A night for reflection. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, alongside Prince Harry, spent the evening of Thursday, June 30, paying tribute to soldiers killed 100 years ago in World War I’s Battle of the Somme during an overnight tribute in France.
Duchess Kate, 34, looked stylish and somber in a black and white Missoni coat and a black pillbox hat as she walked through the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in Northern France, flanked by the princes.
The royal trio climbed to the top of Sir Edwin Lutyens’ monument to view the battlefield, and were visibly moved as they were told of the carnage 100 years ago that claimed the lives or injured more than a million men on all sides.
During the vigil, Kate and Harry sat together as Prince William gave a speech (written by Birdsong novelist Sebastian Faulks) to the gathered audience. “We lost the flower of a generation,” the 34-year-old royal said, highlighting the British and Commonwealth casualties of July 1, 1916, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.
“It was in many ways the saddest day in the long story of our nation. Tonight we think of them as they nerved themselves for what lay ahead. We acknowledge the failures of European governments, including our own, to prevent the catastrophe of world war.”
William paid respects to the more than 72,000 men whose names adorn the Thiepval monument, whose bodies have never been found.
“Tonight, we stand here with a promise to those men: We will remember you. The gift you have given your country is treasured by every one of us this day. The sacrifice you made will never, ever be forgotten.”
Prince Harry also spoke at the event, reading the poem Before Action, written by Lieutenant W.N. Hodgson of the 9th Battalion the Devonshire Regiment, who wrote it days before he was killed in action on July 1, 1916.
In London, the queen attended a service at Westminster Abbey that heralded the start of events in the U.K. and France commemorating the 141-day battle 100 years ago.