The Royal Family have led the the nation and the Commonwealth in commemorating the war dead at the National Service of Remembrance – also known as Remembrance Sunday – held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall this morning. This is the first year The Queen didn’t lay a wreath; Prince Charles instead did it on her behalf.
Thousands of veterans and their families converged on Whitehall on a bright and chilly November morning. At the centre of Whitehall lies the Cenotaph – or empty tomb – built in Portland stone, it was erected in 1920 from a design by Edwin Lutyens. The National Service for Remembrance commemorates the sacrifice of those killed in the two World Wars and all subsequent conflicts.
The Cenotaph was flanked by ranks of service men and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force for the Remembrance Sunday service.
This year The Prince of Wales laid The Queen’s wreath, as she wanted to stand with her husband, the 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, who stepped down from public duties earlier this year, and as such was also not laying a wreath this year.
The service commenced with the Massed Bands of the Household Division striking up to play what is called ‘the traditional music’: tunes such as Rule Britannia, Heart of Oak and Men of Harlech reverberated around Whitehall, followed by the Pipes and drums of the Highlanders 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland playing the Skye Boat Song.
Shortly before 11am, the leading participants in the service walked from the doors of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and took their places around the Cenotaph, led by the children and gentlemen of the Chapel Royal and Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, Dr Richard Chartres, who was to lead the religious service.
Next came the politicians led by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and then the Major Generals led by the Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Stuart Peach. 45 High Commissioners from current and former Commonwealth and British Protectorate countries next took their places followed by representatives of all leading religions.
The Prince of Wales, wearing the uniform of Marshall of the Royal Air Force, led a procession of seven members of the Royal Family – all wearing military uniform – out onto the street. It included The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, The Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, The Princess Royal and The Duke of Kent.
On the balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stood The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, wearing his Royal Naval uniform, with The Duchess of Cornwall.
They were accompanied on the balconies by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Princess Alexandra, as well as Sir Tim Lawrence and The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester – all dressed in black. The group watched the proceedings solemnly.
As the royal party took their places, Big Ben’s chimes echoed down Whitehall to mark the beginning of the two minute silence, and the nation’s remembrance. Memorials across the country did the same for the traditional Remembrance Sunday service.
The buglers of the Royal Marines sounded the Last Post to end the silent two minutes, and then Prince Charles stepped forward under The Queen’s gaze to lay a laurel wreath on Her behalf – and in turn on behalf of the nation.
The 91-year-old monarch watched her heir keenly from the balcony as he saluted the Cenotaph and returned to his place alongside his royal relatives.
The next wreath to be laid was that on behalf of The Duke of Edinburgh, placed by his equerry and then The Prince of Wales stepped forward again to lay his own wreath, with the three feathers emblem.
The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry and The Duke of York were next to march forward to lay their wreaths together, William and Edward being watched by their wives from the balcony above.
The final royal group to pay their respects were The Princess Royal, The Earl of Wessex and The Duke of Kent.
Dr Richard Chartres then led the gathering in a short religious service that included the singing of Oh God Our Help in Ages Past.
Wreaths were then laid by politicians, led by the Prime Minister and the other leaders that had gathered for the ceremony.
At the conclusion of the service the buglers of the Royal Air Force sounded reville before the Massed Bands played the National Anthem, at the conclusion of which The Queen bowed toward – and the uniformed royals saluted – The Cenotaph, before heading back into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Following the Royals’ departure, further wreaths were laid and the Royal British Legion march past took place with hundreds of service veterans proudly showing their respects to fallen comrades. The Earl of Wessex took the salute on Horse Guards Parade.
Remembrance Sunday concludes a weekend of commemorations for the Royal Family, including the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday, plus Princess Anne at the Menin Gate and The Duke of Gloucester at the National Memorial Arboretum for Armistice Day services.