The Duchess of Cornwall took over from her step-son Prince Harry today as she joined a moving service at Westminster Abbey’s Field of Remembrance.
Each November a member of the Royal Family pays tribute at the sea of crosses on the green in the abbey grounds, organised by The Poppy Factory.
Historically, the honour fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, but in recent years The Duke of Sussex has taken over the role.
Now Prince Harry has relinquished his royal duties and moved to the US with his wife Meghan Markle and son Archie, Camilla who is already patron of The Poppy Factory has taken up the role.
The Duchess of Cornwall has paid tribute to Britain’s war dead by placing a cross at Westminster Abbey’s Field of Remembrance
Sporting a poppy facemask, Camilla, 73, honoured the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for their country and stood in solemn silence as the Last Post was played
She had been due to attend last year with Harry and Meghan but was unfortunately ill.
Today’s event, the 92nd year it has been held, was pared down – just a handful of people instead of the 1,200 veterans and their families that normally attend – but none the less moving for it.
Camilla was wearing a Rifles dress – she is Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment – with a military-style coat by Mr Roy, a Rifles hat by Philip Treacy and a regimental brooch.
She was greeted by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Very Reverend David Hoyle, and Defence Minister Ben Wallace, before meeting Poppy Factory representatives.
Keeping warm from the November chill, Camilla wrapped up in a dark green coat, which she complemented with black knee-high boots, gloves and beret
Only a small number of socially-distanced veterans attended the ceremony in the 92nd year of the Field of Remembrance today
She then stood in front of crosses from the Graves of the Unknown as the Dean offered prayers, before solemnly laying her own cross of remembrance and bowing her head in reflection.
A bugler played the Last Post, followed by a two-minute silence, and then Exhortation to Remembrance, as Big Ben chimed at 2pm.
Afterwards the duchess toured the 308 plots filled with more than 60,000 crosses and symbols of all faiths, laid by staff and volunteers, with Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, President of The Poppy Factory.
Prince Harry has represented the Royal Family at the annual event since 2013, but last year was the first time that his wife has joined him. Meghan and Harry are pictured last year
‘It is such a shame that there aren’t people here this year,’ she said, pausing at one of the the Rifles plots.
She also took a few moments at the plot laid in memory of the Lancers, the regiment with which her war hero late father, Major Bruce Shand, served.
‘Ah ha, my father’s regiment,’ she said.
‘Sadly I can’t read [the inscriptions] without my spectacles.’
The duchess donned a Royal British Legion poppy mask before she went into St Margaret’s Church to sign a visitor’s book before leaving.
The wife of Prince Charles kept her white blonde-hair carefully coiffed under a hat. Camilla sported a light make-up look with a gentle layer of foundation, muted pink lip and lick of black mascara
Camilla’s appearance comes as the government declared remembrance services will go ahead over the coming days despite a second lockdown looming over the UK, with millions facing stringent new restrictions on Thursday.
Among the armed forces representatives she met was Steve Pleasants, 55, from south east London, who served with the RAF in catering for six years and now works for The Poppy Factory.
‘I’ve helped plant the crosses and it has meant an awful lot to do that, despite everything that is going on. We have had less volunteers as a result of Covid and slightly less plots but it’s still such an important event to pay tribute to these men and women who have died for our country,’ he said.
Mr Pleasants suffered a breakdown and experienced mental health issues. As part of his recovery he volunteered to work at the factory and was this year given a full-time job, his first for seven years.
The couple visited Westminster Abbey to remember those who have made ultimate sacrifice in conflicts across the decades last year
Meghan places a small cross during a visit to the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey last year
The Poppy Factory Employs wounded, injured and sick veterans and dependants of veterans all year round and has found jobs for 140 veterans, manny with mental health issues, in England and Wales since lockdown in industries as diverse as IT and Forestry.
‘It’s a very special place,’ Mr Pleasants said.
Sadly because of lockdown members of the public won’t be able to walk round the Field of Remembrance as normal to pay their respects, but a video tour has been recreated and is available to view at poppy factory.org, a nd it can still be seen at a distance by passers by.
Camilla is pictured today at the field of remembrance in Westminster, taking the place of her stepson Harry
It is hoped that they will keep it open for longer this year as a result, possibly past December 2.
Mr Pleasants said: ‘It’s still a wonderful focus for us to remember those who have lost their lives regardless.’
Camilla also spoke to WO1 Tony Matthew QVRM, a Royal Navy Reserve with HMS President for 38 years.
He said: ‘Although things are slightly different this year, which is a real shame, it is still incredibly important to mark this event. It’s only when you see the crosses here that you realise the scope of it.’
, Duchess of Cornwall (Patron of The Poppy Factory) visits the 92nd Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey today
Poppy Factory President, Surgeon Rear Admiral Jarvis, said of the duchess’s involvement: ‘It was a lovely event and very poignant despite the lack of crowds. There is a certain level of poignancy in doing it this way, in this weird world in which we all now live.
‘The Duchess is an incredibly supportive patron of The Poppy Factory so I think this will now become a regular thing. Prince Harry has obviously got other preoccupations at the moment. We will see what happens over the next year. We think that [her regular involvement] would be very nice.’
Deirdre Mills, chief executive of The Poppy Factory said that although people might be prevented from visiting the Field of Remembrance in person or physically buying a poppy, she would urge them to support this year’s remembrance events through digital platforms.
The duchess has been patron of The Poppy Factory since 2013.
The Field of Remembrance has been organised by The Poppy Factory and held in the grounds of Westminster Abbey since November 1928.
In its first year, only two tribute crosses were planted, but now around 70,000 are produced by the Poppy Factory each year.
Veterans, as well as members of the public, are normally invited to plant a cross in the Abbey grounds in memory of fallen comrades and loved ones, although movement has been restricted by Covid this year.