Good morning to you all! Hard as it might be to believe, we are in that most exciting of royal months--April! This year, we are looking forward to another royal tour, which kicks off very shortly. You have likely already seen the itinerary, but we are going to skim through it just quickly this morning.
April 6th: William and Kate will attend a reception at Kensington Palace at which they will meet young people form India and Bhutan who are working and living in the United Kingdom. According to the Palace, this will give TRHs the chance to get to know the two countries a little better in the run up to the tour!
Just a few days later, the royal couple will jet off for the actual tour. The Palace press release isn't selling this tour short. if this were the back of a book jacket, I think I'd buy it.The Duke and Duchess will meet India’s High Commissioner to the UK, Navtej Sarna. Additionally they will be introduced to a wide range of Indian and Bhutanese people, including those involved in British and Indian business, the charity sector, key figures within the diaspora community, academia, and representatives from the British Asian Trust.Their Royal Highnesses will also chat to Bhutanese and Indian students enrolled on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Chevening Scholarship Programme, the UK’s international awards scheme aimed at developing global leaders.
The tour will see The Duke and Duchess interact with people from all walks of life, from people in very difficult circumstances, to aspiring and established business leaders, well-known cultural figures, inspiring conservationists, leading politicians, and of course other Royals. This will be the most ambitious tour Their Royal Highnesses have undertaken outside a Realm nation and promises to be the most colourful tour to date. It will cover five distinct locations over six days across four regions of India and a visit to a remote and beautiful Himalayan kingdom. Events will take in everything from state ceremony, to Bollywood glamour, frontline conservation, urban life, and rural tradition. The Duke and Duchess cannot wait to meet the people of India and Bhutan.
I don't know about all of you, but the Bollywood mention is leaping off the page at me. I think if Kate wore a sari this could very well be the most spectacular tour...ever. Let's all start wishing/hoping/praying for this right now.
April 9th: William and Kate will take an overnight flight from the Uk to Mumbai, where the tour starts on,
Day One, April 10th, Mumbai:
Their first public moment will be on arrival at the Taj Palace Hotel. The Taj was one of the scenes of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 and is now an iconic symbol of the city’s resilience and strength. The stories of the bravery and dedication of the staff there are now known around the world. The Duke and Duchess are following in the footsteps of other world figures, including The Prince of Wales and The US President who have both used their stays at the hotel to display solidarity with the people of this great city. On arrival they will lay a wreath at a memorial inside the hotel and meet members of staff who helped protect guests during the attack.
After this arrival, The Duke and Duchess will get a chance to say a big hello to Mumbai at one of the city’s most famous public spaces, Oval Maidan. This large public park is home to cricket pitches that boast great views of the city’s skyline and is a gathering place for local people. They will watch a young person’s cricket match and also meet representatives and beneficiaries of three charities here – Magic Bus, Doorstep, and India’s Childline. They will meet and play with children who live in slums around the city. There may be a couple of surprises at this event as well.
From here, The Duke and Duchess will make their way to the Banganga Water Tank. Banganga is an ancient water tank in the Malabar Hill area of Mumbai.A visit here will allow Their Royal Highnesses to get a real sense of the complexity of this city. Alongside one of the most upmarket residential areas in Mumbai, they will see people who are living in tough circumstances in a small slum and are working hard to gain skills and make their way in the world. They will meet representatives of a charity called SMILE that focuses on skills and opportunities for young people and their parents.Later that evening, The Duke and Duchess will be introduced to some of Mumbai’s leading figures, including some well-known names from Bollywood and the city’s thriving business world. They will attend a glittering reception and dinner being held in their honour to celebrate Mumbai’s film and creative industries. This will be hosted by The British High Commission in partnership with The British Asian Trust, of which The Prince of Wales is founder and President. It will be a great way for The Duke and Duchess to finish their first day in India. The event will include red carpet arrivals, dance and musical performances, and of course fashion. The event will raise funds for the three charities that Their Royal Highnesses will have met earlier in the day – Magic Bus, Doorstep, and Childline. The Duke and Duchess are pleased that this event will raise funds that will create a small legacy of their visit to India. [Emphasis added by Jane.]
That glittering reception sounds so, so promising. I think we might see Kate in traditional dress, but even if we don't, I think we can hope that she will wear something very colorful and striking. Recalling similar events over the years, she has always gotten these fashion moments right, and we have seen her choices grow in confidence. The BAFTA dress in Los Angeles was understated, as is very much her style, but it was just what that night called for--elegance, understated stunning beauty. She balanced that event to perfection:
Kate did her best to channel and pay tribute to her guest country at the State Banquet in Kuala Lumpur.
The Hibiscus gown was unusual, although expected for event. Nevertheless, Kate sometimes surprises us. Excitement was high to see what Kate would wear to the Met on her trip to New York. Few expected Kate to recycle the Jenny Packham she had worn twice already! As it turned out, she could not have been more radiant among New York's high society.
Still, Kate's overseas style has gotten more adventurous. I remain convinced that the Half & Half dress the Duchess wore to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards in 2014 was originally meant for her visit to Malta.
What's the upshot of these musings? Kate might go with a British look, but if I had to gamble, I'd say she will wear something eye-popping. Whether she chooses to adopt a traditional ensemble, or adapts her own style to the country,--as she did with the blue Half & Half, it won't be boring. We have gotten sidetracked, though. Back to the itinerary.
Day Two, Mumbai & New Delhi, April 11th:
Let me pause to assure you, this is all one day! It's a busy one. They start in Mumbai, but will fly to New Delhi where their schedule is packed:The next morning, The Duke and Duchess will meet with aspiring young entrepreneurs at a GREAT campaign event at a bar, restaurant and collaborative workspace called The Social. Mumbai has a thriving young business scene and The Duke and Duchess will be given the opportunity to meet young people with great ideas to power the future of India’s massive economy, where more than 1 million people join the workforce every month.Prime Minister Modi has launched the Startup India campaign to encourage new businesses and job creation and this will be a chance to explore how the UK can work with Indian business to achieve these goals – Mr Modi has described the UK and India relationship as ‘an unbeatable combination’.
From here The Duke and Duchess will begin the next leg on their tour when they fly to New Delhi, India’s capital city. Their time in Delhi will allow them to pay respect to India’s military contributions, to honour the memory of Mahatma Ghandi, and also to get to know the men and women who now lead the country in government and politics.They will begin their Delhi programme with a wreath-laying at India Gate. This memorial is situated in the heart of New Delhi. The 42m high red standstone structure is the country’s main war memorial, covering the two world wars, the Third Anglo-Afghan War, and the Indo Pakistan War of 1971.As the world marks 100 years since the First World War, The Duke and Duchess will in particular honour the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives while fighting for the British Army during the conflict.From here The Duke and Duchess will travel to Gandhi Smriti. Literally meeting ‘Gandhi memory’, this museum is located in Old Birla House, where Mahatma Gandhi, India’s founding father, spent the last few years of his life.After arrival The Duke and Duchess will be given a tour of the museum before moving outside where they, like other visitors there, will follow Gandhi’s final footsteps from his humble bedroom to the spot in the garden where he was assassinated in 1948. They will pay their respects at the memorial that marks the location and will watch a choral performance from a group of young people before departing. The Duke and Duchess are grateful to have the chance to learn about this great man’s life in the place where he spent his final years.
Day Three, New Delhi & Kaziranga National Park, April 12th:That evening The Duke and Duchess will attend a birthday party for Her Majesty The Queen at the residence of the British High Commissioner.Attended by hundreds of VIPs from the world of government and politics, the garden party will be a chance to celebrate the links between Britain and India, and for all in attendance to toast The Queen ahead of her 90th birthday the next week. The Duke will use the occasion to personally pay tribute to his grandmother with a speech to the invited guests.
The next morning will include two engagements in Delhi, which will be announced closer to the time of the visit. One will allow The Duke and Duchess to see up close work to support desperately vulnerable young people in the city. The second engagement will be a meeting with a senior government leader. Details will be advised.
The Duke and Duchess will also have a private meeting with NGOs working in Delhi before departing the city. Further information will be provided in country.
After these events, Their Royal Highnesses will move onto Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam. The theme of this leg focuses on the role of conservation in the lives of the rural people of this area. Kaziranga is a World Heritage Site and a wildlife conservation site of great global importance. In addition to being the home of elephants, water buffalo, a number of bird species, the endangered swamp deer, and a high density of tigers, Kaziranga is home to two-thirds of the world’s population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses – Latin name, Rhinoceros Unicornis.More than many other famous national parks in the world, in Kaziranga you get a real sense of how closely linked local people are to the animals that live there. This connection is not always easy. The visit to Kaziranga will allow The Duke and Duchess to see up close work being done to manage the conflicts that arise when humans and wild animals live in close proximity. A number of stories of human animal conflict in India have made global news recently and this trip will allow Their Royal Highnesses and accompanying media to understand this issue in much more detail.
The visit to the park will begin on the evening of Tuesday 12 April. The visit comes at the time of the Bohag Bihu festival, the celebration of the Assamese New Year. Around a campfire, the Duke and Duchess will meet local people and see dance and musical performances. It will be a colourful and fun introduction to rural life and a great way to start this leg of the tour.
Day Four, April 13th:
The next morning, 13 April, will be an early start for an open-air drive around the National Park itself. They will be welcomed by local people and park staff at the entrance to Kaziranga before the drive begins. The Duke, President of United for Wildlife, has long wanted to visit Kaziranga. The park is situated on a flood plain and the vital annual floods drive animals up to the adjacent hills.In between the park and the hills, however, are growing numbers of villages which are in the path of ancient corridors for elephants and rhinos. The importance of the floods makes the area highly vulnerable to climate change as well, as reduced or increased snowmelts from the Himalayas could have severe consequences for this ecosystem.The Duke and Duchess will also meet rangers inside Kaziranga. The park has had success in recent years with protecting its animal populations from poachers. This has begun to change, however, with a number of recent poaching incidents. Rhinos are in particular danger as demand in other parts of Asia for their horns continues to rise. Traffickers in South East Asia are now marketing Indian rhino horn as ‘fire horn’ and lying about its increased potency when compared to African horn. The Duke will use this visit to speak out against the lies and violence that threaten this valuable species and the communities that rely on it.
After the tour of the park the Duke and Duchess will have an opportunity to interact with local people in a village. Details will be announced later.
In the afternoon, they will visit the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation. The centre provides emergency care and rehabilitation to wild animals that have been injured, displaced, or orphaned. The centre has a strong re-release rate of 60% and has rehabilitated thousands of animals including hand-raised elephants, rhinos, and bears. The centre is also home to rescued leopards which sadly cannot be re-released from the site and have to be rehomed in sanctuaries and zoos in other locations, mainly in India. Before leaving CWRC, The Duke and Duchess will meet young filmmakers who are members of Green Hub, a project that teaches film-making as a vocational skill to young people across North-East India. They will see two short films that both focus on human animal conflict.
After visiting CWRC, The Duke and Duchess will travel across the road to the Kaziranga Discovery Centre built by Elephant Family, the charity founded by Mark Shand, late brother of The Duchess of Cornwall. Here they will see a first of its kind health clinic for working elephants and an elephant information centre, which is under construction. Their Royal Highnesses will also have an opportunity to meet with villagers who have been relocated by the charity to keep them safely out of the path of an elephant corridor. Before departing, The Duke and Duchess will put the finishing touches on an elephant sculpture to officially mark the ‘call for artists’ for India’s elephant parade, which will see 200 elephants decorated by artists and placed in 200 locations across India by the Elephant Family. These parades have previously been staged in London, Edinburgh, and New York.
Day Five, Bhutan, April 14th:
On the morning of Thursday 14 April, The Duke and Duchess will fly to Bhutan. On arrival at Paro airport, The Duke and Duchess will immediately get a sense of the beauty of this mountainous country. They will be ceremoniously welcomed by senior state representatives before departing for a scenic drive to the capital city of Thimphu.In the afternoon, they will travel to the beautiful Thimphu Dzong where they will take part in a Chipdrel, a traditional welcome procession, complete with music, ceremonial dress, and plenty of colour. Inside the Dzong, they will have a private audience with The King and Queen. Their Majesties will then lead The Duke and Duchess across the Dzong’s vast courtyard, which will be beautifully decorated, across to a temple where they will receive a brief blessing and will light butter lamps.
The Duke and Duchess will then say goodbye to The King and Queen for the afternoon before heading to Thimphu’s open-air archery venue, located in the heart of the small city. Their Royal Highnesses will see first-hand Bhutan’s awe-inspiring national sport, where archers must aim at very small, brightly decorated wooden targets positioned 145 metres away from where they are standing. The Duke and Duchess will also have the opportunity to meet young people from local schools and NGOs who will be playing other traditional games.
That evening The Duke and Duchess will have a private dinner with The King and Queen at Lingkana Palace.
I am very excited for this visit to Bhutan. The Queen of Bhutan--Jetsum Pema--is absolutely stunning. She is only 25 and just had her first baby, so although Kate is a few steps ahead of her, both these women are relatively new royals and new moms, and will doubtless have much to share.
Day Six, Bhutan, April 15th:
The next day, 15 April, promises to be a very special one. The Duke and Duchess will hike to Paro Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest monastery which dates to 1692. The monastery is near the cave where Guru Padmasambhava – who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan – is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, and three days in the 8th century. It is a magical place that The Duke and Duchess are thrilled to be visiting. Their hike will take between 5-6 hours in total and will allow them to get a real sense of the natural and spiritual beauty of the country.
Back in Thimphu that evening, The Duke and Duchess will attend a reception for British nationals in Bhutan and Bhutanese people with strong links to the UK.Day Seven, Taj Mahal, April 16th:
The next morning back at Paro Airport, The Duke and Duchess will say farewell and thanks to the people of Bhutan.
They will then board a flight to Agra, India, the home of the Taj Mahal. The Taj, one of the wonders of the world and completed in 1648, will be a fitting location for The Duke and Duchess to say thank you for the generosity and warmth that will have been extended to them on the tour. The Taj Mahal is one of the symbols of India and Their Royal Highnesses cannot wait to see it with their own eyes. The Duke of Cambridge is of course aware of the huge esteem his mother, the late Princess of Wales is held in India and he appreciates the iconic status of the images that exist of The Princess at the Taj. He feels incredibly lucky to visit a place where his mother’s memory is kept alive by so many who travel there. 24 years on from her visit to the Taj, The Duke and The Duchess are looking forward to seeing this beautiful place for themselves and creating some new memories as they say thank you to the people of India at the conclusion of this tour.
Ending the tour with the Taj Mahal will be dramatic and memorable. This is a really well-structured tour, and...it will be just long enough. I am hugely excited, as I know all royal fans are. It will also help to clear the air and move forward from the bad press that has been generated largely by the boredom of these past slow months.
I am also excited to tell you all that I have a special post I have been working on, and it should be ready tomorrow, or early in the new week. Keep an eye out for it!