The Prince and Princess of Wales have arrived at Army Training Centre Pirbright in Surrey to meet troops from the Commonwealth taking part in the Queen’s state funeral.
William and Kate are using the visit to speak to soldiers from countries including Australia, Canada and New Zealand to take part in Monday’s historic event.
Rehearsals for the service took part earlier in the day and continued even after the royals arrived on site.
Today’s visit is Kate’s second to the centre in less than a year, after she wore a helmet and posed in an army tank in pictures she posted on Armed Forces Day.
Pirbright is acting as a holding area for service personnel based outside London, where troops can train, eat and sleep before moving into the capital to deliver ‘ceremonial support’ to the funeral’.
The centre houses 750 service personnel across Defence, and Commonwealth Realm Defence Forces and has previously been used for soldiers involved in The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral and Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.
It comes after the couple yesterday chatted with crowds at the late monarch’s Sandringham residence in Norfolk and looked over the sea of tributes left in her memory.
The Prince and Princess of Wales have arrived at Army Training Centre Pirbright in Surrey to meet troops from the Commonwealth who are to participate in the Queen’s state funeral
William and Kate are using the visit to speak to soldiers from countries including Australia, Canada and New Zealand to take part in Monday’s historic event
The Princess of Wales meets troops from the Commonwealth at the Army Training Centre in Pirbright
William and Kate, both 40, began the visit by stepping out of a dark Range Rover near to the estate’s historic Norwich Gates where they warmly greeted by huge crowds who had waited behind metal barriers to see them.
One well-wisher, Gemma Schultz, spoke to William after he noticed her baby wearing a top with Paddington on it and commented about the bear’s popularity following the Queen’s skit with the marmalade sandwich-loving character for her Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in June.
The Prince joked: ‘I was saying, I think Paddington might have knocked the Corgi off the top spot now. The Corgis won’t take that very well.’
Following the discussion, Gemma told BBC News that William and Kate were ‘nice and genuine people’, adding: ‘We spoke to William and we spoke to Kate, they both said about his little outfits, how nice they were… All the things that they are doing for everyone is just so nice.’
The Prince and Princess of Wales, who stayed for almost an hour, chatting to royal fans young and old, looked deep in thought as they read the messages on the sea of floral tributes that have been left behind at the gates to the royal residence.
William told a woman waiting in the crowds that yesterday’s procession was ‘very difficult’ and ‘brought back a few memories’ of walking behind his mother Diana’s coffin, before – close to tears – saying to her: ‘Don’t cry now, you’ll start me off’.
William was also heard telling a mourner the Queen was ‘everyone’s grandmother’, and saying Prince George, nine, understood that she had died but Princess Charlotte, seven, and Prince Louis, four, less so. Meanwhile, Kate told a woman she would burst into tears if she read too many sympathy cards.
The Princess of Wales visited Pirbright only last year, and echoed Princess Diana as she smiled in a helmet while posing in an army tank to mark Armed Forces Day.
The 40-year-old shared photos of herself helping out in an armoured vehicle on a visit to the academy, where she met new recruits last November.
The pictures evoked memories of the late Princess as they bore an eerie resemblance to when she also donned a helmet as she drove a tank while visiting the Royal Hampshire Regiment at Tidworth in 1998.
Kate used the Instagram account she shares with Prince William to write a personal message marking the occasion.
In a heartfelt message, she wrote: ‘Today on Armed Forces Day, William and I would like to pay tribute to the brave men and women, past and present, serving in all of our armed forces, at sea, on land and in the air, here in the UK and around the world.
‘Thank you for all you and your families’ sacrifice to keep us safe.’
She added: ‘Last year, I was honoured to spend time with the @BritishArmy to see how they train serving personnel and new recruits.
‘It was wonderful to see first-hand the many important and varied roles the military play day in, day out to protect us all, and I look forward to discovering more about the @RoyalNavy and @RoyalAirForceUK in due course.’
To show she personally had posted the message, she signed off with a ‘C’.