0664 – Royalty

An artists impression of the Duchess of Cambridge's Chelsea Flower Show garden

This week, Kensington Palace released previously unseen images of the Duchess of Cambridge putting the finishing touches on her designs for her debut Chelsea Flower Show garden. Over the past few months, Kate has been working with the Royal Horticultural Society and award-winning landscape architects Andrée Davies and Adam White to design a woodland wilderness “Back to Nature” garden for families with children. Until now, the details have been kept under wraps – shrouding the most eagerly anticipated attraction of the 2019 show in mystery ahead of its grand unveiling next week. However, we know that the garden is designed to “inspire families to get outside and explore nature together”, and to promote the benefits the natural world brings to mental and physical well-being. And we can now reveal that among the many child-friendly, playful features, the 37-year-old’s magical garden is set to boast both a stream and Enid Blyton-esque, high-platform tree house, clad in stag horn oak and whimsically reminiscent of a bird’s nest. The pictures here show just how hands-on Kate’s creative input has been into the garden, which will also feature a swing seat, a campfire and a rustic den, similar to one used by her own children Prince George (5), Princess Charlotte (4) and Prince Louis (1) in the grounds of Anmer Hall, their beloved countryside home in remote north Norfolk.

When she and Prince William were based there permanently, they planted extra trees, saplings and shrubs to create a natural retreat from the outside world, and in many ways, this is to be a garden shaped by the Duchess’s own first-hand experiences of the joys of playing outside and escaping into nature. Lift the tree stumps, stepping stones and a hollow logs we now know that she will present next week for children to play on at Chelsea, and you will likely find not just ants, worms and woodlice, but an insight into the Duchess’s family values and the causes that make her tick. The Duchess of Cambridge is understood to have been a “tomboy” as a child, has always spoken fondly about her childhood, saying she used to love spending time outside with her parents Carole and Michael Middleton and her siblings Pippa and James in the village of Bucklebury in Berkshire, where you will find the Bucklebury Farm & Deer Safari Park and the pretty River Pang, a gently tinkling chalk stream. And outdoor playtime is exactly what Kate and Prince William want for their own children, too. “As a mother, it is the simple family moments like playing outside together that I cherish,” she wrote in an open letter to support Children’s Hospice Week. It’s no coincidence that the day care she chose for Prince George in Norfolk was a modest Montessori nursery, Westacre, where the emphasis was on “free play”, often outdoors, getting stuck in and getting messy.

The Duke and Duchess of CambridgeRecently, the Duchess also got stuck into the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, helping a group of children to plant spring-flowering bulbs, including daffodils and snake’s head fritillaries. According to Kensington Palace, Kate’s ‘Back to Nature’ garden “hopes to trigger memories of time spent in nature” – but it’s not only nostalgia for an idyllic childhood driving Kate’s appreciation of the fun to be had in green spaces, but also her ongoing campaigning for mental health awareness. Kate is seen as the driving force behind Heads Together, an ongoing campaign she fronts with her husband Prince William and her brother-in-law Prince Harry, who opened up to The Telegraph’s Bryony Gordon last year about his own battles with mental health issues as part of their #oktosay campaign. Fresh air, exercise and natural surroundings contribute to both mental and physical health, which the young royals believe are of equal importance. The benefits are proven, and the effects can be immediate: one recent study even found that birdsong can boost mental well-being for up to four hours.  This week, Prince William launched a new ‘Head’s Up” men’s mental health campaign at Wembley Stadium with the Football Association president. Both Kate and William have worked continuously to end the stigma around mental health and “open up the conversation” as a whole. Kate’s focus has increasingly been on children’s mental health, in particular. In February, she visited a number of school’s for Children’s Mental Health Week. “Childhood is an incredibly important moment in our lives,” she said at the time. “It is the time when we explore our personalities, discover the potential that lies within us and learn how to be ourselves. Our experience of the world at this early stage helps to shape who we become as adults, how we begin to feel comfortable in our own skin.” Earlier this month, she also gave a heartfelt speech at the opening of a new children’s mental health centre, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in King’s Cross.  “We are all here today because we care so much about transforming the mental health of children, young people and their families. I have learnt so much about early childhood development and the importance of support from parents,” she said. In her Chelsea garden, interaction with the natural environment will be encouraged through the garden’s “multi-sensory” green and blue plant scheme to offer serenity away from screens and stress, set within a bosky environment traversed with paths. This in itself is revealing of Kate’s concern over the impact of technology on modern childhoods. Apparently, during early discussions between the landscape designers, it emerged that she had been reading Last Child in the Woods, the 2005 book in which author Richard Louv first coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder” (£10.99, Waterstones).

In the book, Louv attributes such ills as the rises in childhood obesity, attention disorders, and depression to this deficit – but also offers practical solutions, many of which can be found just beyond the doorstep. Since its first publication, Louv has launched a growing “Leave No Child Inside” movement, and has published updated research confirming that direct exposure to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. According to the palace, the Back to Nature garden “seeks to recapture for adults the sense of wonder and magic that they enjoyed as children, in addition to kindling excitement and a passion for nature in future generations.” Like Anmer Hall, her garden will offer rural respite from urban living as well as an antidote to increasingly sedentary, indoor lifestyles. “The challenge we all have is to make it feel like visitors are in the middle of a woodland,” said Adam White of the design, which the Duchess suggested should incorporate elements of forest bathing, the Japanese practise of immersing yourself among trees for wellbeing, otherwise known as shinrin-yoku.

In many ways, Kate is following in the footsteps of her father-in-law Prince Charles in this respect. A passionate gardener who has long campaigned for environmental causes, Charles has also previously exhibited at Chelsea, designing two gardens in 2001 and 2002, and winning silver both times. Notably, he worked with garden designer Jinny Bloom to create a “Healing Garden”, which featured 125 varieties of medicinal herbs, shrubs and kitchen plants to help with everything from bruises to stress. While cynics may see the Duchess’s debut as a cleverly plotted marketing exercise executed by the Firm, surely anything that aims to get us away from computer screens and paddling in streams or climbing trees again for a dose of “nature medicine” can be no bad thing.

0634 – Royalty

Prince Charles, William and Harry take on rare engagement as a trio: a night out to watch Sir David Attenborough’s new Netflix show

The Prince of Wales and his sons, William and Harry, are to team up for a family Netflix viewing session, as they lend their support to Sir David Attenborough’s new documentary. The trio will attend the premiere of Netflix’s Our Planet at the Natural History Museum on April 4, in a rare family outing for the Prince with both his sons. The Duke of Cambridge has already been involved in the show, interviewing Sir David about the environment on stage in Davos in an event which saw clips of nature footage screened. The event will highlight the topic close to the hearts of all three men, with each of the Princes regularly speaking about their concerns about the future of the planet. Although they appear together in family events, including the recent Commonwealth Day and Buckingham Palace reception celebrating the 50th anniversary of the investiture of the Prince of Wales, this will be a rare public engagement starring just the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex. A spokesman said the night would see the princess “continuing to use their unique positions to help highlight the threat of climate change and the multi-generational effort required to maintain our natural environment”. In 2014, they appeared together at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference at Lancaster House, where Prince Charles warned: “There is not a moment to lose if we are to save the species whose loss will not only diminish us all, but also expose their abandoned habitat to ever greater risk of destruction, with dire consequences for humanity.” The Duke of Cambridge has since focused on the illegal wildlife trade, speaking, writing and holding meetings to combat the global problem of the continued sale of ivory. The Duke of has recently turned his sights to the environment more broadly, imploring young people to save the planet. In a speech made during his tour of Australia, he acknowledged the dedication of the Prince of Wales’s campaigns on plastics and climate change. “My father and others have been speaking about the environment for decades – not basing it on fallacy or new-age hypothesis, but rooted in science and facts, and the sobering awareness of our environmental vulnerability,” the duke said. “And while those speeches would sometimes fall on deaf ears, he and others were unrelenting in their commitment to preserve the most valuable resource we have – our planet.” It will not be the first time senior members of the Royal Family support the work of Sir David. His working relationship with the Queen dates back decades, recently culminating in a documentary about trees. The Duke of Edinburgh supported his 2015 programme about the Great Barrier Reef, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have attended screenings of his documentaries at the Natural History Museum. In an on-stage interview at Davos, the Duke of Cambridge and Sir David highlighted the environmental issues facing this generation as showcased in Our Planet.  “Care for the natural world,” Sir David told an audience. “Not only care for the natural world but treat it with a degree of respect and reverence.”

0560 – Royalty

Duchess of Cornwall pays glowing tribute to Prince Charles at 70 as she hails his kindness and good humour

The Duchess has spoken frankly about the Prince ahead of his birthday next week
The Duchess admitted that she has not yet found a suitable present for Prince Charles

The Duchess of Cornwall today leads tributes to the Prince of Wales ahead of his 70th birthday, as she hails her “incredibly kind, very funny” husband in a fond portrait of him as mimic, workaholic and grandfather. The Duchess has spoken frankly about the Prince ahead of his birthday next week, sharing the endearing traits she sees behind closed doors. She is joined by leading figures across Britain’s public life, from the Prime Minister to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a celebration of the Prince’s life and work as he celebrates the landmark birthday. In an amusing insight, the Duchess admitted she has not yet found a suitable present for him, disclosing she has learned not to deviate from his own “birthday list” of requests, with previous bright ideas of her own “not being a huge success”. “He’s incredibly kind,” she told the Telegraph. “I don’t think people see his incredible kindness and the things he does behind the scenes. “People who worked for him years ago will write to him and if they’ve fallen on hard times he’ll do everything he can to help them.” Saying he has a particular talent for accents and mimicry, she added: “The other thing, which probably doesn’t come over as well as it should, is that he has got a very good sense of humour. He’s very funny. “And, of course, he’s wonderful with children. “He doesn’t mind crawling about on the floor for hours with them. We had a picture the other day with Louis pulling on his hair, and he’s not one of those people who says ‘take your hand away’. He loves it. “He’s exceptionally good with very small children and babies.” In a balanced description, the Duchess also reveals her occasional frustrations with the workaholic Prince, saying it is “very hard to get him to relax and drag him away from his letters and boxes”. Asked whether he would be persuaded to slow down at 70, she replied: “You must be joking! There’s no way that he will slow down.” On the subject of whether she had found a suitable present yet, she admitted she was still praying for a “brainwave”. “He has a list of presents and every time I’ve veered off the list it’s not been a huge success,” she joked. “So I think I’m going to have to go back to the list and buy him something he really wants. The Prince is understood to be particularly fond of trees and shrubs, as The Duchess says her husband is great with grandchildren as collecting Weymss Ware pottery. The Duchess leads tributes from leaders across the breadth of British public life, from the Prime Minister and Archbishop of Canterbury to Lord Lloyd Webber and the editor-in-chief of British Vogue. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, praised his “tireless” and “exemplary service that he has given to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth for his whole adult life”. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of  Canterbury, speaks movingly about the Prince’s “deep personal faith” which “allows him to be generous, hospitable and courageous in defending the rights of all people to peacefully prac-tise their religion without fear”. Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, hailed his contribution to the UK fashion industry, while Alan Titchmarsh sings the praises of the gardener Prince’s devotion to the “green and pleasant land” and Sir ‪Barry Gibb‬ celebrates the “sense of fun” he attributes to “your love of The Goons and, of course, the fact that you’re always smiling”. Lord Lloyd Webber, the award-winning composer, has praised his passion for arts education and the British architectural vernacular, saying: “Be it the too little sung glories of our unique parish churches, be it the English church choral tradition or his concern that not enough young people are learning to play the church organ, his love for less than headline grabbing causes is palpable.” He adds: “What I admire about Prince Charles is his outspoken passion for subjects that people either pay lip service to or are so downright unfashionable that few champion them. “We should be profoundly grateful that our future King speaks out so passionately about causes and values that as a nation we too often ignore at our peril.”

Next week, the Royal Family will celebrate the birthday with a party thrown by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for family, friends, and an expected glittering array of foreign royalty.

0525 – Royalty

Charity founded by Prince Charles in ding dong over maker of Big Ben’s bells


The silencing of Big Ben’s bongs caused protests in the streets and now the the original maker of its bells has found itself at the centre of another ding dong. A battle has commenced to stop the struggling home of the famous clock’s bells, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, from turning into a luxury hotel. The UK Historical Preservation Trust, originally founded by Prince Charles, is fighting its owner, a US investor who helped fund Soho House for council approval to transform the business to fit the modern age. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been operating since the 1740s, having made some of the most famous bells in the world including the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, bells in Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. But despite its extraordinarily long history the fourth-generation bell-founder Alan Hughes and his wife Kathryn decided to sell the site last year.

big ben 

The decision was due to financial pressures as the industry is in decline, Mr Hughes told the FT, as orders had dried up so badly in late 2016 that “we literally couldn’t pay the wages”, he said. Now the UK Historical Preservation Trust has teamed up with Factum Arte, a high tech art business, to fight to stop the site’s owner, US investor Raycliff, building a hotel at rear of the building while restoring the most vital parts of the grade II listed structure as a public attraction. Its owner, Bippy Siegal, is investing in a plan to preserve the parts of the building with historic value as well as building a 95-room hotel, with a shop selling hand bells produced by Kathryn Hughes. The design also features a grand public café which would aso be bell themed, with bell-making equipment on the walls. Customers would be able to sit and admire a three metre deep glass-covered bell pit, in which the Liberty Bell was cast.


Factum Arte produces sculptures and uses cutting edge digital scanning and 3D-printing techniques to create art and replicate ancient artifacts. It is most well known for making a copy of the burial chamber of Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun, which is now installed at the Valley of the Kings. It wants to turn the building into a high-tech art business and historical site which aims to maintain the foundry as a functioning business. Factum has partnered with the UK Historic Building Preservation Trust in a bid to turn its vision into a reality. It has already proved how it can turn a struggling historic business into a thriving tourist attraction through its involvement in the £9m regeneration of Middleport Pottery, a historic industrial site in Stoke-on-Trent. The business was on its knees but was revived by the scheme, which will serve as inspiration for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry revivial, according to a trustee of the charity. According to British cultural historian Saumarez Smith, the revival of the site’s bell making facillities is absolutely crucial to retailing its full historic value. “My view is that the historical fabric of the building is meaningless without its use,” he told the FT. “As an 18th-century building it’s not of architectural significance. What’s important is its role as an example of industrial heritage.” The Factum Arte faces a major spanner in the works, however. It does not own the building and its owner has its own plans in motion, meaning it does not wish to sell. Its success is now riding on the local council siding with its view that maintaining the site’s historical value is most important for its future. It also provides creative education and training, which is thought to be likely to appeal to the council. Bell-making could be up and running within a year, once emergency repairs to the roof have been carried out. But as the battle between corporate investor and charity-backed artist continues, Mr Hughes is concerned that the £7.9m site, which requires rennovation, will be left to further deteriorate.

0513 – Royalty

Prince Charles refused to give formal statement to sex abuse inquiry


Prince Charles refused to provide a formal witness statement to the child sex abuse inquiry, lawyers told a hearing on Monday. The inquiry is currently hearing evidence relating to abuse carried out by Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester, who knew the prince and exchanged letters with him. Lawyers for the Prince of Wales used human rights law to object to block efforts to compel him to send a witness statement in the format used by the inquiry, instead sending a signed letter. Fiona Scolding, lead counsel to the investigation into the Anglican church, said that his lawyers had previously argued that compelling him to give evidence was outside its powers. Ball was convicted in 2015 of misconduct in public office after admitting abusing 18 teenagers and young men between the 1970s and 1990s. His abuse had first been reported to the church in 1992, but police and CPS decided to give him a caution, and he was stripped of his role as bishop. He was later allowed to officiate at events including at schools and confirmations. Ms Scolding said there would have been “no doubt” about what the inquiry’s lawyers were asking for, as they sent a template for the document and used the word “statement” five times in one letter asking for the document to be signed. “Despite lengthy correspondence, including assertions from the Prince’s solicitors that the Inquiry’s requests for evidence were outside its powers, i.e. ‘ultra vires’, there was never any suggestion at any point that the statement would be provided by letter,” she said. The inquiry made several attempts to compel the lawyers to provide a witness statement with a formal statement of truth, which is essentially equivalent to swearing on oath. The prince’s law firm Harbottle & Lewis also tried to argue that asking for a witness statement was “unfair”, and constituted a request for “intensely private and confidential” personal data. Following “lengthy and extensive correspondence” an agreement was reached and the inquiry has decided to treat the letter, which ends with a sentence saying that its contents are true, as equivalent to a witness statement, she said. The Prince will not give evidence in person but will have the statement read out at the hearing on Friday. Earlier in the hearing Richard Scorer, of law firm Slater and Gordon, who is representing victims and survivors, expressed “surprise and concern” at the decision.

0455 – Royalty

Duke and Duchess of Sussex make first appearance as a married couple at Prince Charles’ 70th birthday party

The Duke of Sussex has paid tribute to his father, the Prince of Wales, in an affectionate speech in which he teased him about royal life. The Duke told a garden party full of charity guests that they may view the Prince’s enthusiastic handwritten letters with “joy and perhaps trepidation”, ribbing him for celebrating his birthday six months early with the words: “How very Royal!” Wearing a cream dress from British label Goat and Philip Treacey hat, the Duchess appeared to have conformed quickly to the style of Royal women, choosing long sleeves and nude tights for a look noticeably more demure than before her wedding day. Joining her first public engagement as a member of the Royal family, she appeared to get on famously with the Duchess of Cornwall, both failing to suppress their laughter when the Duke’s speech was interrupted by a bee. Losing his place half way through, the Duke had waved his hand to swat it away from his ear, telling the crowd: “That bee really got me.” The Duke and Duchess attended their first engagement since the wedding on Saturday to support the Prince at a Buckingham Palace garden party to celebrate his charity work ahead of his 70th birthday. Perhaps mindful of overshadowing him, the couple posed for photographs and spoke to four small groups of people before making a quiet exit. As people congratulated them on their wedding, both politely said “thank you” before moving the conversation on to talk about guests’ charity work. One woman, Sophie Rogers, 26, gave the Duchess what appears to be her first gift as Her Royal Highness: a handmade crystal necklace from her own studio, High Vibe Designs. Ms Rogers had received a grant from The Prince’s Trust two years ago, going on to start her own successful business. “Oh how sweet, thank you,” said the Duchess. “I was just admiring your necklace, it’s beautiful.” Addressing his “Pa” in the only speech of the afternoon, the Duke said: “It really is amazing to see so many of you here today for this family celebration. “I say ‘family’ because this is a chance for us to honour The Prince of Wales’s work over the last forty plus years, with all of his charities, patronages and military associations – and, as you all know, my father views all of your organisations like an extended family.” Telling his father he had been struck by the “long list” of guests invited, and the range of charities the Prince had worked with, he asked 6,000 assembled guests: “Who amongst you has not known the joy, and perhaps trepidation at receiving a handwritten note in response to some news shared from your organisation, urging you on and asking for more to be done to address this issue or that?” “Who has not come away from a meeting with my father, their head spinning with a dozen new ideas which he wants to get underway urgently, having met a group of people or read something that has fired his imagination and started the flow of ideas.” “His enthusiasm and energy are truly infectious; it has certainly inspired William and I to get involved in issues we care passionately about and to do whatever we can to make a difference.” “In fact, many of the issues William and I now work on are subjects we were introduced to by our father growing up.” Acknowledging the Prince’s instructions that the party should “not be about him”, the Duke added: “So, Pa, while I know that you’ve asked that today not be about you, you must forgive me if I don’t listen to you – much like when I was younger – and instead, I ask everyone here to say a huge thank you to you, for your incredible work over nearly 50 years.” “Work that has given self-confidence and opportunity to thousands of young people who might not have had the best start in life; Or to champion causes like climate change long before almost anyone else was talking about it; and above all, for your vision and ability to bring people together to make change happen.” “You have inspired William and I, and looking out here today, it is clear to see that we are not alone.” “His passion and dedication are remarkable and seeing so many of you here today, I cannot fail but to be in awe of the drive he has had for so many years, to contribute to the enrichment of society both in this country and around the world.” “You have created an incredible body of work that has, and will continue to make such a huge difference to so many people’s lives both here and around the world.” “With that, Ladies and Gentlemen, please can I ask you to join me in wishing The Prince of Wales a very Happy Birthday – six months ahead of his 70th.” “How very Royal.”

After finishing the speech, father and son embraced with a kiss on both cheeks, before the four members of the Royal family walked down the steps of Buckingham Palace into the garden to pose for a photograph with charity leaders. The two Duchesses appeared to get on famously, making eye contact and laughing as they were arranged in suitably smart fashion for a photograph. When Meghan embarked on meeting some charity representatives, she extended her hand to shake before most had a chance to curtsey to her in her new position as HRH. “I knew I was going to curtsey by she shook my hand,” said Diana Langson, from 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment of Canada. “They were both so friendly and so kind and genuine when they spoke.” “We offered them congratulations on the wedding and they just said thank you. They’re probably tired of talking about it!” “It has been a phenomenal day, and the opportunity to meet them all is overwhelming.”

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall went on to mingle with guests for another hour, treated to a performance of The Goons’ Ying Tong Song by a ukulele orchestra. More than 6,000 people were expected at the garden party, all from the charities and military associations most closely linked with the Prince, on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, for music, speeches and a customary cup of tea. The Duchess of Cornwall attended the garden party at her husband’s side, as he was hailed for his lifetime of work dedicated to the charity sector. The Prince will actually turn 70 on November 14, with this an early public celebration of the milestone. He is expected to have a private party for family and friends closer to the day. The attendance of  the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reflects both the shared interest of father and son of much of their charity work and the growing bond between the Duchess and her new family. The Duchess, who asked her father-in-law to accompany up part of the aisle for the St George’s Chapel service, is said to have found much common ground with him in a series of private family gatherings. She is likely to have been particularly touched by his chivalry towards her mother, Doria Ragland, during the wedding, where he was seen to reach out his hand to her in the chapel and offer his arm as they walked down the stairs. The Duke, too, has offered an increasingly public insight into his relationship with his father this year, beginning with a interview on the Today programme when Prince Harry acted as guest editor, and continuing with  a joint appearance at a conservation conference. At the wedding on Saturday, the groom was seen to say “thank you, Pa”, as his father walked Meghan Markle to the altar. Today, the Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration will see the Royal family joined by members of the public from 386 of The Prince of Wales’ patronages and 20 of his military affiliations. A number of guests from the emergency services – police, fire, ambulance, mountain rescue, and RNLI – with 100 cadets from Youth United helping out on the day. One cadet who was present at the Manchester Arena during the bombing last year will also be there, on the anniversary of the attack. Guests will be treated to musical performances from the Band of the Welsh Guards, the mixed voice Borough Welsh Choir, the Caldicot Male Voice Choir, the National Youth Pipe Band and a gospel choir.