Queen Mathilde, King Philippe, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, Prince William


Prince William and Kate Middleton kicked off a series of World War I commemorative events Monday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both 32, arrived in Liège, Belgium, on the 100th anniversary since Britain joined the war. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde greeted their guests at Saint-Laurent abbey at around 10 a.m. local time. Upon his arrival, William laid a poppy wreath at the nearby British memorial.

The British royals also met French president François Hollande at the Cointe Inter-allied memorial. While there, William addressed more than 50 heads of state, including German President Joachim Gauck and Belgian Prime Minister Elio du Rupo. "In the summer of 1914, the Austrian writer, Stefan Zveig, was on holiday in Belgium near Ostend. He describes how people from all over Europe were enjoying themselves together, and comments that a great deal of German was spoken because holidaymakers from the Rhineland liked to come to the Belgian beaches," he said during his speech.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge,Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton

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"Just days later, this carefree harmony was shattered by the outbreak of the First World War," Prince George's father continued. "During four terrible years, those same Europeans were engulfed by killing and destruction. Among the very first victims were the people of Belgium, whose resistance was as gallant as their suffering was great. The magnificent war memorial where we gather today honors the city of Liège and its people for their courageous resistance in 1914. The memorial—and this ceremony— also honors all Belgians, who fought, suffered and died in the Great War."

"Your great sacrifice and your contribution to eventual victory was pivotal. Belgium's resistance in 1914 allowed the Allies to re-group and draw up the battle lines, which became the infamous trenches. These trenches have left an indelible scar on your land—they speak of the horrors of war but also of your forebears' courage," the future King of England said. "That courage was shown not just by your Armed Forces but by your civilian populations. I know that in the coming months, you will be commemorating the massacre at Dinan and the burning of the great library at Lervan. Many nations here today, the United Kingdom among them, owe you a great debt of gratitude for your fortitude and resistance."

"This evening, at Saint Symphorien cemetery in Mons, Catherine and I will visit a site which was donated by a Belgian landowner to the German Army so that soldiers from both sides could be buried near where they fell. Belgium's commitment to honor the war dead continues to this day. In Ypres, Belgian volunteers have played the Last Post every night since 1928—except during the Second World War."

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, Francois Hollande

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"Your Majesties, if I may say so, Belgium's steadfast remembrance of your war dead, and ours, is a great credit to your nation. On behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, head of the Commonwealth, thank you for the honor you do us all," William said. "In Europe, the transition from war to lasting peace has taken time. Edith Cavell was a British nurse who saved soldiers from each side. On the night before she faced a German firing squad, she said, 'I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.' It took another terrible war to learn the truth of her words, and even today we continue to learn that lesson. The events in Ukraine testify to the fact that instability continues to stalk our continent."

"The peace that we here enjoy together as allies and partners does not simply mean no more bloodshed—it means something deeper than that. The fact that the presidents of Germany and Austria are here today, and that other nations—then enemies—are here too, bears testimony to the power of reconciliation. Not only is war between us unthinkable, but former adversaries have worked together for three generations to spread and entrench democracy, prosperity and the rule of law across Europe, and to promote our shared values around the world."

"We were enemies more than once in the last century, and today we are friends and allies," William said concluded. "We salute those who died to give us our freedom. We will remember them."

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