He has laid wreaths for fallen servicemen and women around the world. But on a somber Sunday morning, a stone’s throw from Westminster’s Houses of Parliament, Prince Harry made a very special new tribute to his colleagues in the military.
Looking down on him and William, from a balcony above Whitehall, was Princess Kate, 33, who stood with Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, 44, Princess Anne’s husband Tim Laurence and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
Some of those older veterans were in the spotlight again Sunday morning. Aging military men and women stood to attention if they could as the silent tribute stilled the normally busy London streets.
Of course, there are fewer days that can be like this, as the years since the two World Wars add up and the number of surviving veterans dwindles. It is now 101 years since the start of WWI, the conflict that spawned the tradition of wearing bright red poppies on coats in the first weeks of November each year.
But among those older former servicemen was Prince Philip who, at 94, is a WWII hero himself. As he so often is at these occasions, he was standing ram-rod straight, close to his wife of nearly 68 years.
The Queen had arrived from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office building on Whitehall, accompanied by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who had been invited by the Queen to commemorate the liberation of Holland 70 years ago.
After the bell of Big Ben had chimed at 11a.m, followed by a two minute silence and the playing of the Last Post, the Queen, 89, stepped forward to lay the first wreath. Moments later, King Willem-Alexander, 48, followed. Then came Prince Philip, and then William, 33, Harry, 31, and Prince Andrew, 55, (who have all served in the military) placed their floral tributes together, taking a few steps back and saluting.
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Once the senior politicians had paid their respects, the National Anthem was sung and the royal party departed. William, in his long Royal Air Force gray coat, then headed to Horse Guards parade to take the salute of the passing 10,500 former servicemen and women who were marching past and down Whitehall.
Earlier in the week, Harry and his grandfather laid tiny crosses among the poppies and flower arrangements at Westminster Abbey’s Garden of Remembrance.
Last year, Kate watched from the balcony alongside her mother-in-law Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, as William laid a wreath with his grandmother and other leading figures at the Cenotaph. This year Camilla and Prince Charles were absent as they continue their tour Down Under.
William also helped start the reflective week by attending a ceremony for submariners in London on November 1.