The royal couple stepped out for their first joint outing of 2020 — just days after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's shocking exit

By Erin Hill and Simon Perry
January 15, 2020 07:29 AM
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Even in the midst of crisis, the royal family keep calm and carry on!

Just days after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their shocking exit as senior members of the royal family, Prince William and Kate Middleton stepped out for their first joint outing of 2020.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge traveled to Bradford on Wednesday to visit a number of community projects in one of the U.K.’s most diverse cities. They appeared to the chimes of bells from the city hall, which dominates Centenary Square.

Kate wore a dress by Zara and a long green coat by Alexander McQueen — her wedding dress designer. She accentuated her signature bouncy blowout with earrings by Zeen, which she wore during the couple’s tour of Pakistan in the fall.

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One royal fan stationed near the couple’s drop-off spot tells PEOPLE, “They looked really happy.”

Rukhsar Parveebn, 20, a politics student from Leeds, says that there was no hint from the couple of the internal turmoil of recent days. “[William] didn’t let it show that the drama had been going on,” she tells PEOPLE. “I love the royal family and I was really impressed with him.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton
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Dawn Eaton, 55, from Huddersfield – who said she had gone to London for the funeral of William’s mother Princess Diana 22 years ago – says that William “seemed okay” despite the upheavals of the week.

Adds Julie Astbury, 52: “He has got to carry on, business as usual. His mother was always my favorite and we have gone on to William and Harry and their children. It’s sad. But we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.”

Kate MiddlKate Middleton
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Prince William
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The royal couple will first visit City Hall to join a group of young people from across the community to hear about life in Bradford. They will then meet representatives from local employers and businesses who are helping young people into employment.

The royal couple also toured the kitchen of MyLahore’s flagship restaurant, British Asian restaurant chain which has taken inspiration from Lahore, the Food Capital of Pakistan where Kate and William visited Lahore during their recent tour of Pakistan. They had some laughs blending and tasting Kulfi milkshakes.

Kate Middleton
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Prince William and Kate Middleton
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William and Kate’s appearance comes just two days after William traveled to Sandringham for a family summit with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince Harry to discuss Harry and Meghan’s decision to step down as senior royals. Kate was not present at the summit— nor was Charles’s wife, Camilla, or Prince Philip, all of whom, like Kate, married into the family. She remained in London with her three kids.

Prince William and Kate Middleton
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After a 90-minute discussion, the Queen released the following statement: “Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family,” the Queen said in a statement. “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.

“Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives. It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK. These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”

Kate Middleton
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Prince William
Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty
Kate Middleton
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The stunningly personal statement—issued by the woman with the world’s stiffest upper lip— was just the latest breathtaking development in a crisis unlike any other the royal family has encountered in modern history. “We’ve never seen a statement like that from the Queen,” royal biographer Ingrid Seward tells PEOPLE. “But we’ve never had a situation like this.”

A family friend tells PEOPLE that the couple felt they had no choice but to manage things the way they did, even as they went against the family’s “never complain, never explain” mantra.

“This is not how they wanted to handle this, but Meghan and Harry’s hand was forced,” says the friend. “There is so much bad blood in that family — it’s toxic.”

The friend adds, “If relationships had been better, things would have been different.”

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
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Some of the division between Prince Harry and Prince William can be traced back to the early days of Harry and Meghan’s romance, when, sources say, William cautioned Harry about moving too fast. Harry opened up about his relationship with his brother in the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, saying: “Inevitably stuff happens. But we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment.”

Meghan is currently with the couple’s 8-month-old son Archie on Canada’s Vancouver Island, where they have been staying since late November. Harry is set to reunite with them after he hosts the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draws for the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.