In the months since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Princess of Wales’s life has been a succession of firsts. Today, March 17, was no different for the woman formerly known as Kate Middleton as she carried out an historic engagement to mark St. Patrick’s Day.
The Princess of Wales, 41, visited the Irish Guards at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Aldershot for the first time since being made colonel. She was joined by her husband, Prince William, who is the outgoing Colonel of the Irish Guards. Following a recent visit to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards on Salisbury Plain, today marked the first time the princess attended the parade as Colonel of the Regiment.
Elegant as ever despite the wind and rain, Kate donned a showstopping green ensemble in a sartorial nod to the occasion. She teamed a beautifully tailored longline teal coat with matching heels and a jaunty hat with fascinator-style netting, a custom ensemble by royal favorite Catherine Walker, finishing the look with a Cartier shamrock brooch and a bountiful green floral arrangement pinned to her lapel.
Owned by the Irish Guards, the delicate gold brooch with a central emerald is loaned to members of the royal family during St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Some sources claim that the brooch once belonged to Queen Alexandra, who presented shamrocks during a visit to the Irish Guards soon after the turn of the century. It was first photographed, however, when worn by the Queen Mother (who served as Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment), and has also been worn by Princess Anne to present the shamrocks.
During today’s engagement, Kate presented the traditional sprigs of shamrock to the officers and guardsmen, who in turn issued it along the ranks, as well as presenting it to the Irish wolfhound regimental mascot.
Prince William and Kate both delivered speeches at the event. The prince stated, “Whilst I am extremely happy to be here celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with you once again, I’m incredibly sad to be giving this speech, as it really does mean my time as your colonel has come to an end. It has been one of the great honors of my life to hold that title; I’m proud of everything it stands for—just as I’m immensely proud of every single one of you.”
He went on to recall his “first experience with the Irish Guards….at Sandhurst” and mentioned that the battalion had been “firmly at the top” of his “personal wish list,” stressing, “Operational reasons alone prevented me serving my front-line years with the Micks.” William stated that he nonetheless “relished every opportunity to visit” and praised their inspirational work: “A lot has been asked of you, but you’ve delivered in spades.”
The prince also spoke directly to the families gathered to express how “truly grateful” he feels, before concluding, “On this, my 13th and final St. Patrick’s Day as colonel, not only am I saddened that I’ll likely fail once again to finish a pint of Guinness…but I am also sad that I won’t in future see more of you, the families, whose unwavering support enables these outstanding men and women to do what they do.
“I may be stepping aside, but in Colonel Catherine you have a committed, focused, and already incredibly loyal 11th Colonel. As you serve together over the years ahead, know that I will continue to watch you, with huge pride in having been one of you.”
He also paid tribute to Major General Sir Sebastian Roberts, his predecessor as Colonel, who died last week, adding, “He was, quite simply, a phenomenon. I was proud to know him, and I extend mine and Colonel Catherine’s heartfelt condolences to Lady Roberts and his family, and to you—his other family: the Irish Guards.”
Following the bittersweet speech, the Princess of Wales delivered a special message of her own. She stated: “I really couldn’t be prouder to stand in front of you here today. It really is a true honor to be your colonel. I am here to listen to you, to support you, and to champion you in all you do—this is a responsibility I do not take lightly.
“Last week I took the opportunity to visit some of you on Salisbury Plain, to see your inspiring work for myself. The day was bitterly cold, and while displaying your skills to yet another visitor was probably the last thing any of you wanted to do, all I saw was enthusiasm, pride, and incredible dedication. I was hugely impressed with your insistence that nothing is as bad as it seems, and—most of all—your boundless, irreverent, glorious sense of humor.
“That’s what makes you who you are and what makes the Irish Guards unique. I look forward to spending more time with you and your families, seeing your commitment to duty and service in all you do.
“Before I close, however, I want to thank Colonel William. He has always talked about his fierce pride for this Regiment. I know he will continue to support us all in the work we do.”
Sharing details of the engagement in a statement, Kensington Palace previously said, “The parade will conclude with a royal salute and march-past where Her Royal Highnesses will take the salute as the new xolonel. Following the parade, Their Royal Highnesses will meet the Irish Guards Association, which comprises past members of the Irish Guards. The princess will be invited to inspect the front rank whilst the prince will inspect the second rank.
“After the inspection, the prince and princess will meet members of the regiment before sitting for official officers’ and sergeants’ mess photographs. The prince and princess will then visit the junior ranks dining hall where the senior guardsman in the battalion will propose a toast to Their Royal Highnesses.”
It comes days after the Prince and Princess of Wales joined King Charles III, the Queen Consort, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey. The Princess of Wales looked elegant in a vintage-inspired Erdem peplum jacket and matching skirt, which she accessorized with Princess Diana’s earrings and the Prince of Wales’s Feathers brooch.
This post was originally published in Tatler.