Happy Commonwealth Day. Let’s take a moment before we dive in to mark the one-year anniversary of the Duke of Cambridge’s rather epic Verbier ski trip smack dab in the middle of this ceremony, while most other members of his family were filing into Westminster Abbey just as they’ve done today. Throw in some 20-something blondes and some questionable 4 am drunk dancing and you’ve got yourself a royal scandal just as William and Kate were preparing for their much-anticipated mini-tour of Paris.
Fast forward to the present and William and Kate are expecting their third child, all is well in the House of Cambridge and both are dutifully seated inside the Abbey for this important occasion, marking a one-month countdown until the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings in London next month. Good for them.
Commonwealth Day, once known as “Empire Day,” is an annual celebration of the ties which bind the Commonwealth Nations together. It is always commemorated by an interfaith service at Westminster, and it always attended by the Queen, who takes very seriously the continuation of the Commonwealth. Notably, it has always been taken for granted that the Prince of Wales would succeed his mother as the Head of the Commonwealth, just as he will succeed her as sovereign. In fact, that’s not set in stone (God help us), and there was a flurry of speculation a few weeks ago over whether the position would go elsewhere since it’s not hereditary.
The decision will be made during the April meetings, making the next several weeks all the more critical. We can expect to see most senior members of the British Royal Family play some public part that week, save Kate who will be giving birth right around then. Instead, Meghan Markle, is expected to be called upon to add that dash of younger star appeal, which will make for quite the high-stakes introduction into royal diplomacy for her.
Back to today, the RF began by filing into the Abbey – first the more junior members, including the Duke of York, Princess Royal and Countess of Wessex – and then William, Kate, Harry and Meghan. They were followed by Charles and Camilla, at which point everyone in the congregation remained standing for the fanfare that introduces the presence of the Queen. I thought there was a chance she might be accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh for the occasion, but no dice.
Notably, there appeared to be some color coordination going on with the Windsor women. All were in shades of navy (or at least blue) and white, save the Queen who popped in a cranberry red.
While we’re on the subject, Kate recycled a navy Beulah dress coat that she first wore towards the end of her second pregnancy. I had a feeling she would wear this today – it’s my personal favorite of Kate’s maternity looks and it was pitch perfect for the occasion. While I preferred it with the chignon and smaller hat during its first wear, the Lock and Co hat she wore today is always a striking choice.
As for Meghan, she wore a new white coat over a navy blue dress, both by designer Amanda Wakeley. Her white fascinator is by Stephen Jones, while her shoes are Manolo Blahnik and her bag is Mulberry.
For those wondering, Sophie’s navy ensemble is Stella McCartney:
This was Meghan’s most intense engagement to-date, and the first in which she participated alongside the Queen. If she does end up taking a formal role during the meetings next month, then this should prove a solid foundation on which to grow. In any event, as per usual, she handled herself well.
Notable moments included Liam Payne singing a cover of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”:
After the service, the royals greeted well-wishers, including a select group of children who offered up bouquets of posies.
Frankly, I’m impressed Kate is able to stoop like that in heels eight months pregnant!
UPDATE: William, Kate, Harry and Meghan met with a larger group schoolchildren following the service in an informal reception. The bride-to-be was overheard telling one attendee that she was very much looking forward to her upcoming wedding – it’s hard to believe we’re only about two months away from the day itself!
You get a good sense of ambiance from the photos, taken close to the Abbey itself. All in all, it’s a bit more of a historical vibe than we usually get from engagements, which is part of why I love it when they carry out appearances in churches or royal residences.
Photo of the day may very well be the one of Kate looking back at Meghan and her flashing a big smile (up top), but for whatever reason I’m growing partial to this one of William and Kate from within the Abbey. It’s giving me flashbacks to their own wedding on that very site nearly seven years ago now:
UPDATE 2: William joined Charles and Camilla for a reception at Marlborough House at which they represented the Queen.
On a personal note, I love it when the Windsor men take on engagements together, particularly Charles with one or both of his sons. There’s a lot of speculation out there that Charles is closer with Harry than William (stemming back from comments the late Princess of Wales made), and after all the angst last summer over the status of his relationship with his sons following his divorce and remarriage, I think these appearances help dissipate the gossip.
Finally, I’ll leave you this video – I know the normal note would be to look at that performance, but take a look at that room!
That’s all for now. The next time we’ll see Kate is Saturday and it’s unclear when Meghan’s next appearance will be, but I’ll update here accordingly when we know. In the meantime, we’ll return to some history tomorrow!