Joining the ranks of royals to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War are The Queen’s cousin and his wife, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who will be a part of the Great War Centenary Parade through London on the 4th of August.
The two will be joining Chelsea Pensioners, and are set to ride in the streets in cars from the early 20th century. Alongside the group will be officials and dignitaries from Britain and Western Front towns in Belgium. The parade will follow a route that takes them from the Royal Hospital Chelsea to Parliament Square, past the Cenotaph in Whitehall. They will drive up The Mall and across Westminster Bridge to the Imperial War Museum, before heading back to the Royal Hospital.
During the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a nursing home for British soldiers who are unfit for duty, was responsible for distributing army pensions to retired servicemen. The pensioners could either receive their pension from the Royal Hospital, or surrender their pension and instead live within the hospital itself. Those who opted for the former were known as out-pensioners, while those who opted for the latter were in-pensioners. While the disparity between the two was not as great when the system was introduced, today the out-pensioners greatly outnumber the in-pensioners. In-pensioners have come to be referred to as Chelsea Pensioners, and are recognised by their distinctive scarlet uniforms.
The Great War Centenary Parade is a collaboration between the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Sandy Saunders, a Chelsea Pensioner who is part of the parade, said: “I speak for all of the Chelsea Pensioners when I say that we are truly honoured to be representing the Army and the fallen here today.”
In addition to the parade, Chelsea Pensioners are taking part in a number of events across the UK and Belgium. Nine of them will be at the vigil in Westminster Abbey with the Duchess of Cornwall, and many more involved in activities in Jersey, Glasgow, Folkestone and the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.