William and Kate's first trip outside of the UK in 2016 was a private one which produced several of my favourite photos of the year. The Cambridges enjoyed a relaxing family holiday in the French Alps in early March and upon return released shots taken by John Stillwell. Kensington Palace said: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to share new photos of their family enjoying a short ski break. The Duke and Duchess hope people enjoy these photos."
I love this photo of William and Kate playing in the snow...
It was the first time either George or Charlotte had played in the snow. A skiing holiday provided some of the very first shots of William and Kate together, and it's a tradition they are now passing on to their children who both appeared to have a wonderful time.
April brought William and Kate's glittering tour of India and Bhutan. The run up to the tour was such an exciting time on the blog as we looked at the itinerary, possible designers, jewels and so much more. Next to the 2014 Australia/New Zealand tour, I don't think I've felt such a palpable buzz surrounding a tour. It all kicked off in Mumbai when Their Royal Highnesses arrived at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Kate chose a vibrant Alexander McQueen look from the Pre-Fall 2016 Collection.
Following a short break at the hotel, the Duke and Duchess travelled to one of Mumbai's most famous public spaces, Oval Maidan. An afternoon of sporting activities ensued with the couple trying their hand at cricket and playing with local children. The first day very much set the tone for what I felt was an excellently planned itinerary encompassing a varied range of events.
The Duke and Duchess made their way to the Banganga, an ancient water tank in the Malabar Hill area of Mumbai where they placed petals on the water in a traditional ceremony.
Kate chose a bespoke Mughal-inspired tunic by Mumbai-based designer Anita Dongre. An aide said about Kate's dress: "She wanted to wear a local designer at the earliest possible opportunity." Another interesting titbit I learned from the tour: it was only when I read a subsequent interview Anita Dongre gave to the the Telegraph that I realised PA Natasha Archer was playing a substantial role when it came to Kate's wardrobe; not only did she liaise with the designer, but was also involved in altering the garment. More from the article:
'Dongre, who started her label seven years ago, told the Telegraph that Kate’s PA-turned-stylist Natasha Archer got in touch a month ago to request some clothes for the Duchess. "Her stylist emailed us and and we sent her a look book, then she came in and got some pieces for fittings," says Dongre whose Rajasthan-inspired designs are already popular in India, where she has eight shops. All the more surprising was the fact that the Duchess’s team had altered Dongre’s design. The "Gulrukh" dress - from the SS16 Love Notes collection - was originally full length and included a traditional stole in matching fabric.
In India a lot of woman would wear this with trousers and a stole," she says, pointing to the catwalk look from Lakme Fashion Week where the dress was shown in its original form. "Her stylist has taken the stole and converted part of that into the belt and then chopped it off so it can be worn as a dress. She’s amazing - it looks easy, breezy and so contemporary," Dongre says of the DIY update by Natasha Archer.'
The first day of the tour ended in glamorous fashion with a glittering gala dinner and reception with a host of Bollywood stars. The event also provided one of the sartorial highlights of the tour. Kate chose a bespoke sapphire blue gown and matching cape by her go-to evening wear designer Jenny Packham. The beading on the gown was done in India and the silhouette and design of the garment were clearly inspired by the host country. To complete the look Kate accessorised with a statement pair of lapis and diamond earrings by Indian designer Amrapali.
Day two was another full one with the couple officially launching the 2016-2017 GREAT Tech Rocketship Awards. The Duke and Duchess' next stop was the Social. The bar, restaurant and callobartive workspace is a popular urban hangout and a hub for artists and designers. The Social offered the perfect venue for William and Kate to meet young entrepeneurs and innovaters who demonstrated their start-ups. From there they travelled to New Delhi where they visited India Gate and visited Gandhi Smriti - a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi - where he spent the last years of his life and was assassinated in 1948.
The couple rounded up a busy day two of their royal tour of India by attending a birthday party for Her Majesty the Queen at the residence of the British High Commissioner. Kate very much surprised us all in a crop top and maxi skirt by Alice Temperley for the evening. I love this look; it was entirely different, fresh and perfect for the garden party setting of the evening.
The third day kicked off with an unannounced engagement. The couple visited the Salaam Baalak Trust - an Indian non-profit and non-governmental organisation which provides a sensitive and caring environment to street and working children in Delhi. William and Kate met a group of youngsters and participated in an art session. During the visit, Prince William asked the charity's director: "What can we do to help?"
The Cambridges attended a luncheon with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House. They also met with women's rights advocates to hear about a range of issues affecting girls in the country. The meeting was convened at William's personal request because he wanted to hear directly from women who work to support other females. He also wanted to get a sense of the work being done to help young women achieve their full potential and for men to become more supportive of the women and girls in their lives. Kate was elegant in the lace jade Temperley London Desdemona dress.
Kate in a colourful maxi dress by Anna Sui for an evening of events at Kaziranga National Park.
A bright and early safari at Kaziranga National Park was said to be a particularly exciting event on the agenda for the royals. It offered them an opportunity to soak up the surroundings and explore the extraordinary wildlife on offer in the park.
For afternoon engagements, Kate showcased another pretty print dress - this time by Topshop. They travelled to nearby Panbari village where took a walk in the picturesque tea garden.
They were warmly welcomed by locals who greeted them with hugs and showed them around their community.
Some of the best photos came from that day without a doubt. Who could forget William and Kate feeding the young elephant and rhino?
For the next leg of the royal tour William and Kate travelled to Bhutan - most certainly one of the most beautiful places on earth. William and Kate will have seen stunning views as they stepped off the plane. The couple, clearly eager to take in as many sights as possible, were in the cockpit for the landing - the King and Queen of Bhutan having arranged it with the airline.
They travelled to the breathtakingly beautiful Thimphu Dzong where they took part in a chipdrel - a traditional welcoming procession with music, ceremonial dress and colourful displays. The Duke and Duchess were greeted by King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema. William and Kate bowed and curtsied when they met them privately.
The Duchess was eager to try her hand at Bhutan's national sport, archery.
William decided to have a go too...with Kate looking more than a tad apprenhensive :)
Kate was regal in a traditional looking ensemble which included an Embroidered Wool Cape by French brand Paul & Joe, a lavender skirt made by her unidentified designer in London using fabric woven by Kelzang Wangmo, a lady from Thimphu, and a striking new lavendar pair of Kiki earrings. The Bhutanese kira-inspired look was wonderfully put together. A kira is the national dress for women in Bhutan. It is an ankle length dress consisting of a rectangular piece of woven fabric. It is usually worn with a blouse and jacket.
Kate selected a colourful floral mesh Tory Burch gown for dinner with the King and Queen. William and Kate were photographed leaving the Taj Tashi hotel following a quick change.
The Cambridges put their fitness levels to the test as they embarked on on a hike to Paro Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest monastery. As the royals looked at the view ahead William said: "Look at the roof of the temple. It's cool. What a great view." Kate replied: "It's very special."
The hike provided the backdrop for the royals one PR hiccup of the tour. A row erupted between KP and the media over a lack of access on the final leg of the hike. To alleviate tensions a last-minute brief interview was organised with the couple revealing they were "massively" missing their children and were "looking forward to seeing them. They also said they had spoken to George and Charlotte "many times". Kate noted she saw a couple with a baby at the monastery and thought "it was very brave of them".
Kate opted for the poppy print Beulah London Juliet gown for a reception for British Nationals in Bhutan and Bhutanese people with strong links to the UK.
Kate brought back a popular McQueen look as the couple said goodbye to Bhutan. The Duchess accessorised with a gold and diamond necklace given to her by Queen Jetsun. Simply Bhutan shared more about the symbolism of the piece: "This is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism & symbolises union of wisdom and great compassion." A lovely gesture by Queen Jetsun, and Kate chose a very fitting time to wear it.
The tour came to a close at one of India's most iconic landmarks, the Taj Mahal. The visit held a personal connection for William, too. In 1992, Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana toured India and iconic images of Diana posing alone at the Taj Mahal would become enduring images of the collapse of their marriage. The Palace described the visit as an opportunity for William to retrace his mother's footsteps and "make new memories". Kate wowed in a blue and white sheath dress by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan. The chic dress was a perfect choice to end a tour that brought us an abundance of fashion highlights. An added special touch was Kate's decision to wear a pretty pair of blue earrings she bought during her hike to Tiger's Nest.
For me, the tour was a resounding success and looking back it's unquestionably one of my favourites. The itinerary provided so much scope for the couple to meet locals, learn more about organisations that tied in with their own interests, celebrate the links between India and the UK, explore Kaziranga National Park and the heavenly Kingdom of Bhutan. From a fashion perspective, we saw an abundance of designers and a plethora of gorgeous dresses. It was great to see Kate having fun with fashion with many of the looks reminiscent of her "Kate Middleton" days. It's hard to believe how much was packed into that week. It was lovely to look over it all once more...
June came to a close and July began with the Duke and Duchess and Prince Harry travelling to France for two days of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It was a sombre and reflective trip for the young royals, who received a historical briefing on the battlefields of the Somme at Thiepval Memorial.
William, Kate and Harry attended a vigil at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men from the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French battle memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive, and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at its foot. Kate chose a Missoni coat with a black hat and pearls for the first day of the trip.
For their second day in France, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned to the Thiepval Memorial to officially open the new Thiepval Museum. It was a poignant day marking exactly a hundred years since 1 July 1916, one of the bloodiest days in military history, with almost 20,000 killed and double that number wounded in the first day of fighting. We now know Kate's stunning dress is a Jenny Packham design. The knee-length frock is crafted of beige lace over black underlay and features a peter pan collar, three-quarter length sleeves and peplum detail. The lace was supplied by French lacemaker Sophie Hallette.
The royals joined political leaders including Prime Minister David Cameron, Irish President Michael D. Higgins and French President François Hollande. Princess Anne's husband, Sir Timothy Laurence, was also there in his capacity as trustee of the Commonwealth Graves Commission.
The Cambridges returned to France in late July for a family break in Pau with George and Charlotte. They landed in a £5m Cessna owned by the Duke of Westminster. Very sadly the Duke of Westminster passed away shortly afterwards.
September brought the Cambridges' second tour of the year. It very much came out of the blue with few expecting another full-time tour to take place in 2016. The couple had missed their children in India and Bhutan, and decided they would accompany them on the tour of British Columbia and Yukon. Of course, William and Kate carried out their first overseas tour of Canada in 2011 - it seemed appropriate to return there with their two children five years later.
There was great excitement as the family arrived in Victoria on a Canadian Air Force plane. Kate revealed George was "super excited" about travelling on the plane. That was very much evident as the Prince was spotted peeking through the window.
Princess Charlotte had a peek too. These remain two of the most wonderful images from the tour :)
The Duchess hit a sartorial home run in a bespoke blue fitted dress by go-to designer Jenny Packham. It's a beautifully crafted garment with gathered shoulders, a belt, and detailing at the collar and back. The dress was perfectly complemented by a Lock & Co. hat, an elegant up, the Queen's Maple Leaf Brooch and Kate's G. Collins & Sons Tanzanite earrings.
Day two saw the Cambridges travel to Vancouver where they arrived to a loud welcome from several hundred fans. The royals did a walkabout at Jack Poole Plaza, located by the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre where fans had been waiting since 5 am to meet the royals. One of the most fun aspects of the tour was hearing from readers in Canada who met the royals and shared their stories on the blog (thank you again to all who took the time to do that!).
The royals met representatives from several local organisations in the area including the Immigration Services Society of British Columbia where they met staff and volunteers who support over 25,000 recent migrants to Canada each year, including some of the 30,000 who have arrived in Canada over the last year from UNHCR camps that are supporting those who have fled the war in Syria.
The Cambridges were joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie for a couple of events. Kate chose a fittingly red and white dress by her go-to brand McQueen for the day. Unfortunately, the dress received mixed reviews.
The Duchess was causally attired for a rainy day in Bella Bella on day three of the tour. Unfortunately dismal weather conditions meant an aerial tour of the rainforest had to be cancelled. Whilst meeting locals chiefs William said: "It wouldn't be the rainforest without the rain, it's authentic! We're very excited to be here. Stunning views." The royals received a warm welcome and enjoyed a walk in Great Bear Rainforest before unveiling a plaque to mark their visit.
The fashion highlight for me came at a reception held at Government House when Kate wowed in a 1950s style red gown by Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. The Finella Satin Midi Dress is crafted from heavyweight satin and has a classic fit-and-flare silhouette that's elevated with a wide asymmetric hemline, front pleated wrap, and box pleats at the skirt. Red is certainly the Duchess' colour!
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to Kelowna for the fourth day of the tour. It marked the first royal visit to the city since William's parents, Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana did so thirty years ago. The couple visited the University of British Columbia Okanagan where they watched a women's volleyball game. The Duchess sported a gorgeous green Dolce & Gabbana dress (altered to remove the pocket watch detail) for the day.
Next on the agenda, they visited A Taste of British Columbia, showcasing British Columbia’s agri-food and seafood industries at Mission Hill Family Estate. The Duke and Duchess toured stations of samples and displays that showcase the diversity and bounty of the province’s agri-food and seafood industry.
Prince William even played a few chords on a guitar...
That evening, the royals flew to Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. Chief Bill and Chief Kane welcomed William and Kate to the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre for a showcase of Yukon's thriving performing arts. Kate wore her Hobbs London Persephone Trench Coat and carried a maple leaf tartan scarf. The maple leaf tartan was designed in 1964 by David Weiser to commemorate the new Canadian flag and declared an official national emblem of Canada in 2011. The four colours reflect the colours of the maple leaf as it changes through the season - green in the spring and summer, gold in early autumn, red at the first frost, and brown after falling.
We saw Kate in a coat by legendary designer Carolina Herrera for engagements in Whitehorse, beginning with a stop at MacBride Museum where they had the opportunity to learn more about Yukon's region. The Duke and Duchess were very much following in the footesteps of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh who visited the telegraph office there in 1958. They were around the same age as William and Kate are now when they visited.
William and Kate signed the Museum’s virtual guest book via morse code on a telegraph machine which was transmitted into a digital message and posted onto Twitter. The message read: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Whitehorse, Yukon, September 2016." The message was typed out by former radio operator Doug Bell, 90, who last sent a telegram in 1947. William and Kate simultaneously hit the 'send' button. The Duchess commented: "Wow, that's amazing."
The Duchess sported a coat by Canadian brand Sentaler and handmade earrings by Yukon designer Shelley MacDonald for engagements in Carcross. Emily Nash reported: "William and Kate climbed out of the cab of a steam train on the White Pass and Yukon Route in Carcross. It was an unplanned stop but the Duke couldn't resist climbing on board and each had a go at blowing the steam whistle! The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh travelled in one of the carriages during their 1959 visit to Yukon. Choo choo!"
At Montana Mountain, the Duke and Duchess received hugs from locals. This photo perfectly depicts the warmth with which they were received throughout the tour.
George and Charlotte's appearance at a children's party at Government House has got be contender for the event of 2016, right?
Unforgettable moments included a very excited Princess Charlotte making a beeline for the balloons and hugging them while saying "pop".
Charlotte met a black and white rabbit.
It was wonderful to see William and Kate interacting with their children and to get a glimpse into George and Charlotte's personalities. A truly memorable one with photos I suspect will be reproduced for many years to come.
The penultimate day of the Cambridges' royal tour of British Columbia featured a trip to Haida Gwaii. The couple paddled in a Haida war canoe from Skidegate landing.
The Duke and Duchess experienced a Haida prayer, and a song and dance performance with representatives of the Haida Nation during the welcoming ceremony at the Haida Heritage Centre and Museum.
A boat ride on the Highlander Ranger from the Queen Charlotte boat launch. Kate looked a little squeamish as she picked up a freshly caught fish.
Kate had a wonderful time fishing.
Kate's ensemble - a white Zara blazer, black Zara jeans, her H&M off-the-shoulder top and a new pair of J Crew Avery shoes - was a particularly popular look. It was a very fresh take on her usual choice of casual attire.
William and Kate went sailing with children from Sail and Life Training Society (SALTS) and Jack.org. SALTS uses the training and teamwork required to sail a tall ship as a way to engage, inspire heal and mentor young people from all walks of life. The Duchess was eager to take the wheel. The ship's captain said: "The Duchess was hauling on the halyard on the fore sail, really giving it some. She stuck it out the whole time. She was tough."
Kate was elegant in Catherine Walker as the Cambridge family said goodbye to Canada at Victoria Harbour Seaplane Terminal.
We were treated to darling shots of the children before they left.
Adorable George couldn't resist giving a double wave :)
The second tour of the year was in stark contrast to the India-Bhutan visit. It was very much a more informal affair. With the children joining them, I think it was (naturally) significantly more difficult for William and Kate. Several events were scheduled one immediately after the other to ensure they could spend as much time with the children as possible, which led to a few scheduling issues and late arrivals along the way. I recall live blogging during the tour and feeling the itinerary was at times (for lack of a better word) cramped. We didn't see the same level of variety as we did during previous tours, however, we did see a focus on First Nations, places of cultural importance, organisations of immense importance to the area, and of course George and Charlotte's appearances were simply wonderful. On the fashion front, Kate wore several lovely dresses I would love to see again (not to mention the Catherine Walker coat).
The Duchess made her final overseas trip of the year in October - marking a royal milestone as she undertook her first solo overseas visit to the Netherlands. Kate's day began with a courtesy call to King Willem-Alexander at Villa Eikenhorst. The Duchess and the King posed for official photos before having lunch together.
The focal point of the visit was Kate's stop at the Mauritshuis art museum in the Hague for the exhibition, 'At Home in Holland: Vermeer and his Contemporaries from the British Royal Collection'. Kate received a great reception with crowds turning out to greet her.
Gordon Rayner noted Kate took a keen interest one particular painting: "The secret of a successful royal visit lies in the planning, and the Duchess of Cambridge showed a superb eye for detail on her first solo foreign trip. Knowing she would be shown Johannes Vermeer’s celebrated 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' at an art gallery in the Netherlands, the Duchess borrowed the Queen’s own treasured pearl earrings for the day to provide the perfect photo opportunity."
Next, Kate visited the British Ambassador’s Residence in the Hague, where she convened a roundtable discussion on the themes of addiction, intervention, family and mental health. The discussion brought together professionals from the renowned Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands, with two UK charities of which the Duchess is Patron: Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families and Action on Addiction. Finally, Kate travelled to the neighbouring city of Rotterdam to see Bouwkeet, the social Makerspace of Bospolder-Tussendijke.
Kate's opted for a pale blue skirt suit is by Catherine Walker. The belted jacket features large buttons and peplum detail, whilst the skirt falls to just above the knee. Teamed with the Queen's pearl and diamond earrings and a chic updo, it was an effortlessly professional look.
Part 2 of our 2016 Year in Review has taken us to a number of locations around the globe. As you can see, overseas engagements accounted for a significant portion of Kate's work last year. Will we see the trend continue in 2017? I would be surprised if another tour is not already in the planning stages, and perhaps another solo overseas trip for Kate. We do know the Duke and Duchess will be returning to duties earlier than anticipated. The Palace confirmed Kate has two engagements next Wednesday, 11 January. The Duchess, Patron of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, will visit the centre's Early Years Parenting Unit (EYPU) to learn more about their work with families who have children under five years old. William and Kate will also visit a Child Bereavement UK Centre in Stratford, which marks its one year anniversary.
What else does 2017 have in store? Perhaps the biggest decision for William and Kate will be whether or not they move to London full time this year. Reliable news outlets including the Telegraph are reporting this is looking likely with Prince William contemplating giving up his career as a helicopter pilot when his contract ends in the spring. It is thought there is a good chance George will be sent to Wetherby (William and Harry's old pre-prep school) in September. Gordon Rayner added: "Officially, they have made no final decision on schooling, but the Duchess is said to be privately resigned to moving back to London." There are myriad opinions on this topic, all valid with worthy points. My own take on the topic would be: it would seem a very appropriate time for the family to make the inevitable move to London. We saw a notable increase in Kate's engagements last year, and I would love to see the couple continue to build on that, devoting more time to key areas they are passionate about whilst taking on larger roles within the family. With each passing year, we're likely to see HM and Prince Philip slowing down and continuing to pass patronages on to younger members of the Royal family, and with Charles's desire for a slimmed down monarchy that will ultimately have an effect on the number of duties carried out by the Royal family. We saw a number of milestones in 2016, and 2017 promises to be even better! Also, on the personal front, Pippa Middleton is getting married in May and the late Princess Diana's 20th anniversary will take place. I understand plans are underway to mark the occasion.
On the blog, it's been another fantastic year thanks to all of you! Last May the blog celebrated its fifth anniversary; I've enjoyed reflecting on all the major events, from the birth of George and Charlotte to royal tours, Kate's first state banquet and so much more that we've followed together here. We have a warm community that truly makes writing this blog enjoyable. 2016 brought plenty of discussion and debate, though I think many of you will agree that the comments section continues to be a cause of concern. We welcome different points of view - we always have - and as a community we've been able to agree to disagree respectfully. At times, it has felt that ethos has fallen by the wayside, so my hope for 2017 is to see readers sharing their opinions, challenging one other and enjoying following the royals without personal attacks. It is my honest belief that the vast majority of readers are all rooting for William and Kate to do well. There will be differing views along the way, but isn't that what makes it interesting?
One bone of contention has been the option for posters to comment 'anonymously'. It has led to difficulties with people using it as a means to attack other readers, sockpuppeting in an attempt to shut down other readers' opinions and derail discussion. I would love to open a conversation asking those who do comment anonymously if they would be willing to comment using a pseudoym. Alternative options include signing in with a Google account (which can be completely private) and OPEN ID. Alternatively, readers can choose a name without 'signing in' by simply clicking the drop down menu and selecting 'Name/URL'. I've thought about this for a while and feel posters using names would not only lend to more cohesive, respectful conversations, but a more open, communicative comments section.
Thank you so much for reading and following the Duchess here. Whether you're a new reader or someone who has been here since the beginning, thank you! Don't hesitate to let me know what you would like to see on the blog in the coming year, too. I am incredibly excited to follow Kate with you in 2017! We'll be back with our annual end of year polls next :)