While The Queen and other senior royals braved the downpour over opening day at Royal Ascot yesterday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent the afternoon in sunny Northern Ireland attending the Secretary of State’s garden party at Hillsborough Castle.
Established in 1984 the annual event was hosted by current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers. Traditionally a member of the royal family attends each year. Last year’s party was attended by the Earl and Countess of Wessex (who also attended in 2013) and The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended in 2014.
Arriving at the castle, crowds were disappointed not to see Prince George or Prince Charlotte but greeted Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus (as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are styled in Northern Ireland) warmly.
William and Kate met with dignitaries, including First minister Arlene Foster, on the steps of the historic castle where they stood for the playing of the national anthem.
Passing through the building into the gardens the royals were greeted with arrangements by local composers Howard Ferguson and Hamilton Harty performed by a 63-piece Ulster Orchestra. Mingling with the 2,500 guests who had been drawn from a wide cross-section of Northern Irish society, including the ‘voluntary and community’ sectors, local charities and youth organisations, the two chatted happily and enjoyed the beautiful weather. They also helped to plant a tree in honour of their visit.
The Duchess wore a coat by Day Birger et Mikkelsen from their Resort 2006 collection which was last seen at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in 2012 and, perhaps most notably, at Zara Phillips wedding to Mike Tindall in 2011. She paired the coat with a hat by Lock & Co., L.K. Bennett Fern pumps, the L.K. Bennett ‘Nina’ clutch and a shamrock brooch which is on indefinite loan to her from the Irish Guards.
This was the second trip to Northern Ireland William and Kate have made, the previous one having occurred in March 2011 as part of the UK tour they embarked on ahead of their marriage.
On that visit, they met with crowds at City Hall in Belfast who had gathered at a Cancer Fund for Children event on Shrove Tuesday. Onlookers were delighted when the royal couple tried their hands at flipping a pancake, both proving adept at the manoeuvre and more than up to the task.
The quick trip over to Northern Ireland followed a weekend of busy celebrations for The Queen’s official 90th birthday—including a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday, the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Saturday and The Patron’s Lunch on The Mall on Sunday—and a visit to the US Embassy in London on Tuesday morning to sign the book of condolences for victims and those affected by the horrific attack in Orlando, Florida.