It was a rare joint engagement for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall today.
The foursome joined forces to visit the Defence National Rehabilitation Centre Stanford Hall, Stanford on Soar, Loughborough.
'Logistically, the royals admitted, it was something of a challenge. “There’s too many of us!” said Prince Charles, telling watching reporters he hoped their shorthand was up to scratch “with so many of us running around”.
It is bad enough with just two visitors, Prince William joked. “When there’s four of us it’s a nightmare."
It marks William, Kate, Charles and Camilla's first joint engagement since they attended a charity concert in aid of The Prince's Trust at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 which raised funds for the Royal Foundation and the Prince's Trust City Riots Appeal. Do you all remember the ZARA Tulip dress Kate wore that evening? I recall a flurry of Repli-Kate dresses all over the high street in the weeks and months after. It was just about six months after the wedding - an incredibly exciting time in royal watching.
Today's engagement is closely connected to the family. The Defence National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) was the brainchild of the late Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, who led the £300m fundraising drive with a personal gift of £70m. Sadly the Duke passed away in 2016 and did not have the opportunity to see the project come to fruition.
More from the DNRC website:
'The idea of creating a 21st century version of the existing Defence rehab centre, Headley Court in Surrey, in a new location to serve the future needs of serving members of the Armed Forces came from the 6th Duke of Westminster.
He raised it in the MoD in the late summer of 2008 with the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff for whom he was working at that time as the senior reservist in Defence as a Major General. The Duke had served in the Reserve Army for 40 years and knew, first hand, the high price that members of the Armed Forces can pay for serving the nation. He wanted to do something about it and ensure that seriously injured sailors, soldiers and members of the RAF would feel looked after and get the best possible care.
The idea was subsequently discussed with the Defence Secretary (Des, now Lord, Browne) who supported the Duke’s idea but asked whether he could at the same time ‘do something for the nation too’. This was put to the Duke who agreed.
Meetings followed in the Vice Chief’s office involving Dame Carol Black (then the Government’s adviser at DWP), the Surgeon General and Arup. They examined the basic feasibility of what was being proposed in terms of the clinical rehabilitation field of medicine.
The notion of a Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) programme was devised and put to the Duke at the end of 2008. In 2009 it was developed with the other government departments and was put to Parliament in a written Ministerial Statement in June 2009. That statement heralded the start of a year-long study in 2010, funded by the Duke, to examine the concept across government in detail.'
The Duke was Prince Charles' friend and close confidante for decades. His wife Natalia is Prince William's godmother and he has been credited with serving as a mentor to William over the years. The Cambridges have been loaned the Duke's jet on several occasions which has ensured family trips to Southern France and the French Alps were kept under the radar.
Prince William is Patron of the campaign to create the purpose built centre and attended the official handover with the Grosvenor family in 2018. Below, William and Gerald's son Hugh, the 7th Duke of Westminster at the event. Hugh is only 29 and a regular face on most eligible bachelor lists. He was chosen as one of Prince George's godparents.
Today, the Duke's vision....
....is very much a reality providing world-class rehabilitation facilities for members of the Armed Forces who have suffered major trauma or injury during their service.
They were welcomed by Captain Alison Hofman QARNNS, Commanding Officer of the DNRC and taken on a tour of the site.
They were shown some of the therapy areas and observed patients undertaking gym rehabilitation sessions.
Former Major Peter Norton, a triple amputee told the Mail Kate asked him about his mental health and the welfare aspect of the care he receives at DNRC. Mr Norton added the centre knows "the two go hand in glove".
More from the Mail:
'William also spent time talking to Emma Lumb, 25, from Barnsley, who served in the Royal Logistics Corps, and was paralysed from the neck downwards in a car accident last March. She was holding her son Lucus Murgatroyd, four, on her lap.
He asked her: ' Do you notice a difference [here]? Is it different being here as opposed to a civilian hospital? Do you stay here permanently? He also asked her: 'Is it important to be able to speak about stuff?'
Speaking afterwards Emma said: 'It makes a massive difference. You feel you are with your family, surrounded by the guys and the banter. Don't get me wrong, the NHS was brilliant when I had my accident. I couldn't have had better treatment. I can't fault it. But when you are in the army you are part of a very special family and moving forwards it is a better place for me to be. 'The staff here are so fantastic and they understand what it means to me.'
They visited the prosthetics workshop and heard from patients and staff about the range of multi-disciplinary clinical and therapy services available.
The royals met a group participating in wheelchair basketball sessions.
There were very sweet scenes when William gave wheelchair basketball a go. Charles was on hand to offer support and gave his son a pat on the shoulders for encouragement :)
A video from the engagement.
A lovely photo from the visit.
The Duchess selected a navy suit by Alexander McQueen featuring a military inspired jacket and a long skirt.
The eagle-eyed Heaven noted the wool crepe jacket is a past season piece with structured shoulders and button detailing. The skirt appears to be a custom version of the piece shown below from the 2017 collection.
Kate carried the McQueen Wicca mini satchel in black, she owns the bag in several colours.
I expect there's a special reason Kate chose the fashion house - today marks ten years since Alexander (Lee) McQueen died.
Kate wore her black suede Ralph Lauren boots.
And accessorised with her Mappin & Webb Empress earrings.
Today's appearance follows an exclusive from the Sydney Morning Herald's Bevan Shields reporting William and Kate will undertake an official visit to Australia to "visit bushfire-ravaged Australian coastal towns during a special royal visit that will spur more international financial support for survivors and volunteer firefighters." Negotiations have been underway for weeks and Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to issue the formal invitation this week. The trip is expected to focus on New South Wales and Victoria, but it's very possible other states will be added before the finalised itinerary is complete. I could see this tour happening in April, with George and Charlotte on Easter break, it would be a good time to travel with the children. There was also a report in The Telegraph revealing plans for a tour in Colombia and Chile are underway.
And that's not all. Just as I was about to hit publish on this post, Kensington Palace confirmed the Duke and Duchess will visit Ireland between Tuesday 3rd March and Thursday 5th March. It will be their first joint visit to the country and according to media reports they are expected to spend time in Dublin and Cork. We'll hear the full itinerary in due course. It's certainly shaping up to be a very busy and interesting year.
In other news, a date has been set for Princess Beatrice's wedding. She will marry Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, where George and Louis were christened, on Friday 29 May. The wedding is not expected to be televised, though I do imagine a selection of photographs will be released on the day.
Finally from good news about an upcoming wedding, there's also very sad news to share. It's been confirmed today Peter Phillips (Princess Anne's son and the Queen's eldest grandchild) and his wife Autumn have separated. It is understood the couple told the Queen some months ago following a long period of discussions. Kate first met Her Majesty at their wedding in 2008.
A statement released today read:
“After informing HM The Queen and members of both families last year, Peter and Autumn jointly agreed to separate. They had reached the conclusion that this was the best course of action for their two children and ongoing friendship.
The decision to divorce and share custody came about after many months of discussions and although sad, is an amicable one. The couples first priority will remain the continued well being and upbringing of their wonderful daughters Savannah (9) and Isla (7).
Both families were naturally sad at the announcement, but fully supportive of Peter and Autumn in the joint decision to co parent their children. Both Peter and Autumn will remain in Gloucestershire to bring up their two children where they have been settled for a number of years.
Peter & Autumn have requested privacy and compassion for their children while the family continues to adapt to these changes.”
I very much hope the couple are given the space and privacy they need to focus on their daughters Savannah and Isla.