Today, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were at St Paul’s Cathedral to attend a memorial service for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
More than 1,500 people attended the service, including the Royals, Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury), Prime Minister Theresa May, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. It has been six months since the fire struck at the block of flats on 14th June 2017; the disaster claimed the lives of 71 people.
In addition to paying respect to the victims, today’s service was also an opportunity to thank those who assisted during the fire and in the aftermath of the disaster, including emergency services and volunteers who helped collect clothes, food and other items for those who lost everything in the fire.
As the service began, a white banner with a green heart and the words ‘Green for Grenfell’ was brought into the cathedral. A minute’s silence was observed in order to pay tribute to the 71 victims of the tragedy.
Family members carried pictures of their lost loved ones, while the congregation also heard voice recordings from people who had been at the scene of the fire.
Opening the service, the Dean of St Paul’s, The Very Reverend David Ison, said: “In this service we bring together people of different faiths and none, as we remember with love before God those whose lives were lost, and pray for them to be at peace.”
The hour-long memorial, although held in the anglican St Paul’s Cathedral, was a multi-faith service, focusing on the memories of the victims. A choir made up of local schoolchildren performed during the ceremony, singing the words “never lose hope”. There were also performances by the St Paul’s choir, Portobello Road Salvation Army Band and the Ebony Steel Band.
Graham Tomlin, the Bishop of Kensington, spoke at the service: “As we come to the end of this difficult year, as we celebrate Christmas, as we move into a new year, nothing can remove the memory of that night – nor do we want to forget those dearly loved people who were lost. And yet my hope and prayer is that this new year can bring new hope of a future; a vision of a city where we lose our self-obsession and listen and learn from places and people that we wouldn’t normally think of reaching out to.”
After the service, the families and other attendees left the cathedral in silence, carrying white roses.
The Royal Family have met with survivors of the fire on several occasions in the past 6 months. Just two days after the fire, The Queen and Prince William visited one of the temporary shelters which was set up for the remaining residents of the block, and Prince Charles has thanked the emergency services and British Red Cross for their role in assisting.
Among several royal visits to the Grenfell and Kensington community since the fire, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visited the Rugby Portobello Trust on Tuesday; here she handed out presents to some of the children displaced by the fire.
It had been suggested that members of the government were not welcome by the families affected, because there are still families living in hotels when they were promised to be rehoused immediately.
Ben Gabbitas, who lost his close friend Sheila in the fire, praised the Royals for the steady show of support they have given the survivors and the victims’ families, claiming that The Queen’s presence was a “unifying force for the nation”.
Mr Gabbitas also said: “I think the nation at that point appreciated her being present, and particularly William and Harry, and I think that was a unifying force of which there were no politicians who managed that … (it) is wonderful that there is recognition at that level, and as I said it was one of the only unifying forces and at these times I guess we are more thankful we have a Royal Family and its place within our society.”