Hurrah for Kate and Wills. I don’t want to sound too much like a 16-page Daily Mail pull-out celebratory royal supplement here. But I’m going to have to because it’s true: on their massively successful three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand Prince William (aka the Duke of Cambridge) and Kate (aka the Duchess of Cambridge) – plus, of course, Prince George – have put the naysayers firmly back in their box and proved that the royal succession is in very safe hands.
Readers in America may be forgiven if they weren’t even aware that this tour was taking place. That’s because it has had relatively little coverage in the US MSM – certainly less than Princess Diana used to receive back in the day.
I’m wondering whether, partly, this may be because the Duchess of Cambridge isn’t yet pushing the right liberal-friendly buttons. She’s not, as Diana was, a massive fashion icon; and she’s not – as Diana became, especially after her marriage started to fall apart – an apparently saintly figurehead for any number of vital charitable causes on a holy mission to save the world. At the moment, she’s just a nice, pretty, safe, middle-class girl who is trying to live as normal a married life as is possible when your every frown or twitch is being scrutinised down the long lenses of a gazillion hungry paparazzi.
She’s getting very good at it. On her visit to Ayers Rock – or Uluru as we must learn to call it in these politically correct times (and believe me, no one does political correctness quite like the Aussies) – she was plagued by flies. There’s a close up of her with one on her nose, as she smiles at a child, not batting an eyelid and definitely not doing anything so vulgar as to try to flick it off.
Had she been born into an aristocratic family like the Earls of Spencer – as Princess Diana was – she would probably have been trained in this sort of stoicism since birth. But Kate comes from much more ordinary stock – well-to-do but definitely not posh. And this common touch, I think, is just what the Royal Family needed to steer it into the 21st century.
Since at least the days when the stammering George VI was encouraged to bring himself closer to his people by delivering his King’s Speech the Royal Family has often sought new ways to make itself more relevant, more modern – often with disastrous or embarrassing consequences.
One of the nadirs was when Wills’s uncle Prince Edward managed to persuade various minor royals – including, amazingly, his magnificently bolshie sister Princess Anne – to participate in a televised outdoor game show called It’s A (Royal) Knockout in 1987, publicly humiliating themselves on a silly obstacle course.
But as Kate has shown, all the Royals really needed was someone who could show them how to be normal without their having to put on an enormous sign saying: ‘LOOK AT US. WE ARE QUITE NORMAL NOW.’ Someone for whom being normal came quite naturally.
For example, one of the stand-out moments of the tour was when Kate and Wills raced each other round New Zealand’s Auckland harbour on yachts. Wills – with his action man past as a soldier and a Navy rescue helicopter pilot – ought to have been good at this sort of thing. But Kate – who has crewed on racing yachts – was better. Her gleeful expression as she thrashed her husband was a joy to behold. More than that, it said to the world that – in contrast to the rather tragic, arranged marriage of 19-year old Diana Spencer to an older man whose affections lay elsewhere – this was a partnership of equals enjoyed by a young, ordinary (-ish) couple very much in love and with a cute baby in tow.
Wills is a lucky prince, not just in his choice of wife, but also in the fortune of having a younger brother like Prince Harry. Harry is the naughty, brave, reckless one – unlike Prince William, who was denied the opportunity, Harry got to serve with the Blues and Royals cavalry regiment on the front line in Afghanistan, before retraining as an Apache gunship pilot. This means that the instinctively more staid Prince William can outsource the errant behaviour half expected of the heir to the throne (cf Prince Hal; the young Edward VII; the young Edward VIII; etc) to a sibling who can do the job professionally).
And then there’s young Prince George – third in line to the throne (after his grandfather the Prince of Wales; and his father the Duke of Cambridge) – who on current form probably won’t be inheriting the throne until the tail end of this century. His future subjects will no doubt hope he proves a wise and just king. His mother is no doubt praying that he doesn’t inherit his father’s hairline.