Tuesday, 27 September 2022

The Prince & Princess of Wales Make First Official Visit as They Seek to "Deepen Trust" with Wales

Over the weekend, I read an article on BBC News which offered a retrospective on William and Kate's years in Anglesey through the lens of locals in Wales. I was reminded how, in 2010, William, Flt Lt Wales, gave two preferences for his first posting as an RAF Search and Rescue pilot: Lossiemouth in Scotland and Valley on Anglesey, off the north west coast of Wales. Of course, it had to be the latter, for one day William and his future wife would become the Prince and Princess of Wales and it was critical the process of forging ties was taken in hand and cemented. Twelve years on from William and Kate's first days there -- renting a Farmhouse and enjoying walks on a private beach where undoubtedly many conversations about their future took place -- the oft discussed 'one day' was ushered in with the passing of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Today, the Prince and Princess of Wales made their first official visit to the country.

In a decidedly fitting fashion, the day's first engagement took them back to Anglesey.

I remember months after the royal wedding Kate said: "I love our life in Anglesey. It's just nice to be outdoors and away from the city. As much as I love London, it's nice to get away." When the couple left in 2013, William said they would return "again and again". The Prince described it as an "immensely special" place. As a 'farewell', the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (we simply have to give the Cambridge title an outing now and again :)) joined locals for the Ring O' Fire Coastal Ultra Marathon. It was just five weeks after Prince George was born and Kate's first engagement since their son arrived. Kate, wearing a Ralph Lauren blazer and Topshop jeans, told locals George was at home with his grandma Carole. The day's events feel very familiar to me, and many of you I expect, happening just over nine years ago...

Kensington Palace said: "The Prince and Princess have a deep affection for Wales, having made their first family home in Anglesey, and have thoroughly enjoyed previous visits and the warmth and kindness shown by the Welsh people. Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to spending more time in Wales over the coming months and years, taking the time to strengthen their relationship with communities in all parts of Wales."

William and Kate's first port of call was a visit to RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Holyhead Lifeboat Station where they met volunteers, crew and those who have been supported by the unit. 

They were welcomed by four-year-old Theo.

Let's just say Theo was enchanted to meet a real life Prince and Princess.

People reports:

"While visiting the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station to meet crew members, volunteers and others helped by their local unit, the princess especially connected with a 4-year-old boy named Theo Crompton. Theo appeared thrilled to greet the royal one-on-one, joyfully presenting her with a small bouquet. Equally charmed, the mom of three accepted the pink roses and crouched down for a closer chat, as William, 40, joined in".

Roya Nikkhah tweeted: "Leo who waited 4 hours to see the couple with his flowers. William noted Leo had on a 'smarter tie' than his private secretary, Jean-Christophe Gray, who replied: 'Hire him now, Sir.'"

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Theo's mother Rebecca Crompton told Hello!: "We were actually on the way to school when I changed my mind and decided to bring him down here for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

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Holyhead is one of the three oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast, with a decorated history including seventy awards for gallantry.

William and Kate with crew and volunteers.

Of course, Her late Majesty was proud Patron of the RNLI for seven decades. Following her passing, the organisation shared a treasured photo with the message: "Her Majesty’s support for our lifesavers and our cause will never be forgotten." The visit comes the day after the official mourning period for Her late Majesty ended.

More from the RNLI official website:

'On ascending to the throne in 1952, the young Queen Elizabeth II took on a lot of responsibilities. And one of those was being the Patron of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. It’s a role that’s been held by every reigning British monarch since King George IV in the 1820s. And it’s an important role, giving credibility and support to our lifesaving charity.

Queen Elizabeth II was by our side throughout Her Majesty's reign, granting awards for services to lifesaving, and sending heartfelt sympathy when – sadly – we’ve lost crew members to the sea. Her Majesty and The Royal Family have named lifeboats, opened stations, and given cheer, inspiration and a well-deserved sense of pride to generations of lifeboat crews.

One memorable visit from early in Queen Elizabeth II’s reign came on 29 June 1958, when Her Majesty and the late HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited Holy Island, Northumberland. RNLI lifeboat crews from Berwick and North Sunderland launched to proudly escort the royal barge. But you never know what the North Sea has in store, and duty called. The coxswain of the North Sunderland lifeboat Grace Darling spotted a broken-down motorboat with 14 people onboard and in need of help. The lifeboat crew changed course and took the motorboat, Lady Francis, under tow to the nearest safe harbour. They then returned to complete the royal escort.

On arrival at Holy Island lifeboat slipway, Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh were welcomed ashore and into the station. Lifeboat and fundraising volunteers were presented to Her Majesty and The Duke, on a day that lives on in many happy memories.'

Following the Queen's passing, RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie said: "On behalf of everyone involved with the RNLI, we send our heartfelt condolences to The Royal Family on the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty has dedicated 70 years as patron of the RNLI, engaging with and recognising the efforts of thousands of our people. We place on record our sincere thanks for Her Majesty’s unwavering commitment to saving lives at sea. Our thoughts are with The Royal Family and Her Majesty’s loyal subjects across the United Kingdom and The Commonwealth.

"A lot has happened in the past 70 years. Under Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s patronage, RNLI lifeboats launched 329,854 times, and saved 65,979 lives. We introduced a lifeguard service. We brought jet-propelled lifeboats to the Thames, and helped other lifesaving organisations around the world with their programmes. None of this would have been possible without generous and caring supporters. People like you. And like Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

William and Kate toured the station.

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The engagement itself was very much a throwback to William and Kate's first official appearance after their engagement in 2010 -- naming a RNLI lifeboat in Anglesey.

Afterwards, the Prince and Princess walked to the Holyhead Marine and Café Bar to meet representatives of local businesses, including the Coastguard and Sea Cadets.

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Hello! reports:

'Reminiscing about life in Anglesey, William said: "It's good to be back, it really is. It feels like going back in time, seeing where we all started to be a family unit." 

The royal visit comes as behind-the-scenes discussions and plans are underway to solidify the couple's relationship with the people of Wales. A senior source told Wales Online William and Kate are "very clear the title is a long term thing" and want to "deepen trust" and visit "regularly" with a trip to Cardiff slated before Christmas.

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More from Wales Online on the tentative discussion regarding William's investiture. In fact, there is speculation today we may not see any sort of ceremony.

'Wales Online understands the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, want to "quell some concerns" around the investiture. An event akin to King Charles' is off the table and there may not even be a formal investiture ceremony, it is thought.

Earlier this month King Charles III used his first public address as monarch to appoint William the new Prince of Wales. More than 35,000 people signed a petition against the title being passed on.

Shortly after the public address Wales' first Presiding Officer, Dafydd Elis-Thomas spoke to ITV about a conversation he once had with the now-king. "In discussions with him when he was still Prince of Wales, when I had cultural responsibilities in the Welsh Government, one of the issues I did raise with him was that I hoped there would never again be an investiture in Caernarfon Castle," he said. “[Charles] laughed and said: ‘Do you think I want to put William through what I went through?'”

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said there should be "no rush" to plan an investiture ceremony. He added that there is time to come to a "conclusion on what might be suitable for the best way forward".

From Anglesey, the Prince and Princess of Wales travelled to Swansea.

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The couple visited the recently re-developed St Thomas Church which supports people in the local area.

Over the past two years, the church has undergone a transformation and is now an essential community hub supporting people with an array of needs. Their foodbank supports over 200 people every week, facilities for homeless people have become a much depended on and necessary service, and a surplus food distribution network collects food from supermarkets and grocers just before the close of business and distributes items to those who need them most.

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A typical sign at the church door? 'Welcome to breakfast and board games'.

Wales Online reports the Princess told a group gathered at the church: "With the cost of living crisis, there are a lot of desperate people out there. The food bank is a lifeline to so many people...amazing work going on there. Keep up the hard work." One woman present during the conversation said it was a chat she "won't forget".

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Kate promised a choir of children she would tell the King what "beautiful voices" they have. They were due to perform for Charles in February.

Of particular interest to Kate will have been the church's Swansea Baby Basics facility which distributes essential items for vulnerable mothers across the city.

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Kensington Palace said: "The Princess of Wales has previously worked with Baby Banks and in the summer of 2020 brought together nineteen British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide. She has visited a number of baby banks across the UK, where she has spent time speaking with families about their experiences of using their local baby bank services as well as helping unload donations." I've long believed Kate's previous involvement with supporting baby banks could serve as the genesis for a career-long project aimed at supporting parents and babies in areas across the UK, in a similar vein to the very real and immediate need the Queen Consort's Wash Bag project identified by providing toiletries and essentials for women who have been raped or sexually abused.

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A darling two-year-old named Charlotte helped Kate pack supplies.

My favourite photo of the day? As William and Kate left the Princess gave adorable Charlotte a big hug.

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The expression on little Charlotte's face says it all :)

Then it was time for a walkabout with a number of excited locals.

Scenes in Swansea.

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A great shot.

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Time for a selfie.

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One lady in the crowd grabs her shot of Kate.

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More from Wales Online:

'Molly Dowrick, out reporter at the scene of the Royal visit to Swansea, said she was struck by the fact the Prince and Princess really took their time to meet as many people as they could - and even left a little later than planned.

"They took their time to meet as many people as they could," she said. "Kate was particularly interested to find out about the baby bank. There were a couple of hundred people there of all ages."

A very memorable first official visit to Wales for the Wales couple!

In a fitting show of sartorial diplomacy, Kate chose an elegant 'Welsh red' LK Bennett coat for the day (with thanks to Kate Middleton Style).

The Spencer Red Recycled Wool Blend Snaffle-Detail Coat is described as: "A statement coat with heritage-inspired snaffle detail, the Spencer coat sits in our LKB Conscious collection. Crafted from a luxurious red recycled wool blend fabric by Manteco - the leading textile company for sustainability and high-end fabrics - it's a single-breasted style with gold dome buttons, an oversized collar, a tailored silhouette and front patch pockets finished with gold snaffle detail." The coat is currently available in sizes 2-14 (US) and 6-16 (UK) on the brand's website.

As noted above, the fabric is by Manteco -- the leading textile company for sustainability and high-end fabrics since 1943. This fabric is designed through constant research and innovation, produced with the best quality raw materials and exclusive processing techniques, all of this without compromising on sustainability.

It appears the Princess wore her Boden Cashmere Crew neck jumper in black (with thanks to Middleton Maven).

Kate wore her Roland Mouret Axon trousers.

The Princess carried her Grace Han Love Letter Small Top Handle Bag. The £1,595 piece is described as "a perfect companion with its elegance and classic shape. Its distinctive envelope closure is an ode to Love Letters of the past, present and future". The London-based brand was launched just before the pandemic.

Kate accessorised with her Alia hoops by Welsh brand Spells of Love.

I'm still in consultation and seeking advice on the best methods regarding site changes. I will keep you all up to date before anything is implemented. Thank you again for your patience.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

'Her Majesty Was Looking Down On Us': William & Kate Thank Windsor Volunteers

Good afternoon, dear readers,

I wasn't expecting to see the Prince and Princess of Wales for the remainder of the week, as all engagements were cancelled for this week, including a scheduled trip to the US for William and a collaboration between two of Kate's patronages and the Laver Cup. I understand it's a joint effort between the Princess and Roger Federer, the 'Prince of Tennis', who will be retiring after the Cup and will be sorely missed by tennis fans worldwide. Whilst it's not a week for traditional appearances, it is an appropriate time to share gratitude for all the people who went above and beyond to give Her late Majesty the send-off she deserved.

Today, the Prince and Princess of Wales met those involved in facilitating the Queen's Committal service at Windsor and all those involved in ensuring the Windsor procession ran smoothly.

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William and Kate arriving.

William and Kate visited Windsor Guildhall to thank "unsung heroes" involved in the day. A video from the reception.

The Princess told guests she noticed and was impressed by all the preparations in Windsor in the days before the funeral while she was doing the school run.

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William opened up about emotional moments.

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More from the Mail:

'The group spoke about the number of people in the crowds, with one of the logistics staff saying it was about 110,000. 

William said: 'We did not see the whole town come to a standstill. That's what we were worried about, that it would disrupt everyone's lives.'

Later, when one of the staff talked about how difficult the last few days must have been, he said: 'If you flip it on its head, it is always very comforting that so many people care. It makes it a lot better. There are certain moments that catch you out. You are prepared for all but certain moments catch you out.'

Scenes in Windsor on Monday were unforgettable.

And they will live on in history, thanks to the efforts of so many.

The Waleses sat down with volunteers.

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William and Kate heard more about the people involved.

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In the background, you'll note a stunning portrait of Her late Majesty.

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As for so many of us, Paddington was particularly special to William.

Kate Mansey shared:

"The Prince of Wales told volunteers and staff who helped with the Windsor committal that the Royal Family had seen five rainbows over Balmoral shortly after his grandmother died. The Princess of Wales added: ‘Her Majesty was looking down on us.’

People reports:

"Three days after the history-making monarch was laid to rest, the Prince and Princess of Wales, both 40, met volunteers and operational staff who were involved in the committal service for the Queen at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle on Monday. They also supported the crowds that gathered to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth after her death on September 8.

Queen Elizabeth relocated her home base from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. She spent most of her final years at the royal residence, although she died at her traditional summer getaway in Scotland, Balmoral Castle".

The couple leaving Guildhall.

The Duchess repeated a Dolce & Gabbana coat today.

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Kate last wore the piece for her first engagement following the late Duke of Edinburgh's passing during a visit to the RAF Air Cadets 282 Squadron in East London to meet young people supported by the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

The black wool and silk-blend, double-breasted, button-down coat features a collarless design, round neckline, buttonhole on the front, front flap pockets, long sleeves, pleated waist, mid-calf length and straight hem.

Kate accessorised with her Annoushka pearls.

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It was a lovely tribute to those who worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes.

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The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office shared several images from the Heads of State reception at Buckingham Palace, which took place on the eve of Her late Majesty's funeral.

The King and Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales with President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden.

As previously noted, Kate wore the same Catherine Walker dress with bow detail from the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral.

The Princess accessorised with the late Princess Diana's 'South Sea' pearl earrings.

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In this post's opening paragraph, I spoke about the importance of gratitude this week. In keeping with that spirit, I want to send a heartfelt 'thank you' for your incredibly generous comments, messages and emails over the past twelve days. When the enormity of covering the nation's farewell weighed on me and the sheer emotion of the week required moments for pause, you all buoyed my spirits. It's ten days I will never forget, ten days which are the most significant I've had the privilege to cover. I don't take for granted the loyalty of readers who checked in every day (if not several times per day) to follow each stage of the nation's goodbye to the Queen.

I think fondly of starting 'Duchess Kate' on a whim in university over eleven years ago. I still remember clicking 'New Post' for the first time and my amazement when page views began appearing. It's been quite a journey. In the coming weeks, we will say goodbye to 'Duchess Kate' as the blog takes on a new name to reflect Kate's new title (it still seems rather strange to think I'll never start a post with 'The Duchess of Cambridge' again). I will give you all ample notice before any change is implemented. As many of you have discussed with me, Blogger has disabled the 'Follow By Email' option. I am currently searching for an effective alternative.

I would expect, as the Prince and Princess of Wales, we're going to see enormous changes to William and Kate's schedules and duties. I'm looking forward to covering the next stage with the community here.

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