Since Christmas the Cambridges have been enjoying time at their country home Anmer Hall, with George settling into Montessori school and William reportedly eager to put in additional shifts with the East Anglian Air Ambulance. In a change from what has become something of a tradition, they didn't join the Middletons for their annual getaway to Mustique this year.
Richard Palmer reported a small crowd of about fifty people gathered in The Strand ahead of Kate's arrival.
The event marked Kate's first engagement as Honorary Air Commandant of the organisation. In December, the Duke of Edinburgh passed his patronage of the RAF Air Cadets to Kate, after 63 years serving as Air Commodore-in-Chief. It is understood today is the first of a series of appearances on behalf of the cadets the Duchess will attend throughout the year.
A photo from inside the service.
The Duchess was all smiles as she joined in singing a hymn.
The RAF Air Cadets, which is made up of the Air Training Corps and Combined Cadet Force promotes a practical interest in aviation among young men and women, providing training while encouraging the development of life skills including leadership and teamwork.
The history of St Clement Danes Church is a rather fascinating one. Although It was reputedly founded in the 9th century by the Danes, the current building was completed in 1682 by the highly acclaimed English architect Sir Christopher Wren. The building was gutted during the blitz in 1941. Following an appeal for funds by the Royal Air Force, the church was completely restored. It was re-consecrated on 19 October 1958 to become the Central Church of the Royal Air Force.
As part of the rebuilding a Latin inscription was added under the Royal Coat of Arms. It translates as "Built by Christopher Wren 1682. Destroyed by the thunderbolts of air warfare 1941. Restored by the Royal Air Force 1958".
Outside the church stand statues of two of the RAF's wartime leaders Hugh Dowding and Arthur "Bomber" Harris. Indeed the latter is controversially steeped in history. The erection of the statue of Harris due to his responsibility for the bombing of Dresden and other German cities led to protests.
When the late Queen Mother unveiled the statue in 1992 she looked surprised when she was jeered by protesters. The statue had to be guarded round the clock for some time after that as it was frequently sprayed with grafitti. The inscription on the statue reads: "The Nation owes them all an immense debt."
A look inside the Church.
A message from Kate was included in the programme for the service.
|Betony Kelly Instagram|
Afterwards, Kate attended a reception held nearby at the Royal Courts of Justice.
It offered an opportunity for the Air Cadets to introduce their new patron, and for the Duchess to learn more about their numerous programmes and activities by meeting a selection of current cadets, veterans and adult volunteers.
Kate cuts the cake with the youngest cadet.
During the reception, Kate revealed George wants to be an RAF Air Cadet. More from the Express story:
'She told cadet Lucinda Conder, 19, that she had shown George, who is two and a half, pictures of Spitfires after a royal engagement. He is now obsessed with the air cadets and wants to join," said Ms Conder, a medical student from Hammersmith in west London, who was the top female cadet of 2015. "We are going to have to push that one when he gets to age 12.'
The Duchess brought back her popular cornflower blue Alexander McQueen coat for the engagement.
Today's outing marks the third time Kate has publicly worn it. She debuted it in Blenheim, New Zealand during the royal tour 2014 and chose it two months later for 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations in Normandy. The bespoke belted piece with large pockets looks great on Kate.
Kate selected a stylish hat by Lock & Co. The Duchess first wore the piece at Richard Meade's memorial last March, and it's interesting to see it in its entirety today. On another note, how many of you are pleased to see the return of Kate's longer hair? I must admit I am. :)
Initially it was thought Kate debuted another new pair of Gianvito Rossi pumps
On closer inspection, it appears they are the Rupert Sanderson Malory Heels (with thanks to Farzana and What Kate Wore). The $675 pumps are described as "A perennial classic, Malory returns for the new season in opulent navy suede. Loved for a sultry 100mm heel and forever-chic pointed toe, this signature court will complement on-duty tailoring and occasion dresses alike.".
Very appropriately the Duchess accessorised the Air Cadets Dacre Brooch. The brooch is considered the highest award any female Air Cadet can achieve and is awarded annually. I expect Kate will wear the brooch many times in the future in her role as patron. It's a beautiful, colourful piece.
Below we see Bridget Donaldson receiving her brooch in 2014. Chosen in her role as a Morpeth Air Cadet she said: "I really feel that achieving the award is more of a credit to the staff of the Squadron as I could not have achieved it without all the help I've received from so many people along the way. I really hope now I can give something back to our cadets, to help them realize that there’s so much more they can all achieve."
The Duchess carried her navy suede Russell & Bromley clutch and matching gloves.
Kate completed the look with her unidentified diamond and aquamarine drop earrings.
It was lovely to see Kate out and about today!
In other news, with the royal tour roughly just two months away, we're beginning to hear details and possible dates trickle in. British Royals shared an article from Daily Excelsior claiming William and Kate will tour India from April 10 - 17. That sounds about right from everything I've heard. I understand it will be a shorter tour than previous ones lasting about a week. More from the article:
'Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton are expected to visit Taj Mahal in April this year. This would be the first visit to the monument by a member of the British Royal family after 24 years. Princess Diana, mother of Prince William, visited the monument in 1992. An advance team from the British high commission held a meeting with Agra officials here on Thursday to review the security system and other arrangements for the couple.'
We know the Cambridges will also visit Bhutan during their tour, which is why it was lovely to see Kensington Palace congratulating the king and queen on the birth of their son. The Palace said: "The Duke and Duchess are very much looking forward to congratulating Their Majesties in person when they visit Bhutan." It's wonderful news for the couple and no doubt a joyous time.
|Kensington Palace Twitter Feed|
As you've probably heard Kensington Palace released a date for Kate's engagement with The Huffington Post - Wednesday, 17 February. More details were shared in this article including plans to launch a new initiative - Young Minds Matter:
'On 17 February, Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge, will join editors at HuffPost UK as guest editor to specifically help raise awareness of this issue and help us launch Young Minds Matter. Using the hashtag #youngmindsmatter we will discuss the problems, causes and also most importantly the solutions to the stigma surrounding the UK's mental health crisis among children.
Finding solutions is a core value of The Huffington Post globally, which we express through our What's Working approach to news. As Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, says: "What's Working is about consistently telling the stories of people and communities doing amazing things, overcoming great odds and coming up with solutions to the very real challenges they face. And by shining a light on these stories, we hope that we can scale up these solutions and create a positive contagion." That's our aim with #youngmindsmatter.
Under guidance from Kensington Palace, my team has been working on a series of original articles, blogs and videos commissioned by the Duchess. They all aim to inspire families and teachers to lead the conversation with children about mental health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and listened to.'
Finally, it was disappointing to hear King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia's state visit to the UK has been cancelled due to political uncertainty in Spain. While nothing was confirmed, it was very much understood the Cambridges would be involved in some capacity. Hopefully the king and queen will be able to reschedule at a later date this year.
We should see Kate's video message for Children's Mental Health Week later today.