Prince of Wales makes first public appearance since edited photo controversy

Prince of Wales makes first public appearance since edited photo controversy

The Prince of Wales was all smiles at the Commonwealth Day service as he made his first public appearance since his wife admitted to “editing” their Mother’s Day picture.

The event celebrating the family of nations is a major fixture in the royal year but has been overshadowed by the Princess of Wales’ statement she manipulated a family photo released on Sunday.

The prince, who was spotted with Kate in his car while in London, arrived at Westminster Abbey alone before the Queen, and was greeted by the Dean of Westminster David Hoyle, shaking his hands with the senior cleric.

William was introduced to the Abbey’s Chapter, or governing body, shaking their hands as he made his way along the line of clergy.

Missing was the King, who continues to receive treatment for cancer, but in his annual address to the family of nations, he pledged to continue to serve the Commonwealth “to the best of my ability”.

Since his cancer diagnosis was announced on February 5, Charles has postponed all public-facing duties but is continuing with behind-the-scenes work on his red boxes of state papers and holding some in-person meetings.

His address highlighted how “diversity” was the Commonwealth’s core “strength”, and the union of 56 member countries was a “precious source of strength, inspiration, and pride” to him.

Charles said in the video message: “In recent weeks, I have been most deeply touched by your wonderfully kind and thoughtful good wishes for my health and, in return, can only continue to serve you, to the best of my ability, throughout the Commonwealth.”

Camilla and William were joined by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent.

The royals warmly greeted each other before they lined up for the procession to their seats.

Commonwealth Day 2024
The Princess Royal, the Queen, the Duchess of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales attending the annual Commonwealth Day Service (Henry Nicholls/PA)

The prince gave Edward a friendly pat on the arm and a kiss on both cheeks, before standing in conversation with his aunts Anne and Sophie and uncle.

As Camilla, dressed in a turquoise coat and hat, approached, William was seen to say “hello” to his stepmother before moving forward to kiss her on both cheeks.

They smiled and chatted for a few moments as they stood side by side at the head of the royal party.

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Queen Camilla and the Prince of Wales attending the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Camilla looked back, as if to check the other members of the monarchy were in place and when the national anthem began, all the royals sang.

The annual celebration will draw on the theme of resilience at a time when the royal family has faced a barrage of health troubles.

Among the 2,000 guests were Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland, the president of Malta, foreign ministers, high commissioners, senior politicians and dignitaries from across the Commonwealth and faith leaders as well as schoolchildren and young people from throughout the UK.

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William smiling during the service (Henry Nicholls/PA)

The service, which marked the 75th anniversary of the family of nations, featured performers from across the Commonwealth including a dance troupe from Uganda that tickled the royals.

The front row of Camilla, William, Edward, Sophie and Anne smiled then laughed as the youngsters, who featured on Britain’s Got Talent, twirled and jumped.

Protesters from the Republic campaign group had earlier gathered outside, near the abbey.

Commonwealth Day 2024
Protesters outside Westminster Abbey in London ahead of the annual Commonwealth Day Service (Lucy North/PA)

The demonstrators carried bright yellow placards bearing the slogan “Down with the Crown”.

Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, said: “The royals need to stop using the Commonwealth as a vehicle for their own PR.

“The platitudes we hear from Charles and Camilla only serve to paper over serious concerns about human rights abuses and a lack of democracy in many Commonwealth countries.”

The King’s Commonwealth message
The King addressed the service via video message, in which he said he would continue to serve the Commonwealth ‘to the best of his ability’ (Royal Household/PA)

He added: “The royal family funded, promoted and defended slavery for centuries, and then presided over an empire that caused untold damage to people’s lives that continues to have an impact to this day.

“Reparations are a reasonable demand. As a hereditary monarch, Charles can hardly argue that what his ancestors did has nothing to do with him.”

Among the guests was former Spice Girl Geri Horner. Her husband Christian Horner, boss of Formula One team Red Bull, was investigated recently following an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” which was later dismissed.

Sir Ben Okri, the poet and Booker Prize winning novelist, read his prose piece called Transcending History, telling those gathered: “You can never tell what happens when people hang out together for historical, cultural reasons.

“Families are formed not only of blood but affinity. No family ever stands secure without the mortar of respect, without the magnetism of affection.”

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Geri Horner arrives for the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in London (Yui Mok/PA)

After the prayers and hymns the royal family met some of those who performed at the event, and William could not contain his delight at meeting Akrama Muyamja, a 14-year-old performer from the dance troupe Ghetto Kids.

Speaking about the teenager he said to another guest in the line-up: “This guy was the star of the show – the hip movement.

“He was incredible and the great big smiles as he was doing it.”

A few minutes later his words were echoed by Edward who told the teenager: “That winning smile – a little cheeky.”

Commonwealth Day 2024
Queen Camilla talks to guests during the Commonwealth Day reception (Aaron Chown/PA)

Later the Queen attended the annual evening reception marking Commonwealth Day and was hosted by Baroness Scotland, the family of nation’s Secretary-General.

High Commissioners from across the globe chatted with the Queen in London’s Marlborough House, the home of the Commonwealth’s civil service.

Entertainment reflected the nations present, and Camilla stopped to chat with South African performers and others from Samoa, the nation that will host the next meeting of Commonwealth leaders later this year.