On Sunday, following the previous evening’s Festival of Remembrance, the British Royal Family turned out for the Remembrance service at The Cenotaph. This annual event is not only a hallmark of the royal calendar, but one that convenes the UK’s veterans, senior politicians, and members of the public for a somber recognition of those who lost their lives in service to the nation. Frankly, there are few countries who mark this occasion better.
The Sunday ceremony is more formal than Saturday’s festival; as such, the order of precedence is strictly adhered to and very much dictates where every member of the BRF is placed. For decades, the Queen presided over the event, but she has recently stepped back in deference to her age and passed the torch to her eldest son and heir, the Prince of Wales. Likewise, the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was once a fixture, but he slowly evolved his participation to joining royal spouses on the Foreign Office balconies and finally, this year, bowing out altogether.
Due to the Queen’s placement on the balcony now, Prince Charles presents her wreath at the monument first. Prince Philip’s is then presented second, followed by Charles presenting his own wreath, and then the Dukes of Cambridge, Sussex, and York, respectively, before the rest of the royals follow suit. This includes the Earl of Wessex and the Princess Royal.
These royals’ spouses watch the ceremony from the Foreign Office balconies. The center balcony features the Queen flanked by the Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge – a fitting visual that shows off three queens (albeit one regnant and two future consorts).
The second balcony then includes the Duchess of Sussex, the Countess of Wessex, and Princess Anne’s husband, Sir Timothy Laurence.
This was the same makeup as last year and will likely be the same next year barring a tragedy. The only time it fluctuates (beyond an addition or departure from the family) is when there is a prominent guest officially visiting. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, for example, has joined the BRF on the balconies before.
The Queen, who remembers well the reality and impact of World War II, is often emotional during this ceremony. As far as I know, these events may well be the only time we ever see the sovereign anything except stoic.
For the last couple of years, there have been some touching photos of Kate engaging the Queen on the balcony, and this year was no different. I have a feeling some of these may well make their way into future biographies.
Some columnists have taken umbrage that the Royal Family didn’t use Saturday and Sunday’s events as an occasion to put rumors of a feud between the Cambridges and Sussexes to bed. One such example from Tom Sykes at The Daily Beast:
The apparent failure of the two sides in the new royal civil war to manage to visually telegraph a truce at a series of ceremonies for fallen servicemen marks a fresh failure by royal spinners to draw a line under the hugely damaging narrative of fraternal enmity that has done so much to harm the royals over the past year.
The palace was keen to try to push a message that nothing should be read into the seating locations, with a source telling the Daily Mail: “Members of the Royal Family attended the event to respect and recognize the contributions of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and not to be pictured together.”
Media were also briefed that the fact they were standing on separate balconies at the Cenotaph was merely an accident of precedent.
Of course, one might argue that the best way for the young royals to honor the spirit of the nation’s most important veteran’s event would be to chuck such precedent in the bin and put on a brave face and sit together.
I disagree. This was absolutely not the occasion for the Palace to jostle precedent and place Kate and Meghan next to one another. Doing so would have completely overshadowed the actual aim of these events. The best way for the “young royals” (we’re talking about women approaching 40) to honor the veterans was for them to show up and perform their job, which they did.
Besides, the actual feud is believed to be between the brothers, who were standing side-by-side before the memorial, so this feels like yet another example of this ridiculousness being pushed on to the shoulders of their wives.
Moving right along. This is an occasion that calls for a formal black coat. That’s pretty much the uniform. It’s also a prominent enough occasion that it often warrants a new black coat. Kate has recycled for the Remembrance Service before, but more often than not, she debuts a new look. This year was no exception, and on Sunday she wore a military-style coat by one of her fashion mainstays, Catherine Walker.
As we’ve discussed before, Kate is a fan of dressing on theme. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. For military occasions, she often embraces the occasion and her fave, Alexander McQueen, is a label that offers myriad options for doing so. So, in terms of designer, the only surprise here is that this is CW and not McQueen. If you’re a fan of this aesthetic, then this is certainly a beautiful coat. I, however, have never warmed up to this particular habit of Kate’s. It feels a tad too costume-y to me, though I will say I prefer this coat to last year’s. By a long shot.
Meghan is wearing a Stella McCartney wrap coat belted with a wide-brimmed Stephen Jones hat. The coat is pretty straightforward, so while I wouldn’t say I’m in love, there’s certainly nothing to dislike. I’m not a big fan of wide-brimmed hats, but this one is growing on me slowly but surely. I’ll call this a win, if a tepid one.
Another narrative that has cropped up again is how similar this look of Meghan’s is to one that Diana, Princess of Wales once wore to the same ceremony in years past. She, like Kate, has been criticized for “copying” Diana too frequently, so I think is worth weighing in on. For starters, like I mentioned above, this event calls for a black coat and a hat. There’s only so many combinations one can come up with here without drawing some comparisons to other royal women.
Secondly, both Kate and Meghan are often accused of twinning with their late mother-in-law. If Kate wears a white gown, then they put her side-by-side in photos of Diana wearing a white gown, even if the similarities end right about there. Diana had a 15-year royal career during which she attended countless functions and events. Given her firm role as a 90s style icon, the comparison are inevitable, but no, I don’t think Kate and Meghan are attempting to “copy” her when they get dressed for work in the morning.
Both women have made nods to Diana through their fashion here and there. Most notably by occasionally wearing the jewelry of hers that their husbands have gifted them, and in Kate’s case, making more concrete allusions in the dresses she wore to leave hospital after the births of Princes George and Louis. Depending on how pleased the press is with Kate or Meghan at any given moment, these moments are either praised as sweet or criticized as creepy. Meghan certainly isn’t a media darling right now, so she’s getting slammed, but it’s a pretty weak blow.
As for what comes next, William and Kate carried out an engagement yesterday that I’m about to turn to. They also have two upcoming appearances together that will mean seeing Kate in formal wear (always a plus!) – the Royal Variety Show on the 18th and the annual Tusk awards on the 21st.
As far as we know, Meghan is off for the rest of the year. I saw some headlines today gobsmacked that the Sussexes were bowing out of Christmas at Sandringham and was surprised that was a surprise(?) Frankly I took it for granted when news of the six-week trip to California was first reported. In and of itself, I don’t think it’s a big deal. William and Kate have spent the odd year with the Middletons in Berkshire, and Meghan has a right to see her mother in her own hometown after spending the last two Christmases with the rest of the RF. So, with that, let’s turn back to the Cambs’ Tuesday engagement.