After a wonderful play date yesterday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge left Georgie back in Wellington while they ventured to Blenheim. Today’s festivities mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, the first of many planned for the royals over the next year. While in Blenheim, they will also attend the first of many State Receptions.
Seymour Square Memorial and Walkabout
Shortly after 10:30 local time, William and Kate boarded a plane from Wellington to Blenheim ahead of their first event. Hours prior, crowds began lining the streets. The public have been missing from earlier events, but nearly 7,000 citizens (almost 1/3 of Blenheim’s total population!) lined the streets to see Wills and Kate.
The first event of the day was a Wreath-Laying Ceremony at Seymour Square. The town’s war memorial stands in the center of the town. The traditional ceremony remembers those who died in all wars. In addition to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, special guests include veterans from WWII and recent conflicts.
The weather in Blenheim and Wellington was less-than-lovely, with cold temperatures and strong wind putting a damper on the day. Despite grey skies, the Duke and Duchess shined among the crowds of Blenheim. The event, as usual, had a somber tone to it. William and Catherine’s wreath had a hand-written note which said, “‘Never forgetting those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.” After laying the wreath, they observed a moment of silence.
Military events are very important to the Royal Family, and William and Kate in particular. Kate spent many years as an RAF wife while William worked as a search-and-rescue pilot. While William was stationed in Anglesey, Prince Harry was stationed in a combat zone in Afghanistan. The Cambridges know and realize the sacrifice of these veterans and servicemen. Following a moment of silence, Kate greeted all the veterans – who were very excited to meet her.
Kate wore a bespoke cornflower blue coat by Alexander McQueen. The piece was very similar to McQueen’s recent designs, sporting a slim, column shape, peplum detail, and matching belt. Kate accessorized with her blue sapphire drop earrings, thought to have belonged to Diana, her McQueen suede pumps and her Stuart Weitzman “Muse” clutch.
Surprising-yet-not, Kate wore her hair in a coiffed ponytail. The high winds and bad weather made her usual blowout an unlikely choice. Kate’s sleek, no-nonsense ponytail was perfect for the ensemble and the event.
After the wreath-laying events, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their first walkabout of the tour. Thousands of people came out to meet William and Kate, especially young children. Kate spent plenty of time greeting and chatting with “wannabe princesses” who arrived in dresses and crowns. Kate received lots of gifts and posies during the walkabout, most especially a Princess Diana commemorative beanie baby. The beanie baby was very exclusive and rare, making this a very thoughtful gift.
Following the walkabout, the Duke and Duchess were driven through the town square en route to a private lunch. Afterwards, they visited the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center.
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
Following a private luncheon at Wither Hills Winery in Marlborough, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. The centre currently boasts a “Knights of the Sky” exhibition, featuring Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection of WWI artifacts and aircraft. The historical items are brought to life with creative displays featuring mannequins, scenery, and special effects.
With William’s past as a pilot and Kate’s family history with aviation, it was definitely a fun event for the Cambridges. They arrived shortly after 1:00 and met with Sir Peter Jackson before touring the facilities. Sir Peter Jackson, who has gained fame for the Lord of the Rings films, gifted the couple with a teeny tiny baby flying helmet for Prince George.
After touring the interior displays and scenes, the royal couple moved outside to view the aircraft on display. Despite the poor weather, William and Kate enjoyed touring the grounds. Huddled under an umbrella, they viewed historic WWI aircrafts, some of which were flown in just for this occasion. At one point, William climbed into the pilot’s seat of one of the planes.
Kate was wearing the same blue McQueen coat seen earlier. While we had hoped to catch a glimpse of the navy dress underneath, the rain and cold likely kept her bundled up for both events. Kate has worn suede shoes at every event during the tour, and the rain and mud must be making her cringe! Nevertheless, she looked poised, polished and perfect (as always!).
After touring the aircrafts and vehicles in the exterior display, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned to Wellington.
State Reception at Government House
This evening, after a formal meeting with the Leader of The Opposition and the Prime Minister, William and Catherine attended their first formal State Reception of the royal tour. The event was hosted by the Governor General in the ballroom of Government House.
The reception was the first of many State Receptions, which offer an opportunity for more glamorous ensembles. While we didn’t expect a tiara or ball gown, we did expect a chic cocktail dress and Kate did not disappoint.
The Duchess of Cambridge arrived in an incredible black dress with hand-stitched fern detail on the right shoulder. The below-the-knee dress showed off Kate’s incredible figure. While it was simple in design, the dress truly stunned.
At the event, William delivered a short speech to the guests at Government House. Afterwards, he unveiled a new portrait of Her Majesty The Queen. The portrait was painted by Nick Cuthell, a local New Zealand artist.