UK celebrates Royal Air Force 100th anniversary
By MARIA PUENTE | USA Today (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 10, 2018
A clutch of royals, led by Queen Elizabeth II and joined by Prince Harry and his new wife, Duchess Meghan of Sussex, kicked off celebrations Tuesday marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, including another balcony appearance at the palace for the former Meghan Markle.
Harry and Meghan were among the 17 royals who flanked the queen on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony, but the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex were in a prime spot right next to the queen with father-in-law Prince Charles and his wife Duchess Camilla of Cornwall on the other side.
A day crowded with royal ceremony began with a special service in Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade in The Mall, the traditional roaring flypast over the palace, plus receptions later.
The queen was joined at the various ceremonies during the day by various children and grandchildren, including Prince William, Prince Charles, Princess Anne the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and their spouses.
Later, Harry and Meghan, along with Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge, appeared at a reception at the palace.
This was the second time in recent weeks the British got to see Meghan taking part in a royal celebration on the balcony. After their wedding May 19 at Windsor Castle, Harry and Meghan made their balcony debut together in June for the annual Trooping the Colour ceremonies marking the queen's official birthday.
The princes, all of whom have served in some capacity in the British armed forces in the distant or recent past, were resplendent in blue RAF uniforms while the women glowed in stylish ensembles.
The queen stood out in an RAF-blue coat and dress edged with turquoise, with a matching hat and a diamond star brooch on her shoulder.
Meghan wore a black Dior dress with a boatneck neckline and a matching Stephen Jones fascinator. She paired the look with nude heels and a clutch.
Duchess Kate was attending the celebration a day after she appeared at the Chapel Royal in St. James's Palace for the christening of her third baby, Prince Louis of Cambridge, who was born April 23.
Kate opted for a mint Alexander McQueen coat dress with a matching hat by Sean Barrett as well as a diamond and ruby Darce brooch, a high honor from the Air Cadets.
Missing was the queen's husband, Prince Philip, 97, who has retired from public life.
Harry, 33, a former captain in the British Army, and Meghan, 36, cheered the RAF just hours before they were scheduled to depart Tuesday evening for Dublin, Ireland, for a 24-hour visit jam-packed with engagements, including an eagerly anticipated walkabout at Trinity College's Parliament Square on Wednesday.
The official Sussex itinerary in Ireland includes parties, sports, meetings with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and President Michael Higgins, and visits to see the historic Book of Kells in Trinity College's famed Old Library, to pay respects at the nearby memorial to the Irish Famine and to explore the Irish Emigration Museum.
The queen, 92, front and center for the RAF events. Besides the Abbey service and the flypast, she was scheduled to take the Royal Salute, present a new Queen's Colour to the RAF at a ceremony on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, and then make a brief speech.
After a busy week in Scotland last week, the queen faced another busy week ahead in London, including a meeting with visiting President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump on Friday.
She was unable to attend the christening of Prince Louis of Cambridge on Monday, as she was traveling, but paying homage to Britain's military services is one of her most important roles as monarch.
The RAF, described as the world's first independent air force, was founded on April 1, 1918 as an armed force independent of the British Army and the Royal Navy.
It played a key role in defending the skies of Britain during WWII, when the queen was still a teen and her father, King George VI, was on the throne.
A century later, the RAF is engaged in 13 missions across 26 countries and is heavily committed on operations both at home and abroad, according to Buckingham Palace. ___
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