud he was.”
One man in attendance, who worked as bomb disposal expert in Afghanistan, told reporters:
“I took the Mickey and asked where his missus was and he said she wasn’t here. I asked if she would come next time because she’s awesome. And he said he couldn’t hide her anywhere, but I said you wouldn’t have to hide her. I would love to meet her – I think she’s very cool. He’s a very lucky man and she’s brilliant.”
“She,” of course, is Meghan Markle.
There is also a moment captured of Harry sticking his tongue out, but I’m not sure what the story is behind that. Frankly, I like Harry’s informal style and the fact that he is able to so naturally make engagements like this personal for those around him. Nevertheless, I can’t help but remember that Kate was once skewered by the press for being pictured “twirling” (read: adjusting) her hair while standing on the balcony during Remembrance Day and apparently not showing the proper respect. Something, something double standard.
Anywho, Harry will not be on hand for the festival as he and William will be attending rugby games in their capacity as patrons for rugby clubs. We’ll get into that over the weekend. Now that the Southeast Asia tour is behind us, as well as Kate’s other engagements, we’ll also touch on some of the other royal news that has come up over the past week, such as the Paradise Papers and the fact that Prince Philip is apparently holed up in Norfolk and not in London with the Queen.
There is really never a dull moment with these guys.