Kate spent her weekend at the Houghton International Horse Trials with close friends the Meades. The Duchess was spotted at the equestrian event near her Anmer Hall home on two consecutive days. She brought George and enjoyed the relaxed festivities which included not just the riding, but also a charity cricket match for Walking with the Wounded, a charity with which Prince Harry is very involved. [Update] According to the photographer who took the pictures of Kate and her family, Helen Mathias, the first day was sunny and lovely. On Saturday Kate was pictured in her Tori Ralph Lauren:
Apparently, on the second day the sunshine broke through and Kate turned to her Ralph Lauren "Tori" Breton top and olive trousers and flats. The Duchess is even sporting an animal print headband! Here she is pictured above wiping little George's face while one of William's very best friends, James Meade, relaxes in the grass beside the two royals. The Duke also made it out. This sweet image of Prince William and little George has also surfaced.
And hubby of course! Prince William and Prince George © 2016 H.Mathias pic.twitter.com/uA8OHl88Jf— Helen Mathias (@OnAnAdventure) May 31, 2016
The second day is pictured below, where the Princess is accompanied by (it appears) Nanny Maria and possibly Charlotte. [Most now believe the little girl is in fact the daughter of the Meades.] The below photo was taken and shared by Lou Grey Cashmere & Designs. The owners of the boutique who had a stall at the event said that Kate brought Princess Charlotte. I can't see the little princess in the photos, but I always tend to believe the eye-witness account.
I am unsure which Barbour this is. It looks like her "Defence" which we have seen on many occasions, but the buttons are missing here. Perhaps they are just blurred due to the poor pixilation? It may, however, be a new version. I'll update when I figure this out.
The photo suggests overcast skies and all the women are in jackets of one form or another. [This was confirmed to be Sunday] Kate wore her Le Chameau wellies and a Barbour jacket. Unusually, the Duchess pulled her hair into a casual chignon, possible because of the threat of rain?
As a close pal of the prince, James Meade goes way back with Kate. Below a much younger James and Kate stroll the cross country course at the Badminton Horse Trials on May 4, 2007. At the time, William and Kate had just had their traumatic and very public break-up. It was nice to see one of William's friends remain loyal to Kate as well, and I am sure it was a crucial point that solidified his position in the royal inner circle once the two reconciled.
Kate missed James's wedding, which took place in September of 2013 while Kate was still taking time away from the public eye after the birth of Prince George. William was an usher at the wedding, however, and many of the couple's circle were present including Jecca Craig and Pippa Middleton:
James is one of Princess Charlotte's godparents and he lives with his wife Laura near Anmer Hall where they are doubtless some of William and Kate's best and closet companions.
James's brother Harry--another close friend of the royals--was competing in the horse trial this weekend and also played the charity cricket match. You probably remember Harry better than James only because it was at Harry's October nuptials in 2010 that William and Kate demonstrated they were ready to be more public with their romance. Their bold and beaming entrance into the church signaled to photographers and royal watchers alike that Prince William and Kate Middleton were ready to make an important announcement, and indeed the news of their engagement was released only a few short weeks later.
Prince George must have had a ball at Houghton. In addition to watching the beautiful horses fly by as they navigated the course, there were a variety of other attractions. According to the Lynn News:
As well as the main horse trials, with its cross country course set out across Houghton’s rolling parkland, other equestrian events included show jumping, dressage and Pony Club classes, with competitors from all over the country and a large number of more local riders.This year was the event’s tenth anniversary and the organisers had stepped up the focus on family entertainment alongside the horse classes. There were more than 70 trade stands and, for the first time, a vintage zone staged by Britain Does Vintage.
The Pony Club sounds like it would be right up George's alley, but Prince William said recently in an interview that Kate won't George on a horse just yet, despite discreet pushes from Her Majesty herself! The grounds alone would have provided a picture perfect day. In 2008 Houghton Hall was considered to play the part of Brideshead for the film adaptation of the British masterpiece Brideshead Revisited--my absolute favorite book--but lost out to Castle Howard.
This was a very fun surprise to end the holiday weekend. Prince William competed in the Audi Polo Challenge this weekend, as he does most years, and I was disappointed that Kate did not make an appearance. This certainly made up for that. It also gives us a peek into the private and quiet life the Cambridges lead when they are away from London. With an intimate social set, plenty of sunshine and grass and fresh air, it isn't hard to see why they love to flee to the country and spend their days in Norfolk. You can expect they will hold onto this ideal lifestyle for as long as they possibly can.