9 To 5

Why Prince William and Kate Middleton Have A Work Problem

The number of engagements conducted by Prince William and Kate Middleton still pales next to the Queen’s. They should step up.

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Kate Middleton made her first public appearance along with her husband Prince William on Wednesday, and the British media were quite breathless in their reporting of the event.

Kate and Will, it was reported, had gone back to their “work” of public engagements much earlier in the year than is usual for the royals, and this was a sign of their newfound commitment to their roles as full time royals, a sign of the increased “support” they would be offering the queen after her bout of ill-health at Christmas “focused minds” on the issue.

While it’s quite true that Kate and Will do seem to have decided to forego their annual January jaunt with the Middletons to Mustique this year (although this might have more to do with George’s playschool schedule that any puritanical restraint) the idea that going back to work on Jan. 11 constitutes really putting your back into it is laughable. The fact they did not make a public appearance until Feb. 7 last year doesn’t change that fact.

This is not to say they didn’t do a fine job at the HQ of Child Bereavement U.K., a charity of which William is a patron that helps kids deal with the loss of a loved one. The little girl with whom William shared the story of losing his own mother will no doubt remember yesterday for the rest of her life. And while some outlets sneered at Kate, given her circumstances, for telling a young mother “parenting is tough,” her words were actually informed with a sense of humility; not even Kate Middleton finds rearing children easy, and she is unafraid to say so.

Kate and William don’t exactly work their crowds—they just connect with them on a very quotidian, almost effortless level. Kate’s middle class approachability combined with William’s excellent upper class manners are a pretty effective combo.

So, good for them.

The problem is definitely not the quality of their public-facing work, but the quantity of it.

No matter how furiously the palace briefs that the young royals are tirelessly at work behind the scenes, the facts as available to the public are irrefutable—Kate and Will did a day of public events just before Christmas, skipped the duty of Christmas at Sandringham in favor of chilling out with the Middletons, and then, bar two quick trips to church on New Year’s Day and Jan. 8, have been living the quietest of good lives, tucked away at their 10-bedroom manor house on the Sandringham estate, with a little shooting to break up the wintery days.

Nice work, if you can get it. But with nothing else in the official diary for the foreseeable future, it’s more than reasonable to ask how exactly this fits with the narrative that Will and Kate are going to up their work rate to support the queen.

It’s rather bizarre, anyway, to talk of these fit young thirtysomethings “supporting” their 90-year-old grandmother. They should be doing the heavy lifting, but William attended just 188 engagements last year, while Kate attended 140.

According to the court circulars, the queen did more than both William and Kate put together, attending 332 events last year, with Prince Philip, a spry 95, going to 219.

Charles—who is pushing 70—notched up to 530 engagements, even his wife Camilla attended 221.

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The Cambridge’s argument is that they are raising their children, that the kids will be gone in a flash, and the rest of their lives will be devoted to public service. And certainly, just because the queen was unlucky enough to take on the top job at 25, and has rarely had a day to herself since, doesn’t mean responsibility should be thrust on young royals at an inappropriately early age.

But Kate and William are both 35 this year, and, frankly, it’s time to get on with doing the job he was born for and she married into.

Some may think that Kate’s 140 public engagements sounds like an impressive tally. But it’s important to remember that often two or three events are scheduled to take place on the same day.

In fact, Kate only made public appearances on 26 actual days in the U.K. or Europe, plus two week-long foreign tours to India and Canada in which the couple packed in dozens of engagements.

The day count reveals, even more than the official “engagement count,” the woefully low rate of engagement with their “hometown” public that Kate and William consider acceptable.

Twenty-six days—and very few of them full days, of course, isn’t good enough.

And if making an appearance on Jan. 9 is seen as something to be proud of, the young royals need to rethink their “public” relations strategy as a matter of urgency.