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Kate’s Irish charm

david kingstrom By david kingstrom | March 17, 2012 | United Kingdom

An emerald Duchess presents St. Patrick’s Day shamrocks to guardsmen (and she’s a Knockout for one soldier)

The Duchess of Cambridge looked radiant today as she presented soldiers with shamrocks to mark St Patrick’s Day.

Kate wore an elegant green dress with coat with a chocolate brown hat and an Irish Guards brooch that belonged to the Queen Mother as she attended the traditional parade in Aldershot.

But the excitement was all too much for one young soldier, who fainted to the ground in his stiff red uniform.

The Duchess watched the ceremonial military parade with a dazzling smile before bestowing lucky three-leafed clovers on 40 officers - and even their Irish Wolfhound mascot.

She glowed in her Emilia Wickstead dress and Lock & Co hat on her first solo military engagement, at the start of what will be a long-standing relationship with the Irish Guards.

The stylish hat is called the Betty Boop and costs £245, while the Duchess's gold brooch was worn by the late Queen Mother when she visited the Irish Guards every St Patrick's Day.

The presenting of shamrocks dates back to the regiment's first St Patrick's Day in 1901, when the honour was given by Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward II.

Families, friends and veterans crowded the parade ground at Mons Barracks in Aldershot as 450 soldiers from the 1st battalion marched in scarlet tunics and bearskins.

Regimental mascot Conmeal also wore a red coat as Kate fixed a shamrock to his collar.

Her Royal Highness also handed the gifts to officers and warrant officers who in turn passed them around the rank and file in accordance with a century-old tradition.

The celebrations took place as Irish revellers across the country prepared for a night of celebrations

Last year, the Duke of Cambridge was appointed to the honorary rank of Colonel of the Irish Guard, and on June 25 the couple presented operational service medals in Windsor to the battalion for their Afghan deployment.

The 1st Battalion Irish Guards served in Helmand as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade on Operation Herrick-13, between September 2010 and April 2011.

Their principal task was training and mentoring the Afghan National Army, paving the way for eventual Afghan self-sufficiency in responsibility for the country's security.

The 30-year-old was greeted by Commanding Officer Major General William Cubbitt before making her way to the parade ground.

Shortly before the Duchess arrived, two soldiers had to be escorted from the parade ground when they appeared to faint in their bearskins.

The military band played the first few bars of God Save The Queen as Kate readied herself to present the shamrocks to the 40 Officers and Warrant Officers.

Those officers then issued shamrocks along the ranks as the band played Irish folk song Carrickfergus.

Kate then presented a sprig of shamrock to six-year-old wolfhound Conmeal.

Drummer Oliver Vaughey, 22, who has been a dog handler for two-and-a-half years, said: "People saw him shake his collar, probably as a thank you".

"He has been our mascot for four years and always marches in front of the regiment."

"The Duchess continued to smile as she was presented with a posy by five-year-old Isabella Stevenson, daughter of the Regimental Sergeant Major.

Kate also spent time speaking to members of the Regiment Association and the Mini Micks cadets on the parade ground before being photographed with 100 Sergeants and then with 40 Officers.

Before heading off for a private luncheon with Officers at the barracks, Kate visited the Junior Ranks Mess Hall where Guardsmen and Lance Corporals cheered and toasted the Duchess with cans of lager and small glasses of sherry.

One soldier said: "Your Royal Highness. On behalf of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards we welcome you and wish you a Happy St Patrick's Day".

"We also thank you for the shamrocks that you have presented to us."

After she left, Captain Will Jenkins, 25, who celebrated St Patrick's Day in Afghanistan last year, said it was nice to be at home for the occasion.

He said: "Last year I was in Afghanistan and the year before that I was in Kenya so this makes a huge difference.

In Afghanistan I was on operations on HERRICK-13 but we still managed to celebrate St Patrick's Day. We were presented with a shamrock by the senior officer present and we sung a few songs and had a bit of a church service.

'Today has been fantastic. We are very lucky and honoured to have the Duchess here to carry out a long-standing tradition.

It has always been the history. It's our heritage to be presented with a shamrock."

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