Royal Remembrance: the Cenotaph

It is a tradition approaching its 100th anniversary and although it took a different form this year, it was none the less moving or poignant for it. The Queen led the nation in remembering those who lost their lives in conflict on Remembrance Sunday. But for the first time she oversaw proceedings from the balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office while her heir, the Prince of Wales laid her wreath. It was a heartfelt tribute and a moment of history.

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The ceremony at the Cenotaph began, as always, just before 11am on Remembrance Sunday. But while the air was cold and the morning milky, as it is so often for this special event, the royal procession on to Whitehall looked very different. Prince Charles led out the Windsors while his mother, father and wife watched from above.

On a separate balcony was the Countess of Wessex, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Alexandra of Kent.

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The Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry and the Duke of York took their places while politicians including the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, also joined to watch and remember.

The two minutes' silence was followed by a moment of history. The Queen always lays her wreath on behalf of the nation but this year she stood by to watch the Prince of Wales carry out that duty for her.  It's only the seventh time in her record breaking reign that Elizabeth II hasn't laid a wreath at the Cenotaph. Instead, she was witness to her heir and his sons placing tributes to remember and commemorate.

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It was none the less moving for that. The event has clearly always meant a great deal to the Queen and she was seen to wipe her eyes during the ceremony. After the formal ceremonial was done, she led her family back inside while the Prince of Wales went on to attend the Welsh Guards Remembrance Parade where he laid another wreath.

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The formal tribute at the Cenotaph, which has been a focus for remembrance since 1919, is a tradition begun by the Queen's grandfather, George V. It has been carried out by all four monarchs of the House of Windsor and now, in an historic moment, by the man who will be the dynasty's next king. But despite the symbolism and the attention on change, the meaning of the event remained the same. George V led his people in rembering those lost and his descendants still do the same today.


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