Prince William and Kate Middleton are kicking off their second day of spreading Christmas cheer to military families!
The royal couple touched down in Cyprus on Wednesday after arriving on an early morning flight from the U.K. via a Royal Air Force Voyager jet.
The visit came just hours after the couple helped Queen Elizabeth entertain members of the diplomatic service at the annual white-tie holiday party at Buckingham Palace. The evening-to-morning transition meant a stark wardrobe change for Kate: from shimmery holiday glamour last night to wide-legged pants (what would the Queen say?) and fitted blazer today.
William and Kate, both 36, started their day on the Mediterranean island by speaking to personnel from several different squadrons.
“At any given moment, in every corner of the world, the men and women of the U.K. military can be found working to protect our country’s security and interests,” William said in a speech thanking the service members on the base, where serving personnel are working to defeat ISIS. “All of this work is done without fanfare. You don’t seek praise for your contribution … But as we approach Christmas, Catherine and I feel strongly that praise for your work and recognition of your sacrifices is exactly what is due to you all. From my time in uniform, we both know a bit of what it feels like to balance your work commitments with your family life.”
Scott Stewart, a father of three and a communications specialist with No. 903 Expeditionary Air Wing, spoke to William and Kate as they visited an aircraft hanger on the base shortly after arriving.
“Having William and Kate here is a massive boost for everyone here,” he said. “As a former serviceman himself, [William] spoke to us about how he understands it’s hard being away from our families.
“Kate said how she thought time means so much, especially in the early years, so it great to have them recognize the sacrifices that we are all making here. I’m lucky enough to be going home for Christmas but many people won’t be.”
Another soldier from 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment said it was “important” the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took the time to travel to the base.
“We’ve just come back from three months in Afghanistan, where we were stationed in Kabul and now we are waiting to go home again in two weeks,” said Jesse, who declined to give his last name. “To meet the future King of England is a huge deal for a lot of people here and it’s really appreciated.
“William said everyone back home appreciates what we do, and as a former serviceman himself you get the feeling he really understands.”
At the sergeant’s mess, the couple will take part in a Christmas reception — and help deliver presents from families they entertained on Tuesday, when they welcomed around 200 people to Kensington Palace’s Orangery for a party for families of serving RAF members abroad at Christmas. Some of those families have relatives based at the RAF Akrotiri base on Cyprus, where William and Kate visited today.
At that party, Kate delivered a personal speech recounting her own experience as a military wife when William served in the Royal Air Force. She told the families that she and William value the “sacrifices you make on a daily basis on behalf of the nation.”
“As someone whose husband has served, I know how hard it feels when a loved one leaves home to do the job they’ve trained for,” Kate shared. “I can’t imagine how it feels when your loved ones are away on active service over Christmas or at those special family moments.”
“The absence of people you love must be especially hard at this time of year.”