This weekend brought holiday tidings that put a smile on many a face: we learned that Kate and William have done a Christmas special with cooking legend Mary Berry.
The Duke, Duchess and Mary, along with some very special guests including Nadiya Hussain host a Christmas Party to thank and acknowledge staff and volunteers from charities and organisations who will be working tirelessly over the Christmas period.
Below, the Duchess gets some decorating tips from the cooking legend.
Some of the video was shot in September at the RHS Wisley show when the Duchess hosted the final opening of the Back to Nature Garden. You can see Kate and Mary Berry are in the same outfits worn for that event.
The idea for a TV special showcasing cooking and volunteers makes perfect sense; Kate and Mary Berry have met on multiple occasions, many of them Royal Horticultural Society events. Below, the duo at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show.
There has been mutual admiration between Berry and the duchess since she told Berry that she liked baking her cakes when the two met at a charity event six years ago.
Prince William said Kate used my recipes,” Berry said in a 2013 magazine article. “They were big fans at a charity auction.”
This video shows the meeting.
Ms. Berry lost her son William at the age of 19 when he was killed in a car accident. She is a Patron of Child Bereavement UK.
For those who may not be familiar with Mary Berry, she is perhaps best known for her role as a judge on the Great British Bake Off from 2006 – 2019. That program is known as the Great British Baking Show in the US, where it currently airs on some PBS stations. (The program is moving permanently to Netflix, with past and current seasons available, including the broadcasts with new hosts, minus Ms. Berry.)
But Ms. Berry’s career goes back decades before the Bake Off. She trained at the famed Cordon Bleu in Paris and was the cooking editor of Housewife magazine in the 60s, followed by Ideal Home magazine.
She is has been married to her husband, Paul Hunnings, since 1966 and is a mother of three. She has authored numerous cookbooks and received a CBE for services to the culinary arts in 2012.
Ms. Berry has been an ambassador for the RHS since 2014. The Horticultural Society notes, “Mary is a keen gardener and an avid grower of fruit and vegetables. In her role as RHS Ambassador, Mary is thrilled to champion growing your own food and her favourite garden, RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey.”
On the WKW Facebook page, Sue provides a great description of the cooking legend, saying, “She can bake posh desserts with the best of them but, she specializes in baking things that her mother and grandmother baked – the things women all over bake for holidays and special family times. It’s quintessential British cookery. When Mary gives advice, it’s as if your grandmother is there.” As Lizzy put it on the page, “She is a British institution.”
In the upcoming Christmas special, we see the octogenarian accompany the Duke to The Passage, the UK’s largest resource center for homeless and insecurely housed people.
Since its launch in 1980, The Passage has “…helped more than 130,000 people in crisis through its resource centre, homelessness prevention projects and two innovative accommodation services.”
In the broadcast, Prince William speaks at length about the role volunteering and charity has played in his life. We learn more from People’s story:
The royal dad of three tells Berry, “Growing up, both of my parents were hugely charitable. My father set up the Prince’s Trust. He’s involved in so many different organizations. My mother has done her work with homelessness and, as you said, AIDS and other charities, and I think I’ve grown up in a household which has been very much a case of ‘well, we’re very lucky — you must give back.’ ”
“And you know, my grandmother becoming Queen at a very young age, in the days when it was a man’s world, it was very difficult for her to … make a difference,” William says of his grandmother. “And she’s done it. In her own very unique, distinct way, and you know, my grandmother and my grandfather together are the epitome of public service.”
Diana, Princess of Wales, was Royal Patron of The Passage, introducing both William and Harry to the organization when they were children. Below, a photo of Diana, William, and Harry during a visit to the charity.
The Duke became The Passage’s Royal Patron in February. He took the Duchess for her first visit to The Passage last year during the Christmas season.
The broadcast will also feature the Duchess returning to The Brink, the first alcohol-free café bar in the UK.
The Brink is an Action on Addiction endeavor, one of Kate’s patronages. You may remember the Duchess being in Liverpool for the Brink’s official opening all the way back in 2012.
The BBC programming information also notes, “Mary will also join The Duchess of Cambridge behind the scenes at RHS Wisley to learn more about The Duchess’s commitment to the early years in raising the next generation of happy, healthy children.”
The special culminates with a Christmas party hosted by the royals along with special guests, including Nadiya Hussain.
Not only did Ms. Hussain win the Great British Bake Off in 2015, but she is also a wife, mother of three, bestselling author, a weekly columnist for The Times of London, television presenter, and an ambassador for the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Water Aid UK. In her recent memoir, Finding My Voice, Ms. Hussain reveals she was sexually assaulted as a child and talks about the mental health issues she has coped with as a result of the abuse, including panic attacks and PTSD.
Ms. Hussain also launched a line of homewares late last year that includes tableware, soft goods like towels and oven mitts, along with candles and other items.
According to this Hello! story, the Christmas party was held at the Rosewood Hotel in London, at the Elyx Chalet, “a Swedish-inspired winter hideaway where you will be able to watch the snow fall whilst sipping on delicious cocktails.”
Hello! reports we’ll see Kate and William “preparing food with Mary and Nadiya in the Swedish-inspired Elyx Chalet on the hotel’s terrace before serving it up to guests invited from their patronages. Partygoers include nurses, emergency services workers, staff from a mother and baby unit, and armed forces personnel.
I know those not able to watch BBC One are eager to learn how they can see A Berry Royal Christmas. At this point, it is not shown on the BBC America schedule, nor is it listed on the Britbox site (Britbox is a service streaming British TV programs). I will continue looking for a way those without access to BBC One and/or BBC iPlayer can see the program. UPDATE: Britbox says they are *not* going to be airing the program.
Now for what Kate wears in the special, a festive red dress by Alessandra Rich. It is a version of the ready-to-wear dress seen below based on a design from the a/w ’19 collection. On the Alessandra Rich site, the dress is called the “Pleated Polka Dot & Petals Silk Print Dress.” The garment is made of lightweight silk crêpe de chine and features structured, padded shoulders, a front keyhole opening, a tie-neck, long sleeves with 3-button cuff, a distinctive v-shaped insert panel at the waistline and full pleated skirt.
The dress is available in size 40 only at Net-a-Porter ($970), in size 38 only at Matches Fashion ($952) and in sizes 36 and 40 at Moda Operandi, where it is full price ($1940). Many thanks to Emily for her ID of the dress.
Below you see the style as shown on the runway (left) and on the Alessandra Rich website (right) along with a photo showing the bodice and waistline detail in the center. Both have a slit open to the waist while the off-the-rack version has a keyhole opening at the neckline. Kate had a wide bow added to her dress.
From the Women’s Wear Daily review of the a/w 2019 collection:
Gone were the ladylike silhouettes of past seasons: titled “Dressing For Pleasure,” the collection showed a lot of skin. Demure-looking tea dresses sported slits right down their front…
The Duchess is also seen in a ribbed mockneck and skirt and black belt, or a dress with a ribbed top and solid skirt.
UPDATE: It turns out she Kate was likely wearing a Massimo Dutti style, the label’s High Neck Dress with Belt. The knit dress is a blend of viscose, polyester, and polyamide. A big thank you to CopyKate on eBay for her identification of the dress, and to Emma (@Emma4AboutRoyal) for sharing screengrabs of the Duchess in the dress.
A reminder that we’ll see you tomorrow when Kate attends the NATO reception HM is hosting at Buckingham Palace!
- Visit this BBC program page to read more about A Berry Royal Christmas
- Learn more about The Passage at the organization’s website; visit its Facebook page here; the Twitter feed is here
- Visit the Action on Addiction site here; the charity’s Facebook page is here; its Twitter feed is here and Instagram page here
- Read Emily Nash’s full story for Hello! by clicking here; Simon Perry’s People piece may be read here; my friend Micki Maynard’s story about the show for Forbes is here