A long-simmering suspicion that Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton are ‘workshy’ and do not undertake their fair share of royal duties exploded into the open this week as it emerged that William works just 20 hours a week in his role as an air ambulance pilot.
Tempers flared further when it appeared that the palace was attempting to use the part-time helicopter-flying role to excuse William from royal commitments, while work colleagues said he was using royal commitments to get out of his allotted shifts.
Sources at his airbase told the Sun: “He’s hardly ever on shift. He was very enthusiastic to begin with but it tailed off. It’s supposed to be four on, four off but with the Duke it’s more off than on. He had at least four weeks off over Christmas, which has to be staffed the same as normal weeks. It’s fine that he gets a bit of special treatment, but it’s beginning to really annoy some people. The rumor is that he’s just a bit bored of it.”
To make matters worse, the palace then unwisely attempted to use supposed health and safety regulations to excuse William’s very low rate of visible royal work—incredibly, William has undertaken just two royal engagements this year—arguing that a strict definition of rest days precluded him from undertaking royal public engagements on his days off.
But the Civil Aviation Authority, the independent body which regulates pilots flying and rest hours as part of its overall flight safety remit, rubbished the claims, telling the Daily Beast there was no reason why William could not undertake a little light ribbon cutting and other royal duties on his days off.
The CAA said the palace appeared to be “confused.”
A spokesman for the CAA told the Daily Beast: “There are rules in place for understandable reasons, and as part of that there are rest days stipulated. However there is no ban on things you can or cannot do on rest days—other than not operating a helicopter or aircraft.”
Off the record, officials at the CAA were more forthright, totally rejecting the excuses provided by the palace to the Daily Beast, saying that there would not even be a specific ban on a pilot who worked part time working in another casual job, such as barman or shop assistant, on their days off.
“Your employer might worry if you were reporting fatigue, and might want to discuss that with you, but there is no specific ban on those things,” the source said.
The row comes amid a long running concern that the Cambridges are not delivering value for money.
The core of the problem is that when measured against other senior royals, the work rate of the new generation is staggeringly low.
The 94-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, fresh from heart surgery, clocked up 250 official duties at home and abroad in 2015, compared to the 198 conducted by William, Kate and Harry combined.
The prince has so far carried out just two official engagements in 2016.
The Duke, who is President of Bafta, missed the award ceremony this year and is rumored to have been visiting the Duchess of Cambridge’s family in Bucklebury, Berkshire at the time.
A royal source told the Sun of William’s lack of work ethic: “It was the talk of Sandringham over Christmas that he does nothing. He wanted to move to Norfolk to give him the life of the gentleman country farmer, like his friends. Everything has been set up—his pilot job, his duties, his home—so he can do this.
“Shooting, fishing, house parties at weekends and a very private life with his family away from the cameras are the order of the day.
“All his friends live this country lifestyle and so, now, does he.”
Critics of the Cambridges’ domestic set up also point out that £4million of public money was spent for the refurbishment of the family’s 22-room apartment at Kensington Palace, which is now barely used, as the family hunkers down in Norfolk far from the public eye.
William petitioned for, and was granted, a no-fly zone over his Sandringham home, Anmer Hall, to stop photographers getting anywhere near.
At its heart, this row is really about the growing pains of the royal family as it attempts to change with the times.
William is seeking, essentially, to put his family before his national duty. He is not prepared, like his grandmother is, to be on the road 300 days of the year, shaking hands with strangers.
In theory, the British people want a modern, compassionate, human monarch. But modern, compassionate, humans are considerably more open to criticism than road warrior cyborgs.
Getting him a job with the local air ambulance must have seemed like a neat way to satisfy the competing demands of William’s private and personal life. Who could criticize a man whose day job was saving lives, after all?
Kensington Palace attempted to subtly reinforce this message, saying in a statement, that the Prince finds it “rewarding to be part of a team that provides such a valuable, and often life-saving, public service.”
But as the air ambulance service is a private company, not a part of the military, there is less control when it comes to leaks from disgruntled staff, as William and his media handlers are now finding out to their disadvantage.
For William the choice is now stark. He can either put up with ongoing, constant criticism that he is workshy, or else hit the road.
As his grandmother has often been heard to remark, a royal needs to be seen to be believed.