Prince Harry wore the dark navy frock coat of his army regiment decorated with a red poppy as he undertook a solemn tribute to those who have died in conflict.
The 34-year-old royal, who returned last week from his 16-day tour Down Under alongside wife Meghan Markle, 37, attended the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey solo on Thursday morning wearing his Household Cavalry dress uniform.
It is a ceremony — which he first attended six years ago — that he used to take part in with his grandfather Prince Philip. After Philip, 97, gave up his public duties in the summer of 2017, Harry attended solo last November.
The Field of Remembrance is a place where ex-service men and women as well as members of the public can plant a cross carrying a personal message in memory of those who have lost their lives. It is in its 90th year — when it first took place in 1928, only two Remembrance Tribute Crosses were planted. There are now about 70,000 crosses produced by the Poppy Factory team which are planed in more than 360 plots for regimental and other associations. The Field at Westminster Abbey stays open for 10 days.
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On Thursday morning’s ceremony, Harry, who served two tours of Afghanistan during his 10 years in the army, placed his own cross in the garden and the Last Post was sounded by a lone bugler and he then had a brief tour of the Field.
Although red poppies are traditionally used to honor those who lost their lives, Harry commented that he would like to lay a wreath of marigolds in honor of the Indian troops who served in the war. More than a million Indian troops served in the First World War, with some 74,000 perishing in the conflict. As he passed a plot at the Field of Remembrance marking the Indian troops who served in the war, Harry was given a small posy of marigolds.
Suraj Samant, a 23-year-old youth representative on the Hindu Council UK, told reporters, “He said he would lay a wreath of marigolds at the Cenotaph on Sunday if it was his choice. But he said it would not please everybody to have that. He realizes that they are the forgotten, the unrecognized. But in the last four years their sacrifice and their service has been more recognized.”
The royal also made some time to greet a new furry friend.
Colour Sergeant Watchman V, the Staffordshire bull terrier who is the mascot of the Staffordshire Association, watched as Harry met his soon-to-be successor in the role, a 15-year-old puppy appropriately dubbed Private Watchman VI.
Their handler Greg Hedges, 62, a former Warrant Officee 2 with The Mercian Regiment, told reporters that Harry called the puppy “cute.”
“Harry went down to pat him, and he jumped up and Harry held his paw. So he has got the royal seal of approval,” said Hedges, who added that Harry was “surprised to see a new dog.”
The service is a key part of the commemorations of the war dead which have taken on extra poignancy this year as it is 100 years since the ending of the First World War, on November 11. Over the weekend, there are a number of public remembrances, with the most poignant being that of the wreath laying at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Sunday. Like last year, Prince Charles, who is 70 next week, is laying the wreath on behalf of his mother Queen Elizabeth, 92.