Prince William (L) with Prince Andrew (C) and Prince Charles (R) wearing ceremonial robes during the procession to St George’s Chapel in Windsor as part of the annual Order of the Garter service
By Rebecca English
Prince William swapped his flying helmet for an extravagantly plumed hat at today’s Most Noble Order of the Garter Service.
The future king, who was created a knight of Britain’s oldest order of chivalry last year, took part in the annual procession alongside his father, grandmother and grandfather in the precincts of Windsor Castle.
Founded by Edward 111 in 1348, there is a maximum of 24 companion knights at any one time and their number is usually made up of senior politicians, members of the Royal Family and eminent public figures.
Knights of the order are required to display a banner of arms at the chapel, together with a helmet, crest and sword and an enamelled stallplate. They also carry the letters KG after their name for life.
Unusually, the honour is in the Queen’s personal gift without advice from Government ministers and William’s inclusion is the first of several offices he will hold as his royal duties increase.
Dressed in a blue velvet cloak and black hat complete with ostrich plume, the 26-year-old prince, who is currently training to become an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter pilot, towered over his father and other family members, which included the Duke of York, the Princess Royal and Earl of Wessex.
A spokesman said he had been given the day off from training at RAF Shawbury to attend the event but would be back in the cockpit the following day.
He smiled shyly and gave the occasional wave to cheering members of the public allowed inside to watch the knights walk from the castle, where they had enjoyed lunch with the Queen, to St George’s Chapel for the traditional service of thanksgiving.
One notable absence from the event was Baroness Thatcher, who remains in hospital after breaking her arm last week in a fall at her London home.
The 83-year-old former Prime Minister – who was made a member of the ancient order in April 1995 a few years after her time in office had ended – was always doubtful for the event after the accident.
Plans had been put in place, however, to have her pre-seated in St George’s Chapel for the service instead of walking through the grounds of the castle just in case.
However a spokesman said that Lady Thatcher will be kept in for several more days at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital as a precaution.