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Westminster Abbey traditionally rings its bells for royal birthdays
Kate Middleton missed out on a royal birthday tradition this weekend.
Westminster Abbey — where Kate and Prince William tied the knot in 2011 — is known for ringing its bells to celebrate the birthdays of senior members of the royal family. However, the tradition has changed amid financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Before 2020, the bells marked the birthdays of 12 royals. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, their four children — Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — all receive the honor, as does Charles' wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Prince William, Kate and their three kids — Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis — completed the list. However, the Abbey announced that starting in 2022, the bells would only mark the birthdays of the Queen and Prince Charles.
"The Abbey bells can be heard ringing out before services and in celebration of church festivals. The bells have also traditionally been rung to mark the birthdays of senior members of the Royal Family," a spokesperson for Westminster Abbey told Hello! in August 2021. "Due to the financial challenges posed to the Abbey by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in consultation with Buckingham Palace, the bells will now ring only for the birthdays of HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales."
Despite not ringing their bells on Sunday to celebrate Kate's milestone 40th birthday, the Abbey posted a birthday tribute on Twitter with a photo of her arriving at the Abbey to the Christmas carol concert she hosted in December, where she played piano to accompany Tom Walker's performance.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's birthdays were not celebrated with the bells, even before they stepped back from their senior royal roles. Even some working members of the family — including Sophie, Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra — were not part of Westminster Abbey's schedule before the change.
Currently, the only date on the Abbey's bell ringing schedule for 2022 is Sunday, May 1 to mark Civic Sunday.
The bells have also marked other special royal events in the past, such as births and weddings.
In this image released December 24, 2021, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge accompanies singer Tom Walker on the piano during a performance of his song 'For Those Who Can't Be Here' during Royal Carols - Together At Christmas, a Christmas carol concert hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey in London on December 8, which was broadcast on Christmas Eve 2021.
| Credit: Alex Bramall/Kensington Palace via Getty
Kate did follow another royal birthday tradition: releasing new portraits to celebrate her big day!
The three photos, which were taken in November at London's Kew Gardens by photographer Paolo Roversi, are worthy of a future Queen. In one black-and-white image, Kate delivers a vintage vibe in an elegant chiffon gown. Her traditional side profile pose shows off her diamond and pearl drop earrings, which belonged to Princess Diana. Her iconic sapphire engagement ring, which also belonged to her late mother-in-law, is also on display. And instead of her signature bouncy blowout, she opted for more refined curls.
PORTRAITS TO MARK THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE’S 40TH BIRTHDAY
| Credit: Paolo Roversi
The portraits will enter the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, of which Kate is Patron. Ahead of the Portrait Gallery's re-opening in 2023, the photographs will be part of its Coming Home project, a nationwide initiative that sees portraits of well-known individuals being sent to locations that they are closely associated with.
The Duchess of Cambridge's new photos will be displayed over the course of 2022 in three places that hold special meaning to Kate: Berkshire, St. Andrews and Anglesey.
Kate grew up in Bucklebury, Berkshire, and often returns to spend time with her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, who still live in the quiet village.
St. Andrews is an important spot for both Kate and Prince William as they met as freshmen at the University of St. Andrews in 2002.
And Anglesey is where the couple lived after their royal wedding in 2011. William and Kate rented an isolated cottage in Anglesey, Wales, as William trained nearby for the Royal Air Force. They moved to Kensington Palace with Prince George in 2013. At the Anglesey Show in 2013, William said: "This island has been our first home together, and it will always be an immensely special place for us both."
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