I’m a bit late to the party with covering the Festival of Remembrance last night and today’s ceremony, but I’m going to pull them both together here. It’s been interesting to watch this year’s commemoration unfold, because, for the first time in years, the Queen declined to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday and opted to stand next to her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, from a balcony of the Foreign Office. Instead, the Prince of Wales laid two for her. Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry skipped last night’s event at Royal Albert Hall to attend rugby matches, while the Duchess of Cambridge turned up with the rest of the Royal Family on her own. And finally, there are now headlines that Harry broke military rules by not shaving his beard for the ceremony.
A lot to unpack, but it’s always fun to cover these annual events, particularly when they feature the entire BRF coming together.
Let’s start with last night. Every year the Festival of Remembrance is held to honor fallen soldiers. It’s one of the biggest events on the royal calendar and one of the most deeply personal given how many members of the RF serve or have served in the military.
The Queen led the family’s attendance and she was joined by Prince Philip, Charles, the Duke of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal, Sir Timothy Laurence and Kate. As noted, neither William nor Harry attended as they were instead at rugby matches as patrons of British rugby clubs. We’ll circle back to that in a moment.
William and Kate have only recently started attending the Festival of Remembrance, though they have both turned up for the more high-profile Remembrance Sunday every year since they married. They only started joining this evening event in the autumn of 2015, a few months after Princess Charlotte was born, and they were both on hand last year. I think it’s a safe bet that Kate’s attendance this year even without William is a good sign that this event has officially become a annual tradition for the Cambridges, which is fitting given their growing seniority.
This is an interesting evening because it is, yes, a festival celebrating those who have served, but it’s also incredibly solemn. All members of the BRF wear black as a sign of respect and mourning and the audience at Royal Albert Hall is an impressive mix of both the Windsors, politicians and military personnel. It’s a beautiful event against a historical backdrop and the images that come out of it are always striking.
While hugely beside the point in light of the setting, Kate wore a new black velvet Catherine Walker coat with large diamond-esque buttons. It’s unclear what dress she’s wearing underneath it, but it appears to have an asymmetrical hem and it’s certainly not ringing any bells for me. I loved the coat and thought Kate looked beautiful, though I’m not quite sure what’s going on with her hair. The middle part is a little severe for how large her curls are, but I am pleased to see she’s committing to the shorter haircut.
As for William and Harry, I get that they are patrons of these rugby clubs and I know that Harry just carried out an engagement on Thursday on behalf of Remembrance Day, but the optics of the two at a sports match are unfortunate. I don’t know what the thinking was or what other considerations there were, but in the absence of any information, it’s hard not to think there were other games the men could have attended that allowed them to be with the rest of the RF on Saturday evening.
Moving on to today, senior royals were split on to two balconies on the Foreign Office. One held the Queen, Prince Philip and Camilla, while the other had Kate, Sophie and the Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra.
Charles laid two wreaths for himself and his mother, while one of Philip’s equerries laid one on his behalf. William, Harry and Andrew were behind him and also offered up tributes as royals who have served.
A number of senior politicians, including Prime Minister Teresa May, were also on hand for the ceremony.
A two-minute moment of silence was held, broken only by buglars playing Last Post and ended with the firing of a gun. Notably, the silence started with Big Ben chiming for the first time in months as it has been undergoing necessary restoration.
Today Kate wore a new coat by Dolce & Gabbana, a label the Duchess took a liking to in 2015 and has been slowly filtering through her wardrobe. Some papers are referring to the coat as navy, but, um, it looks pretty black to me. Either way, it features military style gold buttons, a style very much favored by Kate, particularly when she’s at engagements featuring, well, the military.
The hat, on the other hand, was first debuted way back in 2006 when she attended William’s graduation ceremony from Sandhurst.
And as for her hair, I don’t even quite know what to say. It’s curled up into a faux-bob and I think this might be the first time I’ve ever actively disliked how she’s styled her hair. Maybe the idea was to get it off her face and not wear it down in the wind – given her shorter length it might be harder to pin back into chignon or an up-do. Which, sure, but no, no, no on this as an option.
As for Harry and his (apparently) rebellious facial hair, there’s a rule that you can’t sport a beard, etc. when on duty and wearing a British Army uniform. A serving member of his regiment told reporters:
“Prince Harry is letting us all down. There’s no place for beards in the Queen’s cavalry. He should have shaved it off for such an important day.”
I don’t really have much to offer here by way of context, except that if there was a significant issue with Harry sporting a beard while in uniform, surely this would have been raised and considered behind the scenes? He’s also had a beard for a few years now and I’ve never personally heard this criticism before. If anyone has any other background on this, let me know.
Anyway, we’ll see Kate again on Tuesday and mark Charles’s birthday with a look back at how his birth announcement was handled in 1948. There will be a handful of modern posts, a few more recaps of The Crown’s first season and we’ll finally get back to some actual history by the end of the week. See you then!