Day 4: William and Kate Visit Pakistan Hospital Close to Diana’s Heart
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visits the Badshahi Mosque with Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in Lahore, Pakistan. Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images
As Day 4 of their Royal visit dawned in Pakistan, William and Kate invoked the giving spirit of Diana, Princess of Wales, with an Instagram post showing Diana, kneeling beside a hospital bed, holding hands with a child undergoing cancer treatment at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore.
The photo, taken on Diana’s 1996 visit to Pakistan, demonstrates the lasting power of all the iconic photos of Diana engaged in humanitarian work: how she was able to slow time, and form visible bonds with real people, even as the cameras whirred around her.
“Over 20 years on, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit the children’s ward at the hospital today to spend time with patients undergoing treatment, and speak with their families,” read the Instagram post. Indeed, the whole Pakistan tour, much like Harry and Meghan’s southern Africa tour just weeks before, has brought memories of Diana to the fore as her sons and daughters-in-law follow in her footsteps.
The hospital visit was the last stop in a day that began early for the Cambridges when they flew to Lahore in eastern Pakistan, the country’s second largest city and its cultural hub. Kate’s first outfit was a tribute to local “high street” fashion, the British term for cheap and cheerful clothing. She donned a white shalwar kameez from Gul Ahmed, a retailer whose website boasts similar garments in the $35 to $85 range, adding a shawl from Maheem Khan, a local designer she has worn previously on this trip, and a pair of J. Crew heels.
The first stop was the SOS Children’s Village, where they joined a surprise birthday party for some of the 150 children gathered for the occasion. The international charity for orphaned and abandoned children provides both home and family structure, a subject the Duchess addressed in her first speech of the tour. Formerly a nervous public speaker, Kate has grown confident in this arena as she has grown into her royal-in-waiting role. She began the talk by saying a few words in Urdu, adding that she and William have observed that, in Pakistan, “family is at the heart of your culture.” The children, she said, “have shown us too that it is not simply a term that describes blood relatives. Instead it describes those special bonds with those who make us feel safe and supported.”
The royal couple headed next to the Cricket Academy, where they showed off their sporty sides. Both picked up a bat to play a game with a mix of boys and girls from underprivileged backgrounds, part of the British Council’s DOSTI program. The Urdu word DOSTI translates to friendship.
After a missed swing, William made a hit out to the field for six runs, which is cricket-speak for a hit that makes it outside the boundary without touching the ground. Kate was “caught out” twice, which means her hits were intercepted by fielders, though the polite kids dropped the balls respectfully each time.
At the end of the visit, Kate and William were presented with cricket bats for each of their three children. When an official joked they must apologize to Louis as the bat was bigger than he was, William genially responded, “Don’t worry he’ll grow into it.”
Kate made a quick change into yet another green outfit, a shalwar kameez by Maheen Khan with a matching headscarf. The head covering was necessary for the visit to the Badshahi Mosque — Pakistan’s second largest — which dates back to 1671, and is considered one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Diana paid her respects here on her first visit to the country in 1991 and, on the last official Royal visit to Pakistan in 2006, William’s father, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, also stopped by. Kate and William were given a history of the building and listened to a Quranic prayer.
Then it was off to their final destination of the day, the one foreshadowed by the Instagram post. The Shaukat Khanum hospital was founded in 1994 by Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricketer-turned politician, who is now the country’s Prime Minister. Princess Diana was involved in several fundraisers for the hospital, built as a tribute to Khan’s mother, because of her close friendship with Khan’s then-wife, Jemima Khan. Formerly Jemima Goldsmith (the daughter of British tycoon Sir James Goldsmith and Lady Annabel Goldsmith), she travelled in the same social circles as Diana. Khan, a Pakistani cricketing legend and legendary playboy, wooed the socialite and heiress in London. They were a golden couple at the time, and Jemima was active in raising funds for the clinic.
After marrying in 1995 and having two boys, the couple divorced in 2004, in part because Jemima had trouble adapting to life in Pakistan, according to a statement Khan made at the time. But in the mid-90s, when Diana was dating British-Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan — often described as “the love of her life” — Imran and Jemima played host to Diana, facilitating secret meetings with Hasnat’s family when Diana was discussing marriage and a move to Pakistan.
Diana brought her profile to the hospital, and the photos of her visits with children undergoing cancer treatment were reportedly among her favourites. Today, William was pictured played a fishing game with five-year-old Muhammad Sahir, who is being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer. The young boy told the prince that he hoped to be a soldier when he grows up. Meanwhile Kate had a tea party with seven-year-old Wafia Rehmani, and the two donned play tiaras for the special occasion. Rehmani told the real-life princess that she wants to become a doctor, proudly showing off her toy kit.
To round out a full then-and-now reflection, Dr. Aasim Yusuf, the same doctor who toured the space with Diana more than 20 years ago, took her son and daughter-in-law around the hospital. All in all, the day showed what Royal tours always do best: shining a spotlight on real people, and doing the hard work of promoting hope.