Friday, 7 May 2021

The Duchess of Cambridge Celebrates the Release of Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020

It was a busy Friday for the Duchess of Cambridge as she celebrated the official release of Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation in 2020 with several engagements and activities in London. The poignant and timely book reached number one in Amazon UK's best sellers chart yesterday - with copies arriving in homes all over the country and much farther away today.

When the project was announced last year, I was very hopeful a book was in the planning. It must be an incredibly exciting day for Kate, the team at the National Portrait Gallery and the chosen 100 whose images are now a part of history.

The day began outside Kensington Palace in the sunshine.

The Duchess, judges from the project, finalists and a team from Book Fairies left free copies all over the UK at places that gave them hope during lockdown. Each copy is wrapped in gold ribbon with a free copy sticker and a letter from Kate.

The Duchess wrote to lucky finders: "Once you have finished looking through the book, please leave it somewhere else in your community for the next person to enjoy."

Then the Book Fairies got to work...

They were left in unexpected places.

And places of great significance. One fairy shared, "Seeing the Cathedral closed during lockdown, at a surreal time when it was hard to come to terms with things, somehow felt like a final goodbye to our dear Father, Grandfather and Great-Grandfather at the great age of 100 years."

In Putney, Arnhel de Serra hid a copy in his local area.

Arnhel's photo 'Everyday Heroes' was among the most popular in the exhibition -- a local postman cheering up those on his round in fancy dress. He said of the image: "When I drove past Richard I had to do a double-take, as I couldn't believe he was out on his postman’s round in fancy dress. I asked if I could photograph him, and over a few days we got to know each other. Given the doomsday scenario that the media were portraying in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt very strongly that here was a man who had something deeply personal and positive to offer his community. Is it an earth shattering news story? Probably not. As a human interest story however, I feel that his generosity of spirit should be celebrated, and I am delighted that he will be part of this very important project."

I love this photo of a copy left among flowers.

Outside the National Portrait Gallery.

The West Lothian fairies chose their nearest vaccination centre.

A copy left in this peaceful setting in Oxford.

One very happy lady found a copy at Forth Valley Hospital.

The Duchess' first engagement saw her visit Royal London Hospital to hear how art is commissioned for its Vital Arts service. She viewed a framed portrait of 'Melanie'. Kate and the National Portrait Gallery gifted the piece and it will go on display in the hospital's main corridor.

Hello! reports: "The Duchess said: 'It's become really iconic, hasn't it? Some of them had really powerful stories behind them and this one really stood out. I spoke to Johannah and she was so, 'this is not about me, it’s about the people who I represent'. She was so humble about it.'"

Kate participated in a discussion with staff.

More from Hello!:

'She sat down with a range of staff to chat about their experiences during the pandemic and asked: "How you all doing? I know hospitals are busy places but the extra pressure of Covid… How’s the mood now?"

She was told morale was good and was shown examples of photographs taken by staff from Barts Health NHS Trust to document this period in history.'

Kate was given a copy of the book Oh No, George by Chris Haughton for the children and remarked, "That's very appropriate!" She viewed prints and pictures and said Charlotte would love a glittery image she saw.

From there, Kate visited the National Portrait Gallery's archive.

The visit followed news the final 100 images from Hold Still will form part of the NPG's national collection, ensuring their place in the gallery's history.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery told the Mail: "The public response to Hold Still, which was spearheaded by our Patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, has been phenomenal. The photographs submitted have helped to create a unifying and cathartic portrait of life in lockdown. We are honoured to have been able to share a selection of these photographs with the nation, first through the online and community exhibition and now through this new publication. The proceeds raised from the book will help us to continue to care for and share our national Collection and to provide free access, inspiration and learning, through the work we do at the Gallery and our UK wide community and education projects." Proceeds from the book will be shared between the NPG and the UK's leading mental health charity, Mind.

Hello!'s Emily Nash has been on the button today with up-to-the-minute reports and revealed Kate spent time at the gallery with finalists Naz Maleknia and Claudia Burton. She praised their work: "These are personal moments you have captured, and it's a great thing to share them with the world."

Now, a look at Kate's outfit from today.

The Duchess was stylish in a vibrant orange coat dress from Eponine London's Autumn/Winter 2018 collection (with thanks to Laura). The wool crepe coat features a mandarin collar and three-quarter length sleeves.

Middleton Maven suggests Kate's skirt is a past season ZARA piece.

Kate's gorgeous new handbag is by DeMellier London (with thanks to LadyPark79). 

The £295 Nano Montreal in deep toffee smooth is described as a "petite structured cross-body bag with a removable/adjustable cross-body strap and tubular top handle".

The styles come in an array of colours. Below, the Nano Montreal in black.

The brand has a special charitable mission entitled 'A Bag, A Life', and each purchase helps to provide vaccines at a critical time for countries all over the world.  A note from founder Mireia Llusia-Lindh:

'A Bag, A Life is a permanent initiative that is very close to my heart and part of DeMellier's DNA as much as our aim to create beautiful yet attainable products and to cherish all the smart and very special women around the world.

As a mother, aunt and godmother, I struggle to come to terms with the endless void that the loss of a child creates. Some of us are incredibly lucky to have been born or raised in countries where we get the best available medical care.

Millions of children don't have the same luck and are dying from preventable diseases at a terrifying rate. For every item you purchase, DeMellier funds lifesaving vaccines and medical treatments aimed to save the life of a child in need, in collaboration with international children's charity SOS CHILDREN'S VILLAGES and local vaccine providers. The funds are administered in countries such as Somalia, where currently 1 in 6 children do not live to see their 6th birthday. So far we have funded over 170,000 vaccines and treatments and I can’t thank you enough for your help with this cause.'
Of course, you'll remember SOS Children's Villages was central to the Cambridges' tour of Pakistan. They were so impressed they went back a second time.

The Duchess wore her Ralph Lauren Celia pumps.

And accessorised with her Mappin & Webb Empress earrings.

It's wonderful to see so many 'Book Fairies' around the country. There's very much been a sense of a gradual return to normality now ahead of summer. When Kate and the NPG began work on this project, the UK was in the throes of a very frightening and uncertain time. Now a year later, as the book is released, we look to brighter days thanks to the vaccination programme. The book is a record of the darkest days we all experienced, the hope we held on to, the resilience of children, the courage and bravery of our everyday heroes, and the importance of every moment with loved ones. If considering purchasing an extra copy of Hold Still, you too can become a Book Fairy. Click here to find out more. Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 is available on the NPG's website and Amazon.


  1. Tammy from California7 May 2021 at 17:16

    I LOOOOOOVE this! I am a subtle person, so I like the Duchess' way of leaving it around for people to find!

    1. Tammy that's a great way to describe this gesture, subtle, but with great meaning.

  2. Love this approach to sharing. I have seen this done before. It is very exciting to find a treasure. Kate looks fabulous today in her fashion statement. I hope she is on a new path in this particular area. I would like to see about six inches off her hair, it is a little to much for my taste.

  3. What an absolutely beautiful collaborative effort! The idea of leaving books around in places where people found inspiration to be found by others, and that it be passed on and carried forward is wonderful, I am very moved by this entire project. It's like every participant brings a piece of their experience to share, making this truly memorable for all. There are bits of everybody's story in this book. Can't really articulate how much this touches me for many, many reasons, love the photos of where the books have been placed, and particularly of Kate placing hers. Thank you for such a beautiful post Charlotte!

  4. Is it just me or are things a little different, more exciting PR-wise, lately? I love the hiding of the books, although I would be hard-pressed to let mine go without keeping the letter and ribbon. Love Kate's coat, pointy shoes, and cool bag!

    1. The thought crossed my mind about the PR. Whoever is coordinating things for Will and Kate is doing a fabulous job. I wouldn't doubt that a lot of it comes from Kate herself. She is a very smart and compassionate soul.

    2. As sad as it is, I think it was always planned for William and Catherine to step up their exposure once Philip passed. I'm hoping they will go on some wonderful post-COVID tours this year. Pakistan was amazing!

    3. I am loving the new approach to PR. They have done some really fun, interesting things recently with regards to their social media. Imagine finding the book that Catherine left! How exciting!!

      Hope from USA

    4. Sheila I agree abdolutely. I think it might be Kate's effort to "do more". I'll explain - she knows she couldn't outnumber Anne or Charles or William 's numbers of engagements, so she decided to make up for it by doing highly personal and hands on projects. She isn't going for quantity kf engagements but quality. Very smart and I think it gives her some extra time for her kids.

  5. Zora from Prague7 May 2021 at 17:58

    Thank you for the wonderful post, Charlotte!
    IMO, this is one of Kate's best initiatives EVER. The amazing idea, taken to heart by so many, the careful choice of the photographs by the judges, the growing public awareness thanks to billboards and the online exhibition, and finally the book - how much thought and planning the whole project must have taken! It's a priceless book, a true testimony to an incredibly difficult moment in history. Plus, the idea of distributing the free copies with the help of "book fairies" and the sense of sharing it among local communities - it couldn't have been done in a better or gentler way!
    I ordered it about two months ago and can't wait for it to arrive.
    Off-topic - Kate looks gorgeous! :)

    1. +1 Zora. Well said. Also anxiously awaiting arrival of book and may have to print a copy of Catherine's letter and put it inside when it arrives!!! :)

  6. That was a worthwhile and memorable project. The book fairies idea is refreshingly exemplary, and in fact tells additional story of place and time as the collection moves from one location to another, on and on. Link in through the book, and pass it along to the next person (in a way technically like holding hands in a maze?)

  7. Brilliant in every way! Bravo Kate!

  8. I saw that it was number #1 on amazon france too and sold out. Wow!

  9. Such class with ❤️!!!

  10. I loved the photography project when it was introduced and was even more thrilled when the book was announced. This is a project that will be meaningful forever. Well done to Catherine and the entire team.
    On the fashion front, I NEED that handbag!

  11. What a beautiful gesture of Dss Kate, to put the book in places, where people can look at it. This indeed was a very trying year for all of us, for some more then others. The best to everyone and stay healthy. I love the coat she is wearing, this red looks great on her.

  12. Love this. The entire project is so thoughtful and very well done. Catherine looks fabulous in that coat, skirt, shoes and bag. The bag is gorgeous, and the company has a great line. I would need a bigger bag:).

  13. So excited about this! The book is marvelous but I LOVE the Book Fairies! I follow them in Instagram. So fun to see the collaboration.

  14. Thank you Charlotte for the interesting post. From its inception this has been such an important project- the pictorial documentation of a nation in a time of great crisis. Catherine will be remembered for many things but this is for me her greatest and lasting achievement.

    Like the great wars of the last century Covid has taken but it has also given and changed things forever. The last war catapulted women into the general workforce and began the journey to employment choice and equality. Covid made us retreat, consider things and changed for ever the rhythm and expectation of life as it was. It gave the Queen for the first time in her married life a year with Phillip without the incessant engagement and work load. It has allowed her to slow down and for Charles to quietly step up into his future role without constant scrutiny and headlines and comment on abdication and the like. It has allowed us to become used to Camilla and see her strengths and what she will contribute to the nation without the comparisons to a young charismatic Diana. I am really enjoying her reading room. It has also allowed William and Kate to grow and develop their roles in the technological world of the 21st century again without the barrage of opinion and criticism of change, which will help them navigate their future work load. I think the Family have done their Nation proud.

  15. I should have also said that I am eagerly awaiting my copy of the book

  16. Susan in Florida7 May 2021 at 22:36

    I love the Book Fairies ! I agree with Zora that this is the Duchess best project. It will stay in history. Thank you Charlotte for all the photos and the fashion . I love the handbag.

  17. So..... nice idea. I think the book is a great way to portrait the last year.
    Fashionwise, I am not sold. The coat seems to be too short on the arms (just a few centimetres) a d too long at the seam. And while I think Kate looks great in colour, this particular shade is not the best match. Shoes and skirt look promising. But the worst thing is the bag. Those micro bags are so bad. I wish she would just go back to a clutch. There is no one that looks in any way professional with that joke of a bag (and I mean all of them). Maybe Elle Woods.

  18. What a poignant and remarkable way to chronicle how life has been with COVID! The project and the distribution via Book Fairies is unprecedented. Hat's off to Kate for such a real and humanistic project.

  19. C. The coat sleeves are designed to be 3/4 length, so they hit Catherine as designed. The color is very hard to decipher in photos. but I thought the color looked great even though I realize the actual color maybe different from what I see in published photos. The small bag I think is great, I have some small purses that I use for a few outings. I love the bag, and I find clutches nice but really prefer in general bags with handles or straps, but I use clutches, shoulder bags, cross body and short handle purses. She has an assistant and really only needs a few items if any in the bags she carries. I am sure her assistant and in her car she has all the extras:))

  20. This is such a great project. Thoughtful and moving. Lovely Kate - and she looks great in red 😀

  21. HRH's choice of vibrant red is a milestone rich with meaning: there is hope as vaccination expands. HRH was very cautious in her choice of muted colors throughout the pandemic. We are nowhere near the end, esp. as places like India are being torn apart....but there is some measure of hope, esp. in the UK, Europe and the US.


  23. Love everything about this, except the coat sleeves! They don't look 3/4 length, just too short! But that's unimportant in the general scheme of things; the book is such an important artwork for future generations to understand the feel of these strange times.
    Sarah UK

  24. I really like this project and how it's been launched. I wouldn't have known that a book was placed in Chichester (my home town) if it wasn't for the pictures in this post! I don't love Catherine's outfit on this occasion - I think she suits almost all colours but not this one and I'd have preferred it to be shorter. But, it's always wonderful to see her regardless! Wishing her every success with the book.

  25. What a beautiful book. I don’t normally buy books. I download them but the other night my 19 year old daughter was stunned to learn about 9/11 terrorist attack in America. She new about it but not the magnitude of it all. She was really upset and wondered why it wasn’t taught at school in history. We live in Australia 🇦🇺. This book had me thinking about grandchildren which are still a fair way away and I thought I definitely should buy it. It is so important that the magnitude of human suffering is never forgotten and lessons learned. Thankyou Catherine for this opportunity.

    1. What a great idea Anon 04:44! It is important to take these moments to teach our children. I was a very little girl when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and while I didn't understand the magnitude at the time, I remember the feeling from the adults around me. We didn't have much monetarily, but my mother bought a book called 'The Torch Has Passed' and inside the cover she taped articles and a JFK half dollar, it is very poignant and meant a great deal to her. I still have that book and only recently went through it with my son who finally was able to come visit; it felt like she was there to share the moment with us. Definitely buy the book if you can, while sometimes the past is dark, there is much to learn and share.

  26. Brilliant. Catherine does everything with so much style and grace.

  27. Well the duchess has simple and genuine heart with the grace and loving and pure heart

  28. Mariza from NZ11 May 2021 at 20:54

    Love the engagement. From a fashion perspective: love the silhouette and the shoe combination. However I don’t think the colour of the coat suits Kate’s colouring.


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