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WWI command for royal couple

William, Kate

London, April 28: After their triumphant tour of New Zealand and Australia, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are to take on their most significant role yet.

The Queen has entrusted the young couple with representing Britain at the battlefield ceremony to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The importance of the occasion is underlined by the fact that Germany and other countries will be represented by their heads of state.

The couple will be joined by Prince Harry, who is still a military officer, for the ceremony on August 4 at St Symphorien military cemetery near Mons, Belgium.

Later that evening, when Westminster Abbey leads the way for candlelit vigils at churches across Britain, the Queen will make her sole public appearance at the tiny Highland church of Crathie, near Balmoral.

It is understood the Queen’s decision to retreat to a Highland church rather than lead one of the official events is not intended as another sign that, at 88, she is stepping back from official duties. Rather it is said to be an indication of her profound response to the impact of a war that killed about 900,000 British subjects and about 17 million people worldwide.

She has asked the Prince of Wales to represent her at the third national event that will take place on the day: a service at Glasgow Cathedral. Britain went to war as an empire and representatives of India, Canada, Australia and others will be in Glasgow because the city is also hosting the Commonwealth Games, which will close on August 3.

Royal sources said the ceremony of reconciliation at St Symphorien, although not officially classified as a state occasion, will be the first time the younger royals have been asked to shoulder the responsibility of an event of such significance.

The source added that the princes’ service record had played a part in their selection for their role: “Harry is still a military officer with recent service in Afghanistan and William has just left the service. That’s why they resonate with that particular event.” The theme of Anglo-German reconciliation will run through the commemorations, which will be attended by Joachim Gauck, the president of Germany, and King Philippe of Belgium.

 
 
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