The Duchess of Cornwall attended the opening of the Field of Remembrance today, a sombre occasion that traditionally marks the beginning of royal remembrance events each year.
Camilla arrived at Westminster Abbey, and was greeted by the Dean of Westminster Abbey David Hoyle. HRH also got the chance to meet President of the Poppy Factory, Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, who escorted the Duchess throughout the service.
Camilla stood in front of the crosses from the graves of unknown where the Dean offered prayers. It was then the Duchess’ job to lay a cross of remembrance, where she bowed her head. The Last Post was played followed by the exhortation to Remembrance and the chimes of Big Ben, which marked 2pm.
The royal visitor reviewed memorial plots for regiment and other associations, noting one she was familiar with: that laid in memory of the Lancers, the regiment with which her late father, Major Bruce Shand, served. “Ah ha, my father’s regiment,” she said.
“Sadly I can’t read [the inscriptions] without my spectacles.”
Major Shand was a decorated soldier of the Second World War, assisting in the evacuation of Dunkirk amongst other battles.
This is a duty that we have often seen the Duke of Edinburgh and more recently, The Duke of Sussex perform, as a Royal who had served two tours of Afghanistan. The Duchess of Cornwall was supposed to attend last year, but was ill with a chest infection so could not attend.
Surgeon Rear Admiral Jarvis, said of the duchess’s involvement: “It was a lovely event and very poignant despite the lack of crowds. There is a certain level of poignancy in doing it this way, in this weird world in which we all now live.
“The Duchess is an incredibly supportive patron of The Poppy Factory so I think this will now become a regular thing. Prince Harry has obviously got other preoccupations at the moment. We will see what happens over the next year. We think that [her regular involvement] would be very nice.”
Today’s event, the 92nd year it the field has been laid, was pared back, with just a handful of people in attendance, instead of the 1,200 veterans and their families.
Remembrance Sunday will be marked on the 8th of November this year, but in an altered format. It is currently expected that senior Royals, politicians and officers of the Armed Forces will attend, in a socially-distanced manner, with the event being televised as usual.
The Duchess of Cornwall also went into St Margaret’s Church, located next to Westminster Abbey, to sign the visitors book wearing a poppy print mask. Camilla was dressed in green, also choosing a new poppy brooch, as well as a large rifles badge encrusted with stones. She is Colonel in Chief of the rifles regiment and her coat buttons reflected this with the same bugle symbol.
The Field of Remembrance has been held at Westminster Abbey since November of 1928, 10 years after the end of the First World War, to honour those who lost their lives as members of the Armed Forces. The original event was organised by the Poppy Factory, where only a handful of poppies planted around the cross; however, more than a century later, tens of thousands of wooden crosses featuring poppies – that perennial symbol of remembrance – are planted every year.
Camilla is patron of the Poppy Factory and has been since 2013; Poppy Factory is an organisation that supports veterans with health conditions – physical or mental – to get back into work. Of course, the organisation also makes the traditional poppies for the Royal British Legion and has also made them for the Royal family since 1922. The factory is based in Richmond and made up of 24 staff all veterans and their families
A video tour of the Field of Remembrances has been created, since the public can’t view it as they normally would; it is available to view here.
The Field of Remembrance is the last public-facing engagement we will see from the Royal Family, possibly this year, as a national lockdown begins again in the UK from midnight.