Prince William alone handed out St Patrick’s Day shamrocks to the Irish Guards earlier today, the first time a male royal has undertaken the traditional ceremony since 1901.
William was forced to step in after his wife Kate Middleton opted out of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the 115-year old tradition in order to stay home with her children, George, aged two, and Charlotte, aged ten months.
Missing her first St. Patrick’s celebrations in five years, the Duchess of Cambridge has handed out the shamrocks every year since 2011 when she took over from Princess Margaret. The tradition has been carried out by a female royal every year since 1901 when the tradition was started by Queen Alexandra, just a year after the Irish Guards were formed.
This year, however, the Duchess stayed at her home at the Anmer Hall estate in Norfolk in order to “focus on the family” before an upcoming week-long trip to India and Bhutan with Prince William.
The Duke of Cambridge, 33, continued with the appearance, attending the Cavalry Barracks in Hounslow and presenting shamrock to more than 600 soldiers.
Allowing shamrock to be pinned to his hat, the Duke led a private ceremony for the family of Major Harry Shapland, a soldier killed in operations in northern Iraq in 1994, and presented Major Shapland’s mother with the Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scroll.
Following the ceremony, Prince William, dressed in an Irish Guards’ frock coat and wearing a ceremonial sword, handed out baskets of shamrock on the central parade ground, also presenting a sprig of the plant to the regiment's mascot, the four-year-old Irish wolfhound Domhnall.
According to a spokesperson from Kensington Palace: "The Duchess has very much enjoyed the occasions when she has been able to attend, but the Duke is the Colonel of the Regiment and is looking forward to presenting the Irish Guards with their Shamrock.
"The Duchess looks forward to marking St. Patrick's Day with the Irish Guards many times in the future."
Kensington Palace have also pointed out that although the Duchess has followed tradition in handing out the shamrock for the past five years, it is officially the Duke of Cambridge, as Colonel of the Regiment, who has the formal role.
The Duchess’ absence is also not the first time that only a male member of the Royal family has been present either, they noted.
There has been some anger at the Duchess of Cambridge’s decision with the Daily Mail reporting that the Irish Guards were “deflated” by her absence.
Her decision comes as the young royals are defending themselves from accusations that they are “workshy” and are not undertaking the same workload as their much older relatives.
Although aged 94, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, clocked up 250 official duties at home and abroad last year while William, Kate and Prince Harry combined only conducted 198.
The Duke of Cambridge, however, has stated that being labeled “workshy” was all “part of the job.” Just in the past week, Prince William took on 11 public engagement in four days, although the Palace insist it was a coincidence and not a direct result of complaints about their workload.
Speaking after the St. Patrick’s Day event, Company Sergeant Major Carl Laverty said the guards were “conscious that she [Kate] has family commitments” and all were pleased that their Colonel could attend the ceremony.
The Irish Guards, who recruits mainly from Northern Ireland, was founded by Queen Victoria in April 1900 to commemorate the Irishmen who died fighting during the Boer War.
More recently, the battalion were also among the last units to be deployed to Afghanistan.