The Duchess of Cambridge broke down in tears when she was told that Nelson Mandela had died, it was revealed last night.
She and Prince William were at a royal premiere in London of a new film about Mr Mandela’s life when the news was broken to them.
The Duchess, who was sitting next to William during Thursday evening’s screening of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, was said to be ‘very moved’ when she was told 15 minutes before the end of the movie.
And she left the cinema in tears, according to the film’s executive producer Harvey Weinstein.
‘Kate was very emotional, she was in tears and very moved by the events. We all were,’ he said.
‘There is nothing to describe the momentousness of what happened. The Duke and Duchess handled themselves very elegantly.’
But William was also struggling to contain his emotions, Mr Weinstein said.
‘I spoke to them downstairs in the foyer after the movie. William was deeply touched by the news, you could see it in his face, but he was being very courageous.’
Mr Weinstein said that it was poignant that William and Kate, who share a passion for Africa and were engaged to be married in Kenya, were representing the Royal Family.
Arriving for the premiere, the Duchess had walked the red carpet in a floor-length white Roland Mouret dress. She and Prince William had smiled for the cameras as they met the stars of the show and Mr Mandela’s daughters Zindzi and Zenani, who had flown to London from South Africa for the premiere.
At 6.50pm UK time, minutes before the gala screening was due to start at the Odeon Leicester Square, Mr Mandela died in South Africa.
A Royal protection officer is understood to have told Rebecca Deacon, the Duchess’s private secretary, who was also sitting next to her, that Mr Mandela had died.
Miss Deacon then informed the Duke and Duchess.
William and Kate told their aides that they wanted to see the movie to the end and they remained in their seats until the credits rolled.
‘Zindzi and Zenani left as soon as they heard the news, but they did not want to stop the screening,’ Mr Weinstein said. ‘William and Kate said they wanted to watch the movie and stayed until the end. We all did. It seemed the right thing to do.’
The Duke and Duchess were sitting a few seats away from the British actor Idris Elba, who plays Mr Mandela, and Naomie Harris, who plays the leader’s ex-wife Winnie.
As the credits started rolling, the audience rose for a standing ovation. At this point the Royal couple were escorted out of the upper circle and downstairs into the foyer by their security team.
In the auditorium the invited audience were cheering and clapping, most unaware that Mr Mandela had died.
Then an emotional Mr Elba, film director Justin Chadwick and the producer Anant Singh came down from the upper circle to address the audience.
‘President Zuma has announced the passing of Madiba,’ Mr Singh told a now silent audience. ‘President Zuma said Madiba had departed and was at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son.’
As the credits continued to roll, Mr Singh asked for a minute’s silence. Many of the guests, who were dressed in black tie for a planned after-party, were in tears. Many were still crying as they spilled into the chilly foyer.
The film-makers agreed to cancel the after-party as a mark of respect to Mr Mandela.
The movie is due to be released in the UK on January 3. It has already broken box office records in South Africa.