Monday, 5 December 2016

The Duchess' December: Meeting with the Scouts, Royal Festivities & Christmas Plans!

December is here and the festive season is officially upon us! I always greatly look forward to writing our annual pre-Christmas post as it often signals the beginning of the season for me. I love everything about Christmas, especially preparing for the festivities and the wonderfully dependable traditions surrounding the event. I had intended this post to be completed over the weekend, but got rather carried away decorating. A friend told me there was quite the debate at her house when her five-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son both decided they would take on the very important task of putting the angel on the tree. With neither willing to concede it was decided both would be lifted up at the same time and do it together. :)

Have you got into the spirit yet and begun preparations? As you can see, Kensington Palace is very much prepared with beautifully lit trees.

I mentioned my love of tradition, and it's always lovely to see the same gatherings and events annually within the Royal family. Before we discuss that let's begin with a look at the Duchess' plans for December that we know of - beginning with an engagement announced earlier today. On Wednesday, 14 December, Kate will attend a special Cub Scout Pack meeting with Cubs from the King's Lynn District to celebrate 100 years of Cubs. King's Lynn is a twenty-minute drive from the Cambridges' country home Anmer Hall.

Rebecca English Twitter Feed

Kensington Palace noted: "Her Royal Highness will join the pack as they take part in games and activities themed around looking after yourself and others physically and emotionally. Activities will include a parachute game to encourage teamwork and cooperation, first aid training and ‘Cub cake’ icing. They will then join together to renew their Cub Scout promise and celebrate the Cubs' 100th anniversary with the lighting of 100 candles and a rendition of 'Happy Birthday'." Cub Scouting was co-founded by Robert Baden-Powell and Vera Barclay on 16th December 1916. The anniversary year, called Cubs100, started with a special camp for Cub Scouts from across the UK at London Zoo. During William and Kate's time in Anglesey, North Wales, the Duchess was a volunteer with the Scouts and has carried out several engagements with the group.

On Monday, 19 December, William, Kate and Harry will will join an annual general meeting and Heads Together Christmas party hosted by youth support service The Mix, to celebrate the volunteers and counsellors who support people through tough times in their lives. The Duchess will join a live online chat about counselling with volunteers and young people from around the UK. Meanwhile, William and Harry will each join a group breakout session where counsellors and volunteers will share knowledge and get training on dealing with a range of issues, with a focus on supporting people who are suicidal and helping young people coping with homelessness. They will then join a celebration Christmas Party reception where they will mingle with volunteers who support people through tough times in their lives. During the party, the royals will kick off The Mix Annual Awards by presenting the Volunteer of the Year Award. Guests will include Heads Together charity partners - a very nice engagement before Christmas.

In terms of other engagements Kate may have in December, I expect there are more to be announced. There is a possibility the Cambridges will attend the annual Diplomatic Reception this year. The glittering white-tie gala is an incredibly important night on the royal calendar with Her Majesty throwing the event in honour of over 170 foreign missions accredited to the court of St James. Thus far, William and Kate have attended in 2013 and 2015. The reception generally takes place on a Tuesday in early December, which would make tomorrow a potential date for the private event.

Last year the Duke and Duchess released a lovely family photo for Christmas. The photo showed the Duke and Duchess with their smiling children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and was taken among the autumn leaves at Kensington Palace in late October 2015. The Palace said the photograph was commissioned for their own use, but that the couple decided to make it public because they liked it so much. Will we see another relaxed family snap this year?

Kensington Palace Twitter Feed

A definite on the calendar is Her Majesty's Christmas luncheon, which takes place on Tuesday, 20 December. It's a lovely gathering for the Royal family and a nice opportunity to spend time with those who will not be joining them for Christmas. We can expect to see the usual arrival/departure photos and a glimpse of George and Charlotte in the car, too. The Duchess usually opts for a festive red dress.

Afterwards, the Queen and Prince Philip will depart for Sandringham where they will host 25 to 30 relatives over the festive period. The Queen is said to love a full house and following another successful year for the family there is much to celebrate. Zara Tindall, the Queen's grandduaghter, announced she is expecting her second child earlier this week.  A look at the guestlist from 2011.

Mail Online

Majestic Sandringham is a country house on 20,000 acres of land. It has been the private home of four generations of sovereigns since 1862. It has played host to Her Majesty's festivities since the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992, and she remains there from mid-December to February each year. It's a real retreat for the royals, affording them privacy and plenty of space to pursue their love of the outdoors.

Christmas at Sandringham is a family-filled day with the formality one would expect. A detailed round-up of the Christmas Eve itinerary:

On Christmas Eve, more than twenty-five royals will join the Queen and Prince Philip at Sandringham. Timed arrivals are very much observed; most junior royals first, most senior royals last - and all are expected to be prompt. Guests will be ushered to their rooms, furnished in the post-war Spartan style, and including two bar electric fires and blankets. By early afternoon, everyone will be in attendance.
At 4 pm, following a change of clothes, the family gathers in the White Drawing Room for Earl Grey tea, cakes, home-made scones and a chat. At this point, the Queen encourages the younger royals to add decorations and finishing touches to the tree - a Norfolk spruce taken from the estate. In fact, the Queen adores Christmas trees and has one in each room. The Master of the Household then gives each member a timetable and room plan, so they know where to be and when, during their stay. The Queen will then give the go ahead for gifts to be presented and opened. They are not opened on Christmas Day, as the Queen adheres to strict observance of the religious festival. Trestle tables are laid out in the nearby Red Drawing Room, with sections marked off showing each family member's gifts, laid out in order of precedence.
Afterwards they will all move through to the hall for Martinis and cider. Then it's back to their rooms for baths and another change of clothes. After a gong at 8 p.m. guests emerge for dinner. Men will be dressed in black tie, while the women will be draped in full-length gowns and dazzling jewels. Pre-drinks will be served before the royals enjoy a candlelit three-course meal which will most likely consist of lamb or locally sourced game. Once dinner is finished, the women move to another room for coffee, whilst the men enjoy liqueurs. That concludes Christmas eve, at which point the royals will be off for a good night's sleep before the day ahead.

How will the Cambridges spend Christmas Day this year? Like many couples they try to strike a balance, tending to alternate with both families. For Kate's first Christmas as a royal in 2011, they enjoyed the day with the Royal family. There's always a fantastic turnout at St Mary's church and it was an excellent opportunity for the new Duchess to meet locals after the service.

The following year, in 2012, William and Kate opted to celebrate with the Middletons at their home in Bucklebury. Kate was expecting Prince George and had recently been hospitalised with Hyperemesis gravidarum. Still feeling quite poorly, it was reported Kate wanted to spend her last Christmas before motherhood with her family.

New parents William and Kate held hands as they made their way to church in 2013. They spent the day with the Royal family at Sandringham. Kate looked impeccably stylish in a black watch plaid McQueen coat and her favourite Aquatalia boots.

2014 was a particularly speical one for the couple as they hosted Christmas at their newly refurbished and redecorated country home, Anmer Hall. The couple found the perfect way to celebrate with both families - reportedly enjoying a sumptuous dinner and opening gifts at Sandringham on Chritmas Eve before spending Christmas Day with the Middletons at Anmer.

Last year, the Cambridges joined the Royal family once again for Princess Charlotte's first christmas. A royal source told the Express "they wanted to give staff the day off. The royals are like any other family and face the same dilemmas with in-laws. As William and Kate spent the day with the Middletons last year it was only fair that they switched plans this year. They will be able to relax and some of their staff will be able to take time off and see their own families. Last year crowds waiting outside St Mary Magdalene church on Christmas morning were disappointed not to see Prince George and Kate told onlookers: 'I’m sorry we didn’t bring him but you would have heard him in church.'"

As the Cambridges have very much stuck to their tradition of alternating, one would expect they plan to spend the day with the Middletons this year - likely hosting it once again at Anmer Hall. It's a very special time for the family with planning underway for Pippa Middleton's pending nuptials to James Matthews next year. Will we see George and Charlotte join their parents for the walk to church? Last year, Rebecca English was told that "wouldn't be the case until they are much older". No doubt the little Prince and Princess will be busy enjoying whatever presents Santa left in their stockings :)

Should they elect to celebrate at Anmer, following church the group will enjoy a traditional christmas lunch with all the trimmings, perhaps an afternoon stroll, and then a relaxing evening filled with games and television specials.

Anmer is likely a hub of activity at the moment, as in many homes, with preparations for Christmas in full swing. In her book Celebrate, Pippa Middleton recalled fond childhood memories: "When I was a child, my December weekends were spent making cards, decorating the tree, hanging the wreath and preparing brandy butter and peppermint creams. Bowls brimming with walnuts, shiny wrapped chocolates and piles of clementines would appear around the house. There was always a distnctive smell, too; pine and cinnamon and heady scent of mulled wine and pomanders that merged into one festive bouquet. No matter how much we may adapt other customs, come December, we tend to repeat our own familiar customs year on year."

Privately, William and Kate will have several celebratory events planned, including a staff luncheon with more than twenty guests. The couple have a close-knit team of aides surrounding them and it's a nice opportunity to enjoy the festive period. In previous years, the chosen location has been South Kensington eatery Bumpkin. As you can see below, the restaurant has embraced the season already.

...And so much so they created a heated winter garden at their Chelsea venue.

In 2014, Kate took George for a festive surprise in Thursford, near Anmer Hall. The Christmas spectacular is the largest Christmas show in the country and a wonderful family day out. Set in the magical surroundings of mechanical organs and fairground carousels, with a cast of a hundred and thirty professional singers, dancers and musicians – many of whom are West End performers. The three-hour performance delivers an extravaganza of non-stop singing, dancing, music, humour and variety. It’s a fast moving celebration of the festive season featuring an eclectic mix of both seasonal and year-round favourites, with famous and much-loved chart toppers being sung alongside traditional carols. There are opportunities to meet Santa and his elves, too.

Have you ever wanted to see William and Kate in matching Christmas jumpers? Madame Tussauds in London has done just that as part of a 'Christmas jumper fundraiser' for Save the Children UK. A very nice seasonal touch in aid of a wonderful cause. Even the Queen's Corgi's are getting in on the act :)

Before we conclude, I thought I'd share a quick and easy recipe for a classic favourite Christmas drink from Pippa's Celebrate. Mulled Wine is very popular in Britian, but for those in other parts of the world, do you serve it for Christmas? The beverage, of European origins, is usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

Pippa wrote:

Peel 4 oranges and set aside the peel. Juice the oranges into a bowl, then stud the orange peel with 20 cloves. Pour two bottles of fruity red wine, such as Merlot, into a saucepan with a pinch of ground ginger and 4 cinnamon sticks, then add the orange peel and orange juice. Measure out 140g soft brown sugar and add a little at a time - the amount of sugar you need depends on how sweet you like your mulled wine, so taste as you go. Simmer gently for 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves (do not allow to boil) and serve warm. Serves 8.

And with all that festive talk, I'm off to ask my other half to jazz up the blog with a few sparkly touches! :)

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Cambridges Join Memorial Service for the Duke of Westminster

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined several members of the Royal family to pay tribute to the sixth Duke of Westminster at a memorial service this afternoon.

Over 2,000 mourners were in attendance at Chester Cathedral including close friends, relatives, dignitaries and representatives from the numerous charities he supported.

The Duke, Gerald Grosvenor passed away due to a heart attack in August, aged 64. His wife Natalia is Prince William's godmother and he has served as something of a mentor to the future king. When it came to choosing Prince George's godparents, William and Kate chose his son Hugh Grosvenor. At just 25 he has now become the seventh Duke of Westminster. The Cambridges used the Duke's jet several times, most recently for their summer holiday with George and Charlotte in France.

Below, Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh Duke of Westminster with his sister Lady Viola Grosvenor.

And Hugh pictured with his mother Natalia (William's godmother).

More from the Telegraph's story:

'At the time of his death the landowner was worth around $10.8 billion (£8.65 billion) according to Forbes, making him the 68th richest person in the world, and third in the UK. He owned 190 acres in Belgravia, adjacent to Buckingham Palace and one of London's most expensive areas, as well as thousands of acres in Scotland and Spain. In 1973, when he was 22, he became trustee of the Grosvenor Estate and was forced to abandon his dream of a career as a professional soldier in his uncle's regiment, the 9th/12th Lancers. He instead signed up to the Territorial Army and in 1994 received an OBE for his work as a volunteer soldier. When his father Robert died in 1979, he became the sixth Duke of Westminster aged just 27.
He succeeded his father to become chairman of Grosvenor Holdings, the commercial arm of the Grosvenor Estate, and dedicated himself to using his wealth responsibly. The Westminster Foundation, which manages the estate's charitable giving, has donated to more than 1,500 charitable organisations since 1974, and the Duke was also president of the RNIB for 25 years and president of the St John Ambulance for 10 years.'

Below we see the the late Duke with his wife Natalia and daughter Viola at the requiem mass for Hugh van Cutsem in 2013.

The streets of the small cathedral city were lined with people wishing to pay tribute.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arriving for the memorial. The Duke of Westminster was a dear friend and a confidante of his.

Princess Eugenie was also in attendance.

More on the history of Chester Cathedral: "The cathedral is a Grade I listed building, and part of a heritage site that also includes the former monastic buildings to the north, which are also listed Grade I. The cathedral, typical of English cathedrals in having been modified many times, dates from between 1093 and the early 16th century, although the site itself may have been used for Christian worship since Roman times. All the major styles of English medieval architecture, from Norman to Perpendicular, are represented in the present building. The cathedral and former monastic buildings were extensively restored during the 19th century (amidst some controversy), and a free-standing bell-tower was added in the 20th century. The buildings are a major tourist attraction in Chester. In addition to holding services for Christian worship, the cathedral is used as a venue for concerts and exhibitions."

A look at the Shrine of St Werburgh inside.

The Mail Online reported: "Prince William, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge are all regular visitors to the Grosvenor properties. Lady Tamara is married to Prince William's best friends, Edward van Cutsem, and William and Harry were both ushers at their wedding in 2004."

More on the service from the Chester Chronicle:

'Prince William read the Garter Prayer, part of the annual service for Knights of the Order of the Garter, with which the late Duke had been honoured.
Lady Edwina, the late Duke’s second daughter and a campaigner for prisoner reform and rehabilitation, delivered an emotional reading titled ‘A letter to my father’.
Grosvenor Estate has revealed an excerpt from the letter, which read:
“You taught me so much.
"Fight for what you believe in.
"Don’t ever give up.
"If you are knocked down, dust yourself off... and get back on your feet.”
Distinguished tenor Ian Bostridge CBE accompanied by Andrew Wyatt, assistant director of music at Chester Cathedral, performed Panis Angelicus by Cesar Franck. Readings were also given by the 7th Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, who read his father’s favourite poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling, and Richard Lyttleton, cousin of the late Duke, who read Revelation 21: 1-7.'

A portion of Rudyard Kipling's 'If' - a beautiful poem which was the late Duke's favourite as mentioned above - a very fitting choice for his son to read today.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son

William and Kate leaving the service.

Kate was attired in black for the service.

Kate's choice of coat will be familiar to many. The Duchess wore the black Alexander McQueen coat she debuted at Remembrance Sunday in 2015. It's lovely to see the piece in its entirety - it's a very chic garment.

The coat is believe to be a bespoke piece based on the similar Velvet Trim Double-Breasted Wool Coat. Below we see it at Lane Crawford where it retailed for $2,045. The heavyweight piece is described as "an utterly irresistible concoction of virgin wool and velvet, creating a dramatic standout look".
Lane Crawford

Kate wore a black dress underneath. Below, a look at the neckline.

The Duchess wore her new black John Boyd hat (with thanks to Anna) and accessorised with the Queen's pearl and diamond earrings.

It would appear these earrings are at Kate's disposal at the moment. The Duchess first wore them during the Canada tour. The amazing Anna noted: "The Countess of Wessex wore these only one time to a royal wedding in 2012 (while wearing other jewels on loan from the Queen). HM wore these back in 1977 during her silver jubilee." Below, we see Kate wearing them in the Netherlands last month.

Kate carried her Pretty Ballerinas /Mascaro black velvet clutch.

And completed the look with her black Gianvito Rossi pumps.

Gianvito Rossi

It seemed very appropriate for William and Kate to attend the service today. The Duke of Westminster was a great friend to the Royal family over the years and the huge turnout for his memorial is testament to the high esteem in which he was held. The Duchess looked very appropriate for the nature of the occasion too. For those asking, there is nothing announced for Kate's diary at present. Prince William has a few on his calendar, so I would be surprised if something isn't announced shortly. We'll update our 'Kate's Calendar' section on the sidebar the moment we hear of anything.