A version of this story appeared in the March 4 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
A war in Europe was unimaginable two weeks ago. There’s been widespread shock around the world over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s merciless and unprovoked attack on Ukraine, and among many in his own homeland.
It is at times like these that we look to our own leaders to express how we feel and to respond accordingly. Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has risen to the occasion enough for many to forget – for now at least – about lockdown parties that led to calls for his resignation.
The Queen has been lying low at Windsor Castle as she continues to recover from Covid. She has been well enough to do paperwork and host virtual audiences but little else (more on that later). We learned on Thursday, though, that she was so moved by events in Ukraine she had privately made a “generous” donation to the humanitarian appeal from the Disasters Emergency Committee – a group of 15 leading UK aid charities. Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen’s donation but would not comment further, telling us it was a “private matter.”
Other members of her family have stepped up in her absence, as is the form these days.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said in a tweet over the weekend that they “stand with the President and all of Ukraine’s people as they bravely fight for that future.”
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted back, saying he and wife Olena were grateful to the couple that “at this crucial time, when Ukraine is courageously opposing Russia’s invasion, they stand by our country and support our brave citizens.”
From California, on the day Russia launched its invasion, Prince Harry and Meghan expressed their solidarity with the people of Ukraine “against this breach of international and humanitarian law” and urged “the global community and its leaders to do the same.”
On Tuesday, Prince Charles went further, speaking of “democracy” and “an open society” coming under attack in Ukraine “in the most unconscionable way.” He went on: “We are in solidarity with all those who are resisting brutal aggression.”
If the UK were ever to try to rebuild bridges with Putin, these comments will hang over Charles. That’s why, as a rule, royals don’t cast judgment on foreign heads of state. They’re in it for life, unlike transient politicians. Putin, however, has crossed the line on this one for Charles, as he has for most of the Western world.
But it was perhaps his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, who best expressed the nation’s shock without words, during the couple’s visit to a Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London on Wednesday.
The pair went to the Cathedral of the Holy Family – which has become a rallying point for the British Ukrainian community – where they met the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, and his wife, Inna Prystaiko, as well as Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski.
On arrival, the royals met children from an associated Ukrainian school and received a traditional offering of bread and salt. The couple also lit a candle and laid sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower, at the altar.
Addressing members of the Ukrainian community working to support relief efforts, Charles praised the group for their courage in the face of wanton aggression. He said: “My wife and I have been deeply moved by everything we’ve heard today during our visit and, above all, by the extraordinary bravery, generosity and fortitude of the Ukrainian community in the face of such truly terrible aggression. So, if I may say so, our thoughts and prayers, however inadequate they may be, are with all of you at this most critical time.”
During the visit, a camera picked up tears in Camilla’s eyes and a journalist from the Royal Rota covering the event reported the duchess “wept frequently during the engagement and comforted the ambassador’s wife, who was also crying.”
NEWS OF THE WEEK
The Queen seems to be on the mend after contracting coronavirus nearly two weeks ago, undertaking a number of video calls this week.
On Thursday, she held two virtual audiences from Windsor with the new ambassadors for Trinidad and Tobago and Malawi. Earlier this week, she also welcomed incoming envoys to the UK from Andorra and Chad in video meetings.
The palace has been reluctant to give a daily health update but clearly the monarch is feeling well enough to return to virtual engagements. It is understood she will continue with other duties and has some private engagements in her diary.
One event that was taken off the books was a diplomatic reception that was due to take place at Windsor Castle on Wednesday. Buckingham Palace said over the weekend the Queen had “accepted the Foreign Secretary’s advice” to postpone the event. Rather than being related to her health, it’s likely UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss made the suggestion in the light of the ongoing crisis facing Ukraine.
The next major events the Queen is hoping to attend are the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 14 and a service of thanksgiving for her late husband, Prince Philip, at the same venue on March 29.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Charles celebrates success of Black Britons.
The Prince of Wales brought together some of the most influential Black Britons when he hosted a reception for supporters of the Powerlist at Clarence House on Tuesday. The Powerlist is an annual celebration of 100 of the most influential people of African, African-Caribbean and African-American heritage. “These communities have made and continue to make an incredibly positive difference to society as a whole and, in doing so, have built a real community spirit and cohesion,” Charles said. The heir to the throne added it was “particularly pleasing to see the diversity of talent” recognized by the initiative, from the arts to business, the environment and technology, among other sectors. Charles said the Powerlist – now in its 16th year – has helped identify “expertise and leadership” that will aid the UK in meeting the challenges it continues to face across society.
William and Kate mark St. David’s Day in Wales.
The Cambridges took a trip to Wales to celebrate St. David’s Day, where they were greeted by throngs of well-wishers. The trip was focused on the importance of the agricultural industry, with their engagements centered around how community groups are supporting young people, while also celebrating the region’s history. In Abergavenny, they stopped at a goat farm that has supplied milk to local cheesemakers for almost two decades. Meanwhile, in Blaenavon, the pair rolled up their sleeves in the kitchen of a local youth center, where they baked Welsh cakes before playing a game of pool.
DID YOU KNOW?
Meghan praises historic Supreme Court nomination.
The Duchess of Sussex weighed in on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic Supreme Court nomination to become the first Black woman to sit on the highest court in the United States. Meghan spoke to Anita Hill, an American lawyer who became a household name in 1991 when she testified about sexual harassment she allegedly endured from then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, for URL Media. Reflecting on Jackson’s nomination, Hill wrote in an op-ed that she wanted to seek the thoughts of others who had “entered arenas once thought to be inaccessible,” so she reached out to Meghan. The duchess praised President Joe Biden’s pick, telling her “the civil rights history of tomorrow is being written today.” Meghan added that Jackson’s nomination “opened new ground for women’s representation at the highest level of a judicial system that for too long has tilted against the very community she hails from.” Read Hill’s op-ed here.
New Diana portrait goes on display.
An exhibition opening Friday at London’s Kensington Palace will debut a portrait of Princess Diana that’s never been seen by the public. Taken by fashion photographer David Bailey in 1988, the image was originally commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery but has remained in Bailey’s archive until now. The black-and-white image shows an elegant 27-year-old Diana gazing into the distance, wearing a satin off-the-shoulder gown and a pair of teardrop earrings.
Bailey, who has photographed multiple cultural legends, including Andy Warhol, Twiggy and the Beatles, was selected by Diana for his high-contrast lighting and minimalist style. Her choice “reflected her desire to establish a new photographic identity for herself,” distinct from the more established forms of royal portraiture, according to a news release from Historic Royal Palaces, the British charity tasked with running six of the UK’s palaces. Revealed now after 34 years, the image further solidifies her public reputation as one of the most fashion-forward members of the British royal family. Read more on CNN Style.
In addition to the Diana portrait, the exhibition, titled “A Life Through A Royal Lens,” will showcase a range of works exploring the relationship between photography and the monarchy.
It includes photos snapped on royal tours and portraits of heads of state, as well as off-duty moments away from the public eye. Also on show for the first time is a selection of images taken by members of the royal family themselves.
Nearly 1,000 images were submitted from people around the world who were keen to share their encounters with royals, with photographs ranging from royal walkabouts in the 1950s to the traditional Christmas Day service at Sandringham, the Queen’s private residence in Norfolk.
IN THE ROYAL DIARY
The Duchess of Cornwall has a busy week ahead, with two major engagements on her calendar.
Tuesday, March 8: In her role as president of WOW - Women of the World Festival, Camilla will host a reception to mark International Women’s Day at Clarence House in London.
Thursday, March 10: She’ll open the new Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) headquarters in Battersea, south London. The duchess has been vice-patron of the RAD since 2020.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Prince Charles and Camilla unveiled an eco-friendly pier train named in honor of murdered British politician David Amess, during a visit to Southend, east of London on March 1. Amess, a veteran Conservative lawmaker, was stabbed to death in his constituency in October.