With just ten days to go until the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's official visit to Pakistan, their Communications Secretary Christian Jones (a role held by Jason Knauf until recently when he was appointed Royal Foundation CEO) held a press briefing at Kensington Palace this afternoon. Normally this close to a tour beginning we see the full itinerary, with details of almost all engagements planned for the trip. Whilst reporters present know the itinerary, it is strictly embargoed for security reasons. Instead, information on events will only be made available on a day-to-day basis during the tour. The Duke and Duchess will spend five days in the south Asian country from Monday 14 to Friday 18 October. As expected, they will not be taking the children. George and Charlotte will be at school, and it is thought they will be looked after by Nanny Maria Teresa and the Middletons.
It will mark both William and Kate's first official visit to the country, and Kate's first Commonwealth tour in over three years. I've been long awaiting such a visit by the couple. There is something incredibly special about the monarchy's connections to all fifty-three Commonwealth countries: fond memories of royal visits dating back generations, a continuation to forging links and partnerships between countries, and a very important tradition of the Royal family being maintained. It's very much a celebration of the UK's links with that particular country which is why these trips are so important from the Government's perspective.
The links with Pakistan are extensive - the British High Commission in Islamabad being one of the UK’s largest diplomatic missions in the world.
Whilst the itinerary is under wraps, Christian Jones revealed core areas of focus:
'Whilst The Duke and Duchess’s programme will pay respect to the historical relationship between Britain and Pakistan, it will largely focus on showcasing Pakistan as it is today – a dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking nation. From the modern leafy capital Islamabad, to the vibrant city of Lahore, the mountainous countryside in the North, and the rugged border regions to the West, the visit will span over 1000km, and will take in Pakistan’s rich culture, its diverse communities, and its beautiful landscapes.
Throughout the tour, Their Royal Highnesses will visit programmes which empower young people, and organisations that help ensure they have the best possible start in life. Access to quality education, particularly to girls and young women is one of the UK’s top priorities in Pakistan. The Duke and Duchess are looking forward to spending time meeting young Pakistanis, and hearing more about their aspirations for the future.'
Climate change will feature heavily on the agenda. The Duke and Duchess will see first hand how climate issues are affecting Pakistan, and efforts being undertaken to combat the challenges presented. They will also learn more about the "complex security picture" in Pakistan and meet security personnel who will share their experiences. The Palace added: "As with previous overseas visits, the Duke and Duchess have asked that this tour allow them opportunities to meet as many Pakistanis as possible. Over the course of the visit, Their Royal Highnesses will meet a wide variety of people, including children and young people, leaders from government, business and the charity sector, inspiring conservationists, and well-known cultural figures and sporting stars."
Harper's Bazaar reports:
'William and Kate won’t be traveling alone. Flying with the couple on the Royal Air Force Voyager, a team of 14 will ensure everything runs meticulously to plan. Amongst the entourage are private secretaries Catherine Quinn and Simon Case and head of communications Christian Jones, with four other team members, two assistant private secretaries, two program coordinators, a palace assistant, an orderly, and a privately-funded hairstylist, believed to be Amanda Cook Tucker, for the duchess.'
During a visit to the Aga Khan Centre on Wednesday, William and Kate met with the High Commissioner of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, His Excellency Mohammad Nafees Zakaria and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Thomas Drew at Kensington Palace.
Victoria Murphy reports:
'Previously, the Queen visited the country in 1961 and 1997, and Princess Diana traveled there on a solo trip in 1991. When the Cambridges’ visit was first announced in June this year, the High Commissioner for Pakistan to the United Kingdom, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, said the people of Pakistan “warmly welcome the announcement.”
He continued, saying that they "still cherish and fondly recall" the visits by the Queen and described the upcoming trip as a “reflection of the importance the United Kingdom attaches to its relations with Pakistan. The two countries enjoy historical links which both sides wish to strengthen further.”
The late Princess Diana visited Pakistan several times, notably supporting Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital which was built by the Imran Khan, who was married to Diana's dear friend Jemima Goldsmith. Mr Khan is now the Prime Minister of the country, and it would seem very fitting for William and Kate to retrace Diana's footsteps with the PM.
In terms of clothing for the tour, I think we'll see a mix of Kate's favourites with pieces from Pakistani designers. I imagine there are at least a couple of formal black-tie events, which mean gown appearances. As green is the colour of Pakistan's flag, I expect we'll see it incorporated in the wardrobe, as we did at Wednesday's reception.
It's also likely we'll see Kate in a traditional shalwar kameez (a long tunic/dress worn with trousers). Diana favoured mixing shalwars with other pieces from her wardrobe during tours.
The statement closed with: "Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to building a lasting friendship with the people of Pakistan." Reporters Rebecca English and Omid Scobie received the itinerary today and described it as "fantastic". I'm very much looking forward to seeing it all unfold!
A reminder, Azuni London are offering readers an exclusive 15% discount code by using the code azuniduchess at the checkout. It applies to all orders (apart from clearance items) including the Kate earrings.
Will we see Kate before the tour? I think she may have an engagement with one of her patronages on Wednesday. I don't want to say too much as it appears to be embargoed, but yes keep an eye on Wednesday. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend!