LONDON – What a difference a year makes.

Remembrance Sunday, which takes place in Britain on the second weekend in November, usually sees the royal family turn out in force to honor the country’s war dead.

This year, however, it was a low-key – and socially-distanced – affair, with Queen Elizabeth wearing a mask for the first time in public, and only a handful of royals gathering on the balconies at Whitehall, near Downing Street, to take part in the tributes at the Cenotaph war memorial.

The event, which usually sees thousands of veterans and members of the public gather on Whitehall, was closed to the public due to COVID-19 and second national lockdown which began last Thursday.

The Duchess of Cambridge, who in the past had shared a crowded balcony with figures including her sister-in-law, Meghan Markle, spent the morning singing hymns and socially distancing herself from the Duchess of Cornwall, one of the few fellow royals in attendance.

The Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge at the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London. AP

Kate Middleton wore a bespoke black Alexander McQueen coat with military details including fringed epaulets, a stand-up collar and shiny silver buttons. She topped off the look with a Philip Treacy hat, and diamond and pearl earrings.

Last year, she also wore military-inspired McQueen for the event, donning a coat dress with a zip front, frogging and fringe details.

The royals arrived by car wearing dark face masks, but removed them for the ceremony and the hymns. Prince Charles, Prince William and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also took part in the ceremony.

Remembrance Sunday is meant to honor the men and women who died in World War I, World War II and in conflict during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Normally, the night before, there is at the Festival of Remembrance, a musical gala at Royal Albert Hall, which the royals also attend. This year, the musical event still took place, but in a mostly empty venue.

Having given up their royal duties earlier this year and settled in Los Angeles, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were also absent from the ceremony.

Prince Harry marked the day with a podcast saying he was proud to have served his country in the military, and that wearing his uniform was among “the greatest honors there are in life.”

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