Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, was heckled as he arrived at Westminster Abbey on Friday 3 May for a service to mark 50 years of the UK’s nuclear deterrent programme. The Duke, attending the service in his role as Commodore-in-Chief of the submarine service, was booed by a group of protesters from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) who had gathered near the Abbey.
The protesters displayed banners and shouted ‘shame on you’ and ‘down with Trident’ as guests arrived at the Abbey. The group had earlier staged a ‘die-in’ to remember nuclear war victims. The CND stated that the service was ‘disappointing’.
A congregation of approximately 2,000 attended the abbey, with many of those representatives from the Royal Navy. In attendance was the new UK Secretary of State for Defence, Penny Mordaunt, in her first engagement since being appointed to the role this week. The service was held to honour the Royal Navy, which has provided continuous service since April 1969 patrolling the world’s oceans for Operation Relentless, which is the longest operation the Armed Forces has undertaken.
The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend John Hall, greeted the Duke of Cambridge and Ms Mordaunt as they arrived at the Abbey. In his address to the congregation, the Dean paid tribute to the service personnel who over the last 50 years had served their country in this role, saying ‘Those countless men and women played their part, a vital part, in maintaining peace’.
The Dean, who had received many requests for the service to be cancelled, said that the service was not a celebration of nuclear weapons, but was being held because of the ‘debt of gratitude and sincere thanks’ that was owed to service personnel. The Dean also acknowledged the devastation that nuclear weapons cause, and referenced Hiroshima in his address.
The Duke of Cambridge, wearing the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, gave a reading at the Abbey. Prior to the service, the Defence Secretary, who is also a Royal Navy reservist, announced that the latest submarine – the fourth Dreadnought submarine – will be named HMS King George VI.