A Real Trooper: Catherine, Princess of Wales, Displayed Dignity and Resilience at Trooping the Colour

Princess Catherine

(L to R): Prince George of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Princess Catherine, Princess of Wales, King Charles III and Queen Camilla, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after attending the King's Trooping the Colour birthday parade on June 15, 2024. Photo: Benjamin Cremel/AFP/Getty Images

If the definition of mettle is “a person’s ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited or resilient way,” then the Princess of Wales was a shining example on Saturday at Trooping the Colour. She joined her family, shepherding her young children through the carriage ride and balcony appearance for the King’s official birthday – and she did it with aplomb.

Kate announced on Friday evening that she intended to attend the parade and gave an update on her medical progress. “I’m not out of the woods yet,” she said, but  “on the good days, when you feel stronger, you want to make the most of feeling well.”

Looking serene and beaming a broad smile from the carriage, Kate stayed true to her word. And despite the pounding rain – which must have been uncomfortable for the royals on horseback, including Prince William, Prince Edward and the Princess Royal – the show went on.

Trooping the Colour
The rain didn’t stop the royals from celebrating the King’s birthday: From Left, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne, Princess Royal perform on Horse Guards Parade for the King’s Birthday Parade at the Trooping the Colour ceremony on June 15, 2024. Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

 

For her first foray back into the spotlight the princess wore a recycled white Jenny Packham dress, which she donned on the King’s Coronation weekend. This time, she paired it with a saucer-style tilted Philip Treacy hat. The re-wear hasn’t been confirmed, but most fashion analysts seem to agree that her stylist switched out the original solid belt for a white and navy striped one and added an oversized striped bow at the neck. 

The look was a crisp bookend to the white dress/black hat monochrome outfit she donned for her first ever Trooping appearance in 2011. For sentimentality, she went with the same pearl earrings she wore to Prince Louis’ christening in 2018. The look was a direct contrast to the cheerful all-green outfit Kate wore for last year’s Trooping the Colour, the first of Charles’ reign, just after the grandeur and rebirth of the Coronation. It has been a tough year for the Royal Family, and Kate’s choice of white conveyed a sense of hopefulness.

For her first foray back into the spotlight the princess wore a recycled white Jenny Packham dress. Insets, from top:  Kate went with the same pearl earrings she wore to Prince Louis’ christening in 2018; her first ever Trooping appearance in 2011. Photos: Getty Images 

 

Observers were quick to point out that Saturday’s white look was a clear homage to Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle character in the film My Fair Lady. If it was thus inspired, it was a genius move – citing celluloid’s immortal Cockney heroine who was schooled in proper manners. Kate is famously the first commoner (non-noble) woman to marry a royal heir since Anne Hyde, the wife of James II in the 17th century. The side-by-side comparison between movie inspiration and the princess’s look made the above-the-fold cover of The Telegraph, neatly reinforcing the fact that Kate is a woman of the people.

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Princess Catherine’s Trooping the Colour ensemble was a clear homage to Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle character (right) in the film My Fair Lady. Photos: Getty Images

 

The fashion intention was multifold. Kate is a fan of matching family ensembles and uses colour to convey a message. Her white and navy look made for a unified presentation with her children: George and Louis in navy suits (Louis still wore shorts, as is the way for the youngest royals) and Charlotte’s sailor suit. Together with William in his military reds, the family pulled off perfect diplomatic dressing in the colours of the British flag.

All in the family, with their matching ensembles: L to R: Prince George of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

 

With the eyes of the world trained on her, Kate’s appearance was nothing less than a display of bravery put on in support of her father-in-law, who is also undergoing cancer treatment. Medical information should be private and Kate has asked for the grace and time to heal. But with all those telephoto lenses looking to uncover any change to her polished public persona, she showed up – with a fresh face of makeup and a crisp white dress – delivering a firm message: I’m here, and I’m okay.

British newspaper columnists responded in a swift and simple way: “Thank you,” was the succinct response from Allison Pearson in The Guardian, noting that “lesser mortals would have stayed at home.” 

On the balcony, she exchanged banter with her father-in-law; the two clearly share a strong bond. The cameras also captured the look of love between Kate and William. It was clear that both men were feeling protective of the princess as she tentatively stepped back in the spotlight. 

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Catherine, Princess of Wales, King Charles III and Queen Camilla exchange some banter during the Trooping the Colour family balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

 

Bets had been placed about who else would find a place on the balcony, and the King stuck to his “slimmed down” guns. Queen Elizabeth II’s cousins, the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester, who remain working royals, made an appearance as did Princess Anne, and her husband, Vice-Admiral Tim Laurence. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh flanked the King and Queen and brought along their daughter, Lady Louise Windsor. The 20-year-old, a student at St. Andrews, the Scottish alma mater of William and Kate, is a rising star in the royal fold and was particularly close to her late grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. 

L to R: The Duke of Gloucester, The Duchess of Gloucester, Prince George of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Catherine, Princess of Wales, King Charles III, Queen Camilla, Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh, Lady Louise, Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Timothy Laurence and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping the Colour. Photo:  Neil Mockford/GC Images

 

While children of working royals often get a balcony invite, Louise’s brother, James Earl of Wessex, 16, was absent, and the grown children and grandchildren of Princess Anne rarely make an appearance. In fact, Zara Tindall and her husband, Mike, went to a Pink concert that day.  

Those looking for a delightful summary of the day, need go no further than @Princeandprincessofwales social media feeds. In their video, Kate can be seen smoothing the hair of Princess Charlotte as they waited with George and Louis at the Horse Palace to enter their carriage. And there’s sweet footage of Charlotte clearing off the windows of their ride so the family could be seen by onlookers. The instinct tied nicely with her great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II’s famous observation: We must be seen to be believed.

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Little Louis was once again a treat for royal watchers as he appeared to be bored while waiting on the balcony. Charlotte, on the other hand, cleared the rain from the carriage window for the onlookers. Photos: Getty Images

 

Little Louis was once again a treat for royal watchers. While waiting in the wings for the balcony appearance, he was seen to boogie to the strains of the marching bands. And he played with tassels on the windows of the balcony. Later, he yawned when things went on just a tad too long for a six-year-old. Like generations of royal children before him, he humanized and once again injected some humour into the pomp and circumstance.

But it was Kate who brought the glamour back, along with a sense that everything was alright in the British Royal Family. Under strain that would hobble any of us, Charles and Kate and their loved ones were doing as Elizabeth had always done before them: they were keeping calm, and carrying on.