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Prince William and Kate Middleton pull out of Queen's procession at the last minute

The Cambridges were expected to take part in the traditional arrival

Gemma Strong

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge will no longer be taking part in the Queen's procession at Monday’s Commonwealth Day service. The couple were due to join the monarch, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall for the procession through Westminster Abbey at the start of the ceremony. Instead of walking through the church with the other senior royals, however, the couple will now be shown to their seats ahead of Her Majesty's arrival, alongside Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The news has come as a surprise to royal watchers. William and Kate's inclusion in the procession appears in the official Order of Service. Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace have not yet commented as to why the change has been made. Notably, both the Cambridges and the Sussexes took part in last year's procession.

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The 2019 Commonwealth Day service procession

Monday's service will signal the dawn of Harry and Meghan's new lives together, following their shock announcement in January to step back as senior royals. Harry has since expressed his sadness over his decision to step down from royal duties in his first public remarks on the move, saying he had taken a "leap of faith". Giving a speech at a private dinner in London for his charity Sentebale, the Duke said: "Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations without public funding. Unfortunately that wasn't possible."

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Prince Harry delivers a speech at a private dinner for Sentebale

He said he had not taken the decision lightly, but there was "no other option". Speaking "not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry," he said he had found the "love and happiness I had hoped for all my life" with Meghan. "I know that you've come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does," he remarked.

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The couple have been carrying out their last royal duties over the past week, both attending the Endeavour Fund Awards on Thursday and the Mountbatten Festival of Music on Saturday night. The Duchess also marked International Women's Day by carrying out a secret visit to Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham, East London, where she surprised pupils during assembly.