This week, the Prince and Princess of Wales will visit their namesake nation to observe St. David’s Day.
On March 1, the royal couple is expected to participate in a long-standing royal tradition by attending the Welsh Guard’s annual parade.
William, the regimental colonel of the unit, will mark the occasion by giving leeks to Welsh unit members and friends as part of a custom started by the Welsh Guards on the Somme in 1916.
According to legend, the emblem first appeared in the sixth century when St. David instructed his Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their helmets during the battle with the Saxons in order to stand out from the opposition.
Shakespeare’s play Henry V, written in the 16th century during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, also makes reference to the vegetable by describing the practice of Welsh soldiers donning leeks as a “ancient tradition” through the character Fluellen.
As a result, every soldier in every Welsh regiment wears a leek in their cap badges on St. David’s Day every year.
But there’s more! Eating raw leeks is a very specific tradition observed by the Royal Welsh guard on St. David’s Day.
Following a toast to the saint during the famous ceremony, the youngest soldier in each company will frequently eat an entire raw leek in front of the entire regiment.
Wales holds a special place in William and Catherine’s hearts, of course. The Prince later said: “This island has been our first home together, and it will always be an immensely special place for us both.” The couple spent the early years of their marriage in Anglesey.
At the Six Nations match between England and Wales over the weekend, Catherine’s allegiances were put to the test.
William was there to support Wales as the patron of the Welsh rugby union, whereas his wife was there to support England as the patron of the Rugby Football Union.
In the end, rugby enthusiast Catherine triumphed as England defeated their rivals in Cardiff, 20-10.