The Princess of Wales, 41, made her debut as the Colonel-in-Chief of 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards (QDG) at Robertson Barracks, Dareham in Norfolk on Wednesday, visiting the regiment for the first time. Over the summer, King Charles appointed his daughter-in-law with the new royal role (and in the same sweep, she became the Commodore-in-Chief of the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Honorary Air Commodore of Royal Air Force Coningsby. She was previously made the Colonel of the Irish Guards and the Royal Honorary Air Commodore of the Air Cadets).
The QDG was formed in 1959 from the amalgamation of the two senior Cavalry regiments, 1st King’s Dragoon Guards and the Queen’s Bays. The QDG specializes in reconnaissance: the art of seeking out the enemy and understanding how they operate. They’ve moved all over the world, most recently deployed to Mali as part of a peacekeeping operation.
Princess Kate sported a camouflage coat and helmet during her visit as she rode in an armored vehicle and tried her hand at flying a drone.
She adorned her camo outfit (as well as her blazer and turtleneck inside) with a red poppy pin. The symbol has been used since 1921 to commemorate military members who have died in war, and members of the royal family sport the accessory in November as Remembrance Day approaches.
Princess Kate received a brief from the regiment’s senior officers and got a chance to experience elements of operational life for service personnel, from seeing how the teams communicate with radios to learning about their utilization of reconnaissance drones.
She also met with families of QDG personnel to hear about their experiences, including learning about the welfare support they receive. Kate also took a moment to pay tribute to those the QDG have lost in active service ahead of Remembrance Day.
Princess Kate also took on the task of handing out some awards, including long service and good conduct medals to a number of men and women in the regiment. And there was also a promotion to attend to: Kate formally promoted the regiment’s mascot, a Bay Welsh mountain pony called Trooper Longface Emrys Jones, from “Lance Corporal” to “Corporal.”
The Princess of Wales’ solo outing comes as her husband, Prince William, finishes this trip to Singapore. In addition to attending the third Earthshot Prize awards ceremony, the Prince of Wales also spoke at the United for Wildlife summit during his visit to Asia.
During the address, he shared why his wife didn’t make the trip: their eldest son Prince George’s schooling.
“Catherine is very sorry she can’t be here,” said William, 41. “She is helping George through his first set of major exams.”
It’s also been a busy week for King Charles and Queen Camilla, who sported royal regalia on Tuesday at the first State Opening of Parliament of the new reign. The King wore the Imperial State Crown for the first time since his coronation and read the King’s Speech, which was written by the government and contained an outline of its proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session. Meanwhile, Queen Camilla made her own fashion statement by recycling her coronation gown and making her debut in the Diamond Diadem, a headpiece closely associated with the late Queen Elizabeth.
The Prince and Princess of Wales didn’t attend the historic event. It’s not required for the heir to the throne to attend the State Opening of Parliament, but King Charles accompanied his mother, Queen Elizabeth, several times throughout her reign. He attended for the first time in 1970.
In May 2022, Prince William was present at the State Opening of Parliament for the first time as Queen Elizabeth missed the event due to her mobility issues, but Princess Kate has not yet attended the State Opening of Parliament.
King Charles, 74, and Queen Camilla, 76, may not have been accompanied by Prince William and Princess Kate for the State Opening of Parliament, but the monarch has made his son and daughter-in-law’s important roles within the royal family clear. He gave them the titles of the Prince and Princess of Wales just one day after his accession, and they’ve been at prominent events — including being the only other royals at the coronation celebrations in Scotland over the summer.
Catherine, The Princess of Wales, during her first visit to 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards at Robertson Barracks, Dareham in Norfolk – since being appointed Colonel-in-Chief by The King in August 📸@PA pic.twitter.com/jyBjjX3FkX— Derek Momodu (@DelMody) November 8, 2023
“Charles is leading the way for them already, and [William and Kate] are both involved in decision-making behind the scenes. They are ready and willing to do the job — and Kate is very much a part of that,” a friend of the princess previously told PEOPLE.
Prince William and Princess Kate will likely play large roles later this month when they host a state visit for the President of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol, accompanied by Mrs. Kim Keon Hee.