The Princess of Wales was visibly moved as she laid flowers by a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II after a private service to mark the first anniversary of her death.
Kate and William arrived at St Davids Cathedral in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, on Friday afternoon – a year after the nation’s longest-reigning monarch died peacefully aged 96.
The couple, whose visit was delayed by foggy weather, were cheered by around 300 wellwishers in the sunny grounds of the ancient cathedral.
They attended a small private service lasting around 10 minutes in the quire, led by the dean, the Very Rev Sarah Rowland Jones.
Dr Rowland Jones reflected on the late Queen’s “lifelong example of faithful and devoted service” and prayed for those who remembered her “with sadness and love” to be comforted.
The service featured music played during her funeral at Westminster Abbey, and afterwards Kate laid a bouquet of flowers by a portrait of the late Queen.
The princess, wearing pearl earrings which belonged to Elizabeth II, was visibly moved after laying the flowers, which included ivy, eucalyptus, white roses and waxflowers, as she stood in silence with her husband.
She later spoke to guests at a reception in the cloisters, telling them: “We all have wonderful memories of her, we have to hold on to them.”
Dr Rowland Jones said it was “very precious” to hold the service for the late Queen, agreeing that Kate and William appeared moved after it.
“I was struck that they spent quite a time as they lay the flowers,” she said.
“In many ways, our job today was to give them the space for their remembering.
“Some of us had met the late Queen but none of us were part of that immediate family.”
Dr Rowland Jones described how Elizabeth II visited the cathedral four times, with Charles also attending as Prince of Wales.
“Now it is Their Royal Highnesses’ turn to come here and continue that long connection the royal family has with this place,” she said.
During the reception in the cloisters, William met Chris Taylor, 84, who was present on each of the four occasions the late Queen visited.
Elizabeth II was the first monarch to visit St Davids Cathedral since the Reformation when she arrived with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, during a royal tour to Wales in August 1955 after her coronation.
In 1982, she performed the Maundy money ceremony – in which the monarch distributes special coins to pensioners – at the cathedral.
Mr Taylor, a bookseller, applied for St Davids to be granted city status and was present when the late Queen presented the then-town council with letters patent elevating it to the status of a full city council in 1995.
Her final visit to the cathedral, which welcomes 300,000 visitors each year, was in 2001.
Mr Taylor described the visit on Friday as “fantastic” and said it was poignant to have William and Kate present to mark the anniversary of the late Queen’s death.
“It is the first time I have met the Prince and Princess of Wales in person,” he said. “They are so nice and a brilliant couple who will serve this country.
“William will be a brilliant king one day.”
After the reception, William and Kate chatted to wellwishers who had waited in the sunshine outside the cathedral.
Kate wore a burgundy dress coat by Eponine and a hat by Sahar Millinery.
Liz Thomas, 80, said she spoke Welsh to Kate and was delighted when the princess replied in the language.
“I said ‘croeso’ and she said ‘da iawn’,” the St Davids resident said.
Ken James, 71, said: “We discussed the weather. She said, ‘You don’t always get this weather here, do you?’ And I said, Absolutely not’.
“She said it was her first visit to the cathedral.”
Eluned Murrow, 55, took a break from preparations for her wedding on Saturday to speak to William and Kate.
“It is lovely to have them here because it is the anniversary of the Queen’s death but also it is my wedding tomorrow,” she said.
“I took some time out to see them and it was worth it. Kate said, ‘Good luck for tomorrow’.
“When I told her it was my wedding she touched my arm and said, ‘Oh, that’s lovely, congratulations’.
“She was really natural and lovely. She said, ‘Have a lovely day, I hope the weather holds for you’.”
St Davids has been a site of pilgrimage and worship for more than 1,400 years, since the patron saint of Wales settled there with his monastic community in the sixth century.
Since the Reformation, one of the quire stalls has been in possession of the Crown and is known as the Sovereign’s Stall.
This makes St Davids the only UK cathedral where the sovereign has a special stall in the quire among members of the chapter, the governing body of the cathedral.
Elizabeth II sat in the special stall, which bears the royal coat of arms, on the four occasions she visited the cathedral which dates from 1181.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe