The Duchess of Cambridge has decided to break with a 115-year-old tradition by staying at home with her children today, leaving her husband to hand out shamrock to troops during a St Patrick’s Day parade.
The parade will mark the first time that a male member of the Royal Family has presented the Irish Guards with their traditional honours, after Kate, 34, announced that she would not be attending.
The Duke of Cambridge will visit the Cavalry Barracks in Hounslow, west London, where he will lead the parade for more than 600 soldiers.
The Duchess has been a regular fixture at the event and today will be the first one she has missed since taking over the role from the Princess Royal in 2012.
A spokesman for Kensington Palace said Kate had wanted to return home to spend time with her children, ahead of a trip to India and Bhutan next month.
He added: “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 has returned home to spend time with the children, but looks forward to marking St Patrick’s Day with the Irish Guards many times in the future.”
While the announcement is likely to disappoint soldiers at the barracks, Kensington Palace said William - not Kate - holds the formal role over the regiment.
The Duke, who is Colonel of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, will greet 450 serving soldiers at the ceremony along with 150 association members and Army cadets from Northern Ireland.
The parade will mark the first time the full battalion has been able to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in five years, due to previous commitments serving on the front line in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently on operations in Bosnia, Oman and Kenya.
William will also present a sprig of shamrock to the regiment’s mascot, a four-year-old Irish wolfhound named Domhnall, which is Gaelic for “world leader”.
The battalion’s motto “Quis Separabit” - “Who shall separate us?” - is also taken from the knightly Order of St Patrick, founded by George III in 1783.
Formed in April 1900 by Queen Victoria to recognise the services of Irish soldiers during the Second Boer War in South Africa, the regiment has served in major roles in both World Wars, and has been awarded six Victoria Crosses over the last century.
Receiving shamrock on St Patrick’s Day is a battalion tradition dating back to 1901, when Princess Alexandra became the first member of the Royal Family to attend the ceremony.
Completing the honours, the Duke will follow in the footsteps of the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Edward, Anne, and, in recent years, his wife.
Alongside their role serving in British conflicts overseas, the Irish Guards also serve in ceremonial and public duties at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, St James’s Palace and the Tower of London.