The Royal Week: William Celebrates a Birthday as Royals Roll Out for Order of the Garter and Ascot Events

Prince William, Prince of Wales smiles as he attends day two of Royal Ascot 2024 at Ascot Racecourse, June 19, 2024 in Ascot, England. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

It has been a very good public-facing birthday week for Prince William as he turns 42 on June 21. The much-anticipated appearance of Catherine, Princess of Wales, last Saturday at Trooping the Colour went swimmingly. It also appears to have left the royal heir lighter of heart and back at ease in his role.

Throughout the week, he was photographed in the press displaying dashes of playfulness. Then came the most joyful photo capture yet. Kate posted on social media a snap of the birthday boy with his children, George, Charlotte and Louis all frozen in midair, leaping out of the sand dunes. Playful to the max! Meanwhile, King Charles released his own tribute to the prince, a sweet black-and-white photo of father and son from 1982.

Undated handout photo taken from the X (formerly Twitter) account of the Prince and Princess of Wales of the Prince, who celebrates his 42nd birthday today (June 21), with his children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. The picture was taken by the Princess recently in Norfolk. Photo: Handout/The Canadian Press

 

Photo: The Royal Family/X

 

 

The images capped off a week that was filled with pomp and pageantry. First up was the Order of the Garter, which dates back to the reign of Edward III in 1348, hence all the velvet plumage and ancient rituals. It is the oldest and highest order of chivalry in Britain. The sovereign and Prince of Wales are joined in the order by no more than 24 living members, who are appointed knights and ladies by the monarch in recognition of public service. The designation allows them to put KG or LG after their names, and their banner of arms – along with their helmets, crests and swords and enameled stallplates – are displayed in Windsor Chapel. When the order member dies, these effects are removed, and a new member is announced on St. George’s Day. The official duties are light, and the members are celebrated yearly at a ceremony, which includes a procession, lunch and installation of new members.

This year’s assembly included the King, Queen Camilla, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew (who attended the lunch, but not the procession, as has become the precedent since his removal from public duties). Among the new additions to the order were famed musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, who is the wife of Queen Elizabeth II’s first cousin. 

King Charles III and Queen Camilla attend the Order Of The Garter Service at Windsor Castle on June 17, 2024. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/WPA Pool/Getty Images
Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh and Prince William, Prince of Wales arrive to attend the Order Of The Garter Service at Windsor Castle on June 17, 2024. Photo: Arthur Edwards – WPA Pool/Getty Images

 

This was Queen Camilla’s third year at the garter as she was named to the order in 2022 by her late mother-in-law, Elizabeth, just before the monarch’s death later that year. It was seen as a significant vote of confidence in Camilla at the time, as spouses of the monarch are generally not named until their partner is installed on the throne. 

And fun Garter footnote: Princess Anne, when she was appointed in 1994, asked to be named as a knight, not a lady. How cool is that? 

Swapping robes for top hats and fancy frocks, the House of Windsor spent the rest of the week at the race track. Royal Ascot (June 18 to 22), is one of the highlights of the British social calendar. Some of the biggest races take place on the first day, and the King and Queen arrived – looking bright and happy, with Charles in yellow and the Camilla in royal blue – by open carriage (as is the tradition) and were ferried to the Royal Enclosure.

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King Charles and Queen Camilla arrive, looking bright and happy on day one of Royal Ascot 2024. Photo: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

 

This year, they welcomed a special guest, Lady Gabriella Windsor, to opening day. The Royal Family have been rallying around the daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who lost her husband, Thomas Kingston, to suicide at the beginning of this year. (She also attended Trooping, but was not photographed.) On this occasion, Gabriella was seated in a carriage alongside The Princess Royal, and her son, Peter Phillips, and the late Queen’s beloved racing manager John Warren.

Anne, Princess Royal, Lady Gabriella Kingston and Peter Phillips arrive by carriage on day one of Royal Ascot 2024. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

 

Charles has taken up the reins as the Royal Family’s chief horse fan from his mother. The late Queen was an avid rider, breeder and owner, and loved a day at the races. And all her children inherited the passion. So it’s no surprise that, as King, Charles has enthusiastically supported the Royal Ascot institution. Last year, he took in all five days of the event and this year he planned on only missing day two.

Filling in for his father that day, Prince William accompanied the Queen in the carriage and happily played host. Also there to represent were Princess Anne’s daughter, Zara Tindall, and her husband, Mike. An Olympic horsewoman like her mother, Zara has been a standout at Ascot this year – just as she was at the spring garden parties. Seen as the glue among the cousins (Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had eight grandchildren), Zara is friendly with everyone. And King Charles is particularly fond of his niece. It made headlines last year when he greeted Anne’s daughter with an uncharacteristically hearty embrace. 

Prince William very happily played host on day two of Royal Ascot 2024. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

 

Zara has grown into her royal role – unofficial though it is – with a newfound sense of confidence and an increasingly polished sense of fashion. Over the first few days of Ascot, she was sporting pastel looks – including a stunning yellow dress by British designer Laura Green – and has been mindful of coordinating with her style-conscious cousins, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice. The Daily Mail reported William was in such high spirits in the company of his cousins, he was seen teasing Eugenie by spinning the tassel on her pink hat.

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The Pastel Princesses: Zara Tindall, Princess Eugenie of York and Princess Beatrice, Royal Ascot 2024. Photos: Getty Images

 

Speaking of the York sisters, their duchess mother, Sarah, also made an appearance on Wednesday. More welcomed at these peripheral royal events than her ex-husband Prince Andrew, Sarah has been receiving signs of support from the Royal Family of late after facing two bouts of cancer herself. 

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Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, made an appearance on day two of Royal Ascot 2024. Sarah has been receiving signs of support from the Royal Family of late after facing two bouts of cancer.  Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

 

Day two was also a big day for the usually low-key royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Sophie wore a white Suzannah London dress with a sheer floral overlay and a matching white hat – deliberately and beautifully standing out in the field. Meanwhile, the day before the silver anniversary, the palace released a casual photo of the pair at home in Bagshot Park, co-ordinating in brown suede.

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The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh appeared in fine form at Ascot after having just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

 

While Princess Kate was not in attendance, her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, joined the Prince of Wales on Wednesday – and it was the first time they’d been seen in public since their daughter announced she was undergoing cancer treatment. Proving he’s a gallant son-in-law, William could be seen helping Kate’s mom when her shoe got stuck in the sod: a very royal occupational hazard. 

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Michael Middleton and Carole Middleton made their first public since their daughter, the Princess of Wales, announced she was undergoing cancer treatment. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

 

Next up was Ladies Day which, for dedicated followers of fashion, is a highly anticipated event. Ascot organizers encourage the crowds to dress in their absolute finest. And spectators in the public enclosures often go all-out when it comes to fascinators – from flocks of feathers to cowboy couture to taxidermy. But within the Royal tent, the rules are tighter and the outfits tamer, although no less spectacular. Everyone in the Royal Enclosure is a member of the family or a guest of the Windsors, and fascinators are not allowed, which is why we always see the royals in full headpieces.

 On Ladies Day, the Queen wore a white Dior silk dress with an emerald brooch as large as a bullfrog. The gobsmacking piece, called the Ladies of India Brooch, first belonged to Queen Mary.  Sophie donned florals, Anne chose brocade, and the Queen’s niece, Lady Sarah Chatto, popped with a royal blue dress and hat.

Queen Camilla and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, on day three of Royal Ascot 2024. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

 

But, once again, it was Zara, the emerging fashion plate, who wowed in a powder blue belted ensemble with puffed sleeves by Rebecca Vallance. The Daily Express reported her husband, former rugby player turned podcaster Mike Tindall, who’s almost always described as “cheeky” in tabloid coverage, added hijinx to the mix by placing his hand on her bottom while they posed for pictures.

Zara, the emerging fashion plate, wowed in a powder blue belted ensemble with puffed sleeves by Rebecca Vallance. Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

 

You can count on the Ascot to bring out the extended family in full force, just the way Queen Elizabeth liked it. And this past week, the tradition was heartily adhered to as relaxed and merry royals – who are further down the line of succession – showed their love of all things equine, and their support for the King and the institution. And all that fabulous finery was just the cherry on top.