When they arrive in the Australian capital next Friday, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be the first royals to attend ANZAC Day events in Canberra in nearly half a century.
Australian New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC Day, is celebrated every year on the 25th of April. Although it’s original purpose was to honour those who had fought at Gallipoli during the First World War, ANZAC Day is now celebrated to honour all those who have served in every “war, conflict, and peacekeeping operation”.
ANZAC Day is also celebrated in England, and is marked by a wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph and services which are held at the Australian War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner and at Westminster Abbey. These events are usually attended by the High Commissioners of Australia and New Zealand and a member of the Royal Family, representing The Queen.
Although members of the Royal Family have visited Australia numerous times in the past (Her Majesty alone has visited 17 times!), visits coinciding with ANZAC Day are very rare. Visits to Canberra on this day are rarer still, making The Duke and Duchess’s visit a memorable occasion.
The last time such an event occured was 44 years ago when The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were in Canberra as part of their visit for the bicentenary of the landing of Captain James Cook in Sydney in 1970. The royal couple laid a wreath of red poppies on the stone of remembrance before meeting with the massive crowds that had turned out to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty.
Since then, there have been only two visits to Australia to mark ANZAC Day, neither of them to the country’s capital. In 1988, The Queen and Prince Philip attended events in Hobart, including the dawn service, attended by The Prince. The last royal visit on ANZAC Day was in 1998, when The Duke of Edinburgh took in the salute at the annual Parade in Darwin.
Canberra is host to the ceremonial ANZAC Parade, which is participated in by armed forces personnel and war veterans. This year holds special significance, as it marks 99 years since the ANZAC landings. During their visit, William and Catherine will watch the march and attend a commemorative service at the Australian War Memorial, before participating in a tree planting at Memorial Gardens. The tree will grow from the seed of the lone pine tree taken from the site of the Gallipoli Battle.
The end of the day’s events will also bring the end of the Cambridge’s Tour of Australia and New Zealand and, after bidding goodbye to their hosts, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince George, will depart for London.