William, 31, and Kate, 32, were at Arromanches, Normandy, meeting World War II veterans who had returned to northern France to remember the Allied invasion.
Speaking at the service of commemoration at Gold Beach, the prince said it was a “great honor” to be there. “Catherine and I were privileged to meet the veterans present that great and terrible day,” he added.
Poignantly, he said that the anniversary was also about “my generation and younger whose connection to the events are largely through the history books.”
William, who wore his medals given to him by Queen Elizabeth for his service to her in her Gold and Diamond Jubilee years, added, “It is vital that this sacrifice, and the reasons for this sacrifice, are never forgotten by our generation and generations to come.”
The day had begun with Queen Elizabeth and President Obama and other world leaders gathering along the coast to pay their tribute to the service and sacrifice of so many.
The battles of June 1944 were led to the liberation of France from Nazi occupation and the end of WWII the following year. More than 150,000 servicemen in 2,300 craft landed on five beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword – beginning with paratroopers who descended from the skies just after midnight.
Earlier in the day the royal couple had attended a tea party for veterans at Arromanches. At one point William bent to his knees to talk with seated veterans, while a smiling Kate, 32, got a surprise when one of the veterans flirted with her.
As she sat down to talk to Arthur Jones he asked her, “Is it okay to kiss a princess?”
“Of course it is,” she replied with a laugh, which prompted the 88-year-old to plant one on her cheek.
William spotted the encounter and came over to tease the pair. “As the prince left he said to me, ‘Were you chatting up my wife?’ ” Jones told reporters. “I told him I only gave her a kiss! William laughed but I’m chuffed I’ve chatted up a princess. I bet I’ll be picked up now and taken to the Tower of London.”
He said it was an unforgettable moment. “It was a lovely kiss,” said Jones. “I lost my wife 10 years ago, and I’m on my own now, so I don’t get many opportunities for kisses any more.”
Earlier, the Queen had praised the sacrifice made by the troops. In the official brochure of the event, she wrote, “Hundreds of thousands of servicemen made the journey across the Channel by sea and air, and through their brave actions and dogged determination, established a vital foothold in occupied Europe. This immense and heroic endeavor brought the end of the Second World War within reach.
“I am sure that these commemorations will provide veterans of the conflict and their families gathered here in France, along with their hosts, the people of Normandy, with an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and the incredible sacrifices that were made.”
The events attended by the royals began a day earlier, when Prince Charles and Camilla met parachute regiment veterans, including Jock Hutton, 89, who took part in a tandem jump yesterday – 70 years after he leapt from a plane over Normandy.