Tuesday, 8 December 2020

It's Secret Santa & 'Christmas at the Castle' for the Final Day of the Royal Train Mini-Tour

The final day of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's UK mini-tour on the royal train kicked off in festive form with a visit to Cardiff.

William and Kate arriving.

The couple boarded the royal train on Sunday night and undertook several stops yesterday in Scotland, Batley and Manchester before travelling overnight on the Queen's preferred mode of transport. The trip has seen the Cambridges travel 1,250 miles and undertake working visits, meeting frontline workers, volunteers, care home staff, teachers, schoolchildren and young people to hear about their experiences, sacrifices and the inspiring work they have done throughout this challenging year. The itinerary was planned to "pass on the nation’s sincere thanks and gratitude for all of their efforts to keep people safe and keep the country going".

Their first stop was 'Christmas at the Castle', -- Cardiff Castle. It is one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions and a site of international significance. Located within beautiful parklands at the heart of the capital, the Castle’s walls and fairy-tale towers conceal 2,000 years of history.

A brief summary of the fascinating history of the castle:

'The Roman fort at Cardiff was probably established at the end of the 50s AD, on a strategic site that afforded easy access to the sea. Archaeological excavations indicate that this was the first of four forts, each a different size, that occupied the present site. Remains of the Roman wall can be seen today. After the Norman conquest, the Castle’s keep was built, re-using the site of the Roman fort. The first keep on the motte, erected by Robert Fitzhamon, Norman Lord of Gloucester, was probably built of wood. Further medieval fortifications and dwellings followed over the years.

The Castle passed through the hands of many noble families until in 1766, it passed by marriage to the Bute family. The 2nd Marquess of Bute was responsible for turning Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port. The Castle and Bute fortune passed to his son John, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who by the 1860s was reputed to be the richest man in the world.

From 1866 the 3rd Marquess employed the genius architect William Burges to transform the Castle lodgings. Within gothic towers he created lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. Each room has its own special theme, including Mediterranean gardens and Italian and Arabian decoration. The 3rd Marquess died when he was only 53 in 1900. Despite huge death duties on the estate, the 4th Marquess completed many of his father’s restoration projects including the reconstruction of the Roman wall. The Bute family continued to stay at the Castle throughout the 1920s and 1930s, although they had sold off many of their business interests in south Wales.'

Following the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute, the family decided to give the Castle and much of its parkland to the city of Cardiff. For 25 years, the Castle was home to the National College of Music and Drama, and since 1974 has become one of Wales’ most popular visitor attractions.

They enjoyed a fabulous performance by Samba Galez, Wales' longest running Samba band, and were able to hear how the performers are supported by the government's culture recovery fund.

The Duke and Duchess joined students from Cardiff University to discuss their mental health and how it's been affected by the pandemic.

Wales Online shared more information about the engagement:

'Kay Dennis, welfare officer, said: "They were lovely, it was exciting to be given the opportunity to talk to them.

"They were really interested in what we have have been doing in the students' union with mental health."

Kay added that they spoke about the opportunities for young carers and parents to attend university and the need to tackle digital disadvantages between students.

They said: "This is something that has been such a learning curve. We are so proud of our students, they have been so resilient."

The couple joined the group toasting marshmallows.

Hello! reports:

'Touching one of the sticky sweet treats with her gloved hand, Kate laughed and said: "I'm going to have that marshmallow on my fingers all day."

She said she ordered large marshmallows for George, Charlotte and Louis for their bonfire night celebrations because small ones normally slip off onto the fire.

"I ordered them for the children. There was a bit of a sugar rush," she added.'

Talk quickly turned to plans for Christmas, the Cambridges revealing they are still undecided about how they will spend the period. "It is so difficult. We are still trying to make plans. It's difficult to know what to do for the best." The Queen and Prince Philip will celebrate at Windsor this year; it's been reported the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children may be included "in their bubble". Prince Charles will visit his parents, but will officially spend Christmas with Camilla at their country home, Highgrove. It is thought -- though not confirmed -- William and Kate will opt for Bucklebury or Anmer Hall this year.

 More from People:

'The royal parents were asking how the students were making arrangements for their family Christmases. “They said it’s hard to make plans with all the guidelines and they were trying to work out what the safest plans were for them,” Lily Faulkner, 21, a Cardiff University politics and international relations student tells PEOPLE. “They are great mental health advocates. When you struggle with your mental health and are lonely and you hear that the Duke ands Duchess of Cambridge are supporting you, and what you’re going through, it is uplifting.'

Then it was time to trade Secret Santa presents. Student Luke Wilson gave William a Guinness coaster set and Gwennan Lewis gave the Duchess a Welsh lovespoon. In return, Jacob and Emma received a mini table football set and Prosecco pong set from the royals.

They both looked delighted with their gifts, and William joked about his Guinness set, saying, "I think that says a lot about me!"

A nice wrap-up video from the engagement.

From there, the Cambridges boarded the train to Bath.

At Cleeve Court Care Home, William and Kate paid tribute to the tireless efforts of care staff across the country, hearing about their experiences providing care during the pandemic.

Hello! writes:

'As they arrived at their next stop in Bath, the Duke and Duchess took time to meet and chat with Jasmine Warner, five, whose brother Otto, eight, has today come out of cancer treatment and was by chance hoping to meet the royal couple with his family, including sister Poppy, ten, and mum Georgie.'

I know for my own family, and so many of you reading this, the most difficult aspect of the pandemic has been not seeing loved ones for lengthy periods of time. This is particularly painful if it's an elderly loved one with a serious illness.

I read this story last month on the BBC about Welsh woman Jacqueline Owen-Jones and thought it appropriate to share.

'Richard Breeze, 86, an RAF veteran, died last Wednesday just days after testing positive for coronavirus.

His daughter Jacqueline Owen-Jones, from Llanbradach, Caerphilly, called for testing improvements so relatives can visit care homes more easily. A Welsh Government spokesperson said new testing technology would be prioritised for care homes.

Jacqueine said: "Yes, I can look at videos but it's still going to be heartbreaking because I can't physically just grab out and say I've touched dad for the last time. It's just seeing that person.

"On a phone or a video it's great but it's not the same." She last saw her father in March and his condition deteriorated so quickly last week, she was not able to make a final visit.

"I am shattered at the moment and I don't think anyone will know how I really feel," she added. "I am a strong person normally but this has really knocked me for six."'

William and Kate meeting with residents to discuss how they've coped.

This photo is a reminder of how dearly we all look forward to the day when hugs and embraces return.

A video from their stop in Bath.

In Reading, the Duke and Duchess thanked nurses for their outstanding efforts this year.

They spent time with Lead Nurse Rafael Fernandes, designer of a special badge funded by NHS Charities Together (William and Kate's new joint patronage) to mark the 2020 year of the Nurse and Midwife.

The stop at Royal Berkshire Hospital had a personal meaning for the Duchess - she was born there.

Kensington Palace shared this image with the caption, "Thank you NHS".

The Duchess was in one of her most festive looks to date, a selection of red and tartan pieces from her wardrobe chosen for a striking look on the final day of the trip. Kate chose her gorgeous, impeccably cut, bespoke Alexander McQueen coat.

Kate debuted the piece in October to visit the Hold Still community exhibition.

Kate teamed the coat with her Emilia Wickstead tartan check Pris Pleated Skirt. It is cut in an a-line silhouette from sturdy flannel that has sharp knife pleats throughout. Cinched with a belted waist.

Kate debuted the piece for a 2018 Christmas party for RAF families.

It is thought Kate's tartan scarf may also be a bespoke piece by Wickstead as the print is a perfect match.

Kate accessorised with her Spells of Love Alia hoop earrings.

The Duchess completed the look with two favourites from the train trip: her Ralph Lauren Collection boots.

And Grace Han Love Letter Small Top Handle Bag.

The eagle-eyed Susan from What Kate Wore suggests Kate's tartan face mask is an Emilia Wickstead piece. The £55 piece is made from 100% silk.

The Duke and Duchess have just arrived at Windsor for a photocall and engagement with the Queen, Charles, Camilla, Anne, Edward and Sophie. I'll have more on this very shortly.  


  1. I have enjoyed this trip so much. Thank you Charlotte for your complete coverage of these visits. I am especially impressed by the precautions they adhered to....being outdoors when they could, wearing masks, and I see no large crowds that some feared. God bless them and the many they have helped during this journey. Merry Christmas to all of the readers here...Merry Christmas, Charlotte.

  2. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. This look is perfect. I loved that skirt the first time she wore it and now with the coat and the black boots it is fantastic. Also the basic black turtleneck is the right way to style the jacket. This has added some much needed Christmas spirit to my day!

  3. Continuing a great trip and Catherine looks fantastic in that outfit. Love the whole look.

  4. I LOVED that skirt when she first wore it and I love it now!! Also, matching the skirt to the scarf to the face mask YESSSS!!! As someone who has to wear a face mask everyday, I bought several different ones so that I could try to match my outfit. I bow down to Kate!! Heather in US (signed in to work computer, don't tell lol)

  5. Theresa - Austin, TX8 December 2020 at 19:08

    This look is perfection! One of my all-time favorites. It's been so enjoyable to follow this mini-tour. It's lifted my spirits and I know that it's lifted the spirits of all those whom they visited. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the readers and to you, too, Charlotte.

    1. Zora from Prague8 December 2020 at 21:39

      Thank you, Theresa - same to you! I share your sentiments and agree with everything you say. Wonderful trip and a perfect look!!!

  6. This tour has been wonderful. I've loved seeing them and Kate looked fantastic. Very diplomatic to choose repeats.

  7. Thanks for your reporting on this mini tour. The idea of a train tour is lovely and nostalgic, and great to have the "next generation" in the Cambridges undertaking it. I think if it had taken place later, after a lot of people had been innoculated, it could have doubled as a celebration of return to "normal" and crowds might have been allowed to gather, involving more people, and creating a sense of community. It was a bit sad to see the almost empty stations and musicians playing without a crowd. I was glad to see so much mask wearing towards the end, as I was absolutely uncomfortable seeing pictures of Will and Kate interacting maskless with young children also maskless.

    1. They will probably do something similar in the new year when all is safe. At all’s times they were the regulated distance away. They had heaps of people planning and ensuring no laws were broken plus they are a very intelligent couple so I’m sure they wouldn’t risk any children or their own.

  8. Valerie in Arizona8 December 2020 at 23:22

    Oooh, this is my FAVORITE look--the tartan skirt, red coat, scarf! I am glad they went now, when people are so tired and, despite the first inoculations taking place today, still confused and feeling that Christmas will not really be Christmas. At least that's what my cousins and friends in the UK tell me--while we are still fearing for our lives here in Arizona, they are plain tired and missing family, friends, outings. I was confused about the mask/no mask myself. Here in our city, masks are obligatory for anyone over the age of 10 inside--except that in schools (before they closed) they were obligatory for grades 1 and above (5-6 years +) but not obligatory outside; social distancing still recommended in or outside. The rule is -- if someone could blow a candle out on a cupcake you were holding, then you're too close. If not, the distance is okay. But it seems there are so many different rules. I just personally think that it's wonderful that W & K made the trip, the photos and videos are terrific, people seemed so happy to see them and to be recognized. Now over to your next blog to comment on the evening's wind up at Windsor. Thank you Charlotte!!

  9. As far as fashion goes, the Queen knocked it out of the park in her vibrant red. Favorite look on Kate for the past 48 hours, definitely the red coat, tartan scarf and tartan skirt in Wales today. This was wonderful, thank you again Charlotte. Looking at one of William's masks, it looked like it was the same material as one of his ties. I wonder if men might think of color coordinating their ties and masks??

  10. Tammy from California9 December 2020 at 00:14

    I have so much to say! I remember this skirt from last year and I LOVED it, so I am happy for the repeat. It is SO festive and apropos for Christmas. I love the matching scarf this year. While the mask that also matches, I can't see, myself, paying $55 for a mask when all I want to do is BURN it when this is all over ;).
    I think Kate's face has looked fuller this tour. Her hair is in my very favorite style, so another yippee from me!

    I thought of something happy for the world today. Next Christmas will look different than this one, in a GOOD way! That is really something to look forward to. So here's to the last Christmas of things looking bleak! Hip, Hip, Hooray!

  11. I agree. This combo was superb. Better than all the other outfits that she wore the pieces with in my opinion.

  12. I’ve tried really hard to focus on Kate’s missions rather than what she wears, but red IS my favorite color and Kate looks fantastic.

  13. Oh this skirt is one of my all time favourites and combined with the red coat it’s perfection. What a festive and appropriate thank you all over the UK on this three day whirlwind. Thanks Charlotte once again.

  14. I love the tartan ! Thanks Charlotte for covering every engagement on their trip.

  15. The Lady in red... HRH looks stunning in red and tartan.. Great work being done by William and Catherine. After reading about the support phone calls the Duchess was making, I'd guess we don't know half of the work that they both do.

  16. The winner is...Queen Elizabeth in red!

    I also love Kate's tartan and red, and the green coat with 'fur' trim was also a very good look.

    Thanks again for taking us on this brief journey, full of good cheer as it was, Charlotte.

  17. oh i love the duchess recycle all her outfit these far my favorite things she will and prince william would ve a great king and queen monarch one day


Comments are most welcome! Constructive discussion is always encouraged but off topic or hateful remarks will not be published.

We ask you use a name when posting (a pseudonym such as the name of a royal you like or anything you wish). If you do not wish to use the sign in options, simply select the "Name/URL" option on the drop down menu and insert your name, and if you wish the country/state you're from. You can leave the URL blank.

If there are a large number of comments, it is necessary to click the 'Load More' button at the end of the comments section to see the latest additions.

Kate's Favourites