The event is one of a series the royals are attending to commemorate the nation’s war dead, ahead of tomorrow’s Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
Queen Elizabeth, who died nine weeks ago at the age of 96, considered Remembrance Sunday one of the most significant and important engagements in her royal calendar and missed just a handful of services in her historic 70 years as monarch.
This year marks the King’s first Remembrance Day as monarch.
The service doubled as a tribute to the late Queen and her contribution to the cause, as Royal British Legion patron, the longest serving Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces and the former Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor; after rising through the ranks of the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a driver, mechanic and junior commander.
Her family – and the nation – watched on as archive footage of the former monarch was played at the Royal Albert Hall. In one clip, the Queen spoke of the ‘tremendous contribution’ the Armed Forces made to Britain’s ‘standing and reputation’ during her reign.
‘When Prince Philip and I were married, Britain had just endured six years of war, emerging battered but victorious. Prince Philip had served with the Royal Navy in the Far East while I was in the ATS learning to drive an ambulance with care. The wartime generation – my generation – is resilient and it is with humility and pleasure on behalf of the entire country, indeed the whole free world, that I say to you all: thank you.’
The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall paid a special tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died on September 8
Prince William, Princess Kate, King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla sat next to one another, with Princess Anne in the row behind, for the service on Saturday night
The Royal Family all were seen clapping during the service of the British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance – held to commemorate the service and sacrifice of servicemen and women and will mark the 40th anniversary of the Falklands war
Camilla also opted for a black dress, adorned with sequined poppies and a delicate red poppy brooch, along with her favoured Van Cleef drop earrings, the King, meanwhile, showcased his collection of medals and wore a single poppy for the occasion
The Queen’s time with the ATS made her the first female Royal to serve as a full-time active member of the Forces. She was subsequently patron of the Royal British Legion for seven decades.
Hosting the annual Royal British Legion event, Huw Edwards said Queen Elizabeth symbolised ‘completely’ service and duty – which he described as the ‘watchwords’ of military life.
The BBC newsreader told those gathered at the London venue: ‘It’s been a year where talk of service and duty has come to the fore.
‘Service and duty are the watchwords of military life. They always have been.
‘And no individual symbolised those watchwords more correctly, more completely than Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, patron of the Royal British Legion for a remarkable period spanning eight decades.’
Charles and Camilla were joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
Kate was glowing in a tailored belted black blazer and calf length Self Portrait gown, with a cluster of three poppies pinned to her collar, believed to represent the three branches of the Services.
She wore her hair down with drop pearl earrings and Her Late Majesty’s four-strand pearl choker, which she also wore to her funeral in September.
Camilla also opted for a black dress, adorned with sequined poppies and a delicate red poppy brooch, along with her favoured Van Cleef earrings, from the Magic Alhambra collection. The King, meanwhile, showcased his collection of medals and wore a single poppy for the occasion.
Through words, song and storytelling the festival commemorated the service and sacrifice of servicemen and women and marked the 40th anniversary of the Falklands war.
Princess Kate was glowing in a tailored belted black blazer and flowing calf length skirt, with three poppies pinned to her collar. She wore her hair down with drop pearl earrings and a matching necklace
Prince William and his father, the King, appeared deep in conversation at one stage during the service, while the Princess of Wales watched on
The royal party were received by Ian McCulloch, president of the Royal Albert Hall and Lieutenant General James Bashall, president of the Royal British Legion.
The British Legion said of the event: ‘As the nation continues to emerge from a long period of great difficulty, we will reinforce our admiration of the unfailing sense of service displayed by the Armed Forces and commemorate those who gave their service, even at the cost of their lives.’
Those who were unable to attend the ceremony have been encouraged to perform acts of remembrance in a different way. Some examples of this include wearing a poppy in November, observing a two-minute silence, or holding a service in a church, temple, synagogue, mosque or village hall.
The service included first person recollections from former servicemen; detailing the sacrifices they made over the years for their nation.
The royals were on their feet early in the evening to clap in the Chelsea Pensioners, as is tradition, who were given a warm welcome.
Charles and Camilla were joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales to commemorate the service and sacrifice of servicemen and women
Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex stood and watched part of the service behind Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife
During the event, the royal party were received by Ian McCulloch, president of the Royal Albert Hall and Lieutenant General James Bashall, president of the Royal British Legion
Families of fallen soldiers also spoke during the ceremony, opening up about their heartache and pride. Veterans who spoke movingly about their experiences of conflict also praised the Queen’s dedication.
Stan Ford, who survived a D-Day torpedo attack on his ship, said: ‘I thank the Queen for her service, and not just during the war. She was a linchpin for all of us. I admired her and I was proud to call her my Queen for all these years.’
John Nichol, a Tornado navigator with the RAF, was shot down in the Gulf War in 1991 with his pilot, captured and held as a prisoner of war in Baghdad for seven weeks.
He said the late Queen ‘epitomised’ service, adding: ‘When she was called to serve she did not waver, she did not question what was required. She never said, ‘I can’t do this’. With great dignity and grace she carried out the task she was called upon to fulfil until her very final days.’
There came stories of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice – and the families who mourn them. The parents of Corporal Stephen Bolger described the loss of their ‘very precious son’, killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2009.
In an emotional, pre-recorded interview, Michael and Denise Bolger, described their son as a ‘rebel’ and ‘a loveable handful’ who had always wanted to join the Army.
‘It made him the person he was,’ said Michael, as he recalled a conversation he had with his son just before he returned to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty.
Pictured: The Prince and Princess of Wales at the annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain November 12
Princes Anne and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence joined the King and Queen Consort at the British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance on Saturday evening
Camilla also opted for a black dress, adorned with sequined poppies and a delicate red poppy brooch, along with her favoured Van Cleef drop earrings, from the Magic Alhambra collection, and a blue Van Cleef bracelet
He said: ‘We were sat in the lounge together and he got up to leave and I got up with him and said, ‘Look Steve, dodge the bullet. Just look after yourself.’ He turned to me and got hold of my arm and said, ‘They won’t get me’. And, of course, they did.’
But the most uplifting words came from the late Queen as she spoke of how ‘the tradition of service, the willingness to honour one another and seek the common good transcends social change’.
‘Service and duty are not just the guiding principles of yesteryear,’ she added, ‘they have an enduring value which spans the generations.’
The royals joined the crowd to sing Jerusalem after the remembrance book, containing the names of British war dead, was brought into the centre of the hall.
Alastair Graham, King Charles’ former equerry, said: ‘[Charles] understands the history and the multitude of connections between the sovereign, the Royal Family and the Armed Forces far better, I think, than any member of his staff.
‘I think it’s an intrinsic part of his role as King and he understands that there is an indelible link to the Armed Forces.’
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Prince and Princess of Wales stand during the service
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy attend the annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Saturday evening
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, arrived at Royal Albert Hall alongside her husband Prince Edward on Saturday evening
King Charles trained as a naval officer and as a royal air force pilot in his youth. He never saw active combat duty but worked his way through the ranks over the years and has a great respect for the military.
Upon his ascension to the throne, he also became head of the armed forces.
Other tributes at the festival included to the bereaved who have lost loved ones through military service.
Footage marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands war was shown, with contributions from people who had served.
The evening ended with the crowd singing God Save the King followed by three cheers after which Charles waved to the crowd who applauded as he left with the other royals.
On Sunday, during the official Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph, the King will lay a new poppy wreath incorporating a ribbon of his racing colours; scarlet, purple and gold.
The design is a tribute to the wreaths laid by both his late mother and his grandfather, George VI.
As Charles leads the nation at the Cenotaph for the first time as King, the service will be a poignant moment for the royal family.
The Queen Consort will view the service from a balcony of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office building, and a wreath will be laid on her behalf.
Both wreaths will include handwritten cards bearing their new cyphers.
The late Queen first commemorated Remembrance Sunday on November 11, 1945 – the first following World War II and before she acceded the throne.
Princess Anne and her husband Vice Admiral, Sir Timothy Laurence stand to pay their respects during the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (right), and Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy (left) both are pictured arriving at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening ahead of the 7pm service
Kate and William shared a quiet word throughout the service
Queen Consort Camilla and the King briefly exchanged words during the service
A tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II is seen in the Women’s Royal Army Corp area of the 94th Field Of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey on November 11
Queen Elizabeth (pictured in November 2020), who died nine weeks ago at the age of 96, considered Remembrance Sunday one of the most significant and important engagements in her royal calendar and missed just a handful of services in her historic 70 years as monarch
She was forced to miss last year due to spraining her back the morning of the event.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: ‘The Queen, having sprained her back, has decided this morning with great regret that she will not be able to attend today’s Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph. Her Majesty is disappointed that she will miss the service.’
The late Queen only missed six other Cenotaph ceremonies during her 70-year reign: on four occasions when she was on overseas visits to Ghana in 1961, Brazil in 1968, Kenya in 1983 and South Africa in 1999.
She was not present during the 1959 and 1963 services as she was pregnant with her two youngest children.
Actor Luke Evans opened the event with a rendition of I Vow To Thee My Country.
The evening also featured a performance by tenor Andrea Bocelli with his son Matteo and daughter Virginia, as well as a version of Hallelujah by EastEnders actress Shona McGarty.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was also in attendance on Saturday evening, alongside his wife Akshata Murthy, as was former PM Boris Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer.
Remembrance Day first began in 1919, to commemorate the end of the First World War. The armistice signed by Germany signaled hostilities drew to a close ‘at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month’ of 1918.
During the evening, tenor Andrea Bocelli (right) performed with his son Matteo (middle) and daughter Virginia (left)
Hannah Waddingham pictured at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening
Actor Luke Evans opened the event with a rendition of I Vow To Thee My Country
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (centre) and his wife Victoria were also in the crowd on Saturday evening
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was also in attendance on Saturday evening, alongside his wife Akshata Murthy
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was also in attendance on Saturday evening, alongside his wife Akshata Murthy
Pictured: The Royals throughout the service on Saturday night
Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy were among the attendees at tonight’s event which paid tribute to the nation’s war dead and the late monarch who died in September
The snaps capture the Queen – who was the Royal British Legion’s Patron for 70 years – in her military uniform, meeting servicemen and women, and inspecting poppy wreaths.
Highlights also include a photograph showing Her Majesty, who died on 8 September 2022 at Balmoral aged 96, attending the Festival of Remembrance in 1955.
The post’s caption read: ‘Tonight, The King and The Queen Consort, joined by Members of The Royal Family, will attend the annual @RoyalBritishLegion Festival of Remembrance at the @RoyalAlbertHall.
‘This year’s theme will reflect on the value of ‘service’ and will include a special tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, who was the Royal British Legion’s Patron for 70 years.
‘In 1945, the then Princess Elizabeth became the first female member of The Royal Family to serve as a full-time active member of the Armed Forces, when she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).
‘As well as being Head of the Armed, Queen Elizabeth was also the wife, mother and grandmother of individuals who served in the Forces. Much of Her Majesty’s working life was spent meeting serving members of the Armed Forces and their families.’
The Royal Family’s Instagram account shared a selection of photographs marking the Queen’s dedication to the Armed Forces ahead of the annual Festival of Remembrance. Pictured, The then Princess Elizabeth drives an ambulance during training for the Auxiliary Territory Service in Southern England, 1945
Shared in a post this morning, the snaps capture the Queen – who was the Royal British Legion’s Patron for 70 years – in her military uniform, meeting servicemen and women, and inspecting poppy wreaths. Pictured at the Festival of Remembrance in 2018