It was a solitary salute this year and none the less poignant for it. Prince Harry attended opening of the Fields of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey on November 9th 2017 to pay tribute to all those who have lost their lives while fighting for their country. But while Harry has been a regular at this event for several years now, this time round things were different. For this was the first time the prince walked the lines of poppies since the retirement of his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Last Post was played and Big Ben chimed to signify the start of a two minutes’ silence. #WeWillRememberThem pic.twitter.com/wXdF0ePOxk— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 9, 2017
The prince also laid his own poppies in commemoration before saluting and taking part in a two minute silence.
Harry and Philip have, together, opened the annual tribute to the fallen for several years. The Fields of Remembrance are organised by the Poppy Factory which lays hundreds of thousands of tributes around the grounds of the ancient abbey, for so long a symbol for the nation, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This year 70,000 poppies have been planted in 380 plots in memoriam.
Prince Harry meets veterans standing in front of 380 different plots containing the 70,000 poppies planted by @poppyfactory. pic.twitter.com/Ute9JnCyns— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 9, 2017
There were still plenty of familiar faces for Prince Harry to catch up with. On previous visits he has met members of the Armed Forces and their families coming to remember those lost and this year caught up with seven year old Harrison Degiorgio-Lewis who comes to commemorate his uncle, Lieutenant Aaron Lewis of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, who was killed on duty in Afghanistan. Harry met Harrison last year and the two had another chat this time round.
Prince Harry also met Harry and Henry, who were @wabbey with their families, and spoke to a group of cadets at #FieldofRemembrance this morning. pic.twitter.com/dYmZhkMufK— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 9, 2017
And there was time for a more personal chat as veteran, Matt Weston, asked Harry where ''his missus'' was and got a right royal smile as an answer. When asked if Meghan Markle would be at the Fields of Remembrance next year, Harry joked that he wouldn't be able to hide her anywhere while Matt Weston, who lost both his legs while serving with the Royal Engineers 33 Regiment in Afghanistan, gave the royal romance his seal of approval by describing the duchess in waiting as ''brilliant'' and ''cool''.
If (should that be when) Meghan does make an appearance at the event, it would be another chapter in a royal story that stretches back decades. For many years, the Queen Mother attended the event. The first Field of Remembrance was organised in 1928 by an army officer, George Arthur Howson, and has grown in the years since. The poppies are planted the Thursday before Remembrance Sunday and remain, bearing witness, for eight days. After that, they are burned and the ashes scattered on the fields of northern France and Belgium where so many lost their lives in the First World War. Any money raised goes to the Poppy Factory and the Royal British Legion.
Prince Harry is expected to take part in the annual Remembrance Sunday service on November 12th although he won't be present at the Festival of Remembrance the night before as both he and the Duke of Cambridge will be attending rugby matches that day. The service at the Cenotaph this Sunday will also see another change - for the first time, the Queen will watch from a balcony overlooking Whitehall while the Prince of Wales lays her wreath on behalf of the nation. The Duke of Edinburgh will be at his wife's side, another echo of the changes that led this year to Harry's solo salute.