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Why the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day, royal watchers can look forward to an event dating back over a century as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carry on a regal tradition and attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

As Colonel of the Irish Guards, one of the five regiments of the Foot Guards, the Duke of Cambridge attends the annual event to present sprigs of shamrock to the Officers and Guardsmen and is accompanied by his wife.

The other four Foot Guard regiments are the Grenadier Guards (the Duke of York is the Colonel of the Regiment), the Welsh Guards (the Prince of Wales is the Colonel of the Regiment), the Scots Guards (the Duke of Kent is the Colonel of the Regiment), and the Coldstream Guards (Sir James Bucknall is Colonel of the Regiment).

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The St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place at Calvary Barracks in Hounslow, West London, each year, and has been attended by a member of the Royal Family since 1901.

The shamrock tradition dates back to 1901, when Queen Alexandra first attended the parade. Later, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother took up the tradition; and following her death in 2002, the Princess Royal presented shamrocks.

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The Duchess of Cambridge took over presentation of the shamrocks in 2012, one of her first solo engagements while William was deployed overseas; and has continued to do so every year since, except in 2016, which caused controversy when William attended alone.

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King George VI presented the shamrocks in 1950 to mark the Regiment’s 50th anniversary.

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The Regiment’s mascot, an Irish Wolfhound named Domhnall, is always a crowd favourite during the parade, and is presented with his own shamrock that is pinned to his collar.  He has been their mascot since 2013.

Ahead of 2018’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the BBC spoke with Domhnall’s handler, drummer Aidan Cathcart, about the dog’s role in the parade and whether he would behave.

“Domhnall’s role is very monumental. He is the first guy on the parade,” Cathcart said. “He is the main guy on the march, it’s a pretty important day for him.”

The Irish Guards has been an active regiment since 1 April 1900, and has served campaigns in the First World War, the Second World War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan.

After the Second World War, it was reduced to a single battalion and has served in other military exercises, including in Palestine, at the Suez Canal during the crisis there, and abroad in other countries including the Balkans and Kosovo.

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More recently, the Irish Guards were deployed to London following the Manchester Arena Bombing to guard government buildings.

Per the British Military’s website, the Irish Guards have “proven its loyalty and grit on many tough operations” and its soldiers guard the royal palaces. They are affectionately nicknamed ‘The Micks’ throughout the Army, and their highly identifiable red tunic uniform was worn by the Duke of Cambridge at his 2011 wedding.

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William was named Colonel of the Irish Guards earlier in February that year, and rides in the Trooping the Colour each year in the parade wearing the regiment uniform.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.