Why William and Kate Have a Royal Work Problem

The royal couple have had a busy week. But this burst of activity masks a leisurely lifestyle that is increasingly being called into question.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty

After several months of near invisibility—Kate has only made a handful of public appearances since December—the future Queen was everywhere earlier this week.

On Sunday night, she was the star of the show at the BAFTAS, Britain’s cut-price answer to the Oscars, resplendent in an unseasonably spring-like Alexander McQueen gown, which she wore with the shoulder straps down and her hair up, despite the chilly winter weather.

On Monday, some press photographers were tipped off to shoot some “candid” pictures of Kate, 35, wearing skinny black jeans and a red puffer jacket, with William and Harry at St Mary’s university, where the trio were filming scenes for a documentary about the benefits to mental health of physical exercise, in support of their mental health charity Heads Together. The show will air around the time of the London Marathon which will also benefit the charity.

The same day, it was announced that Kate and William will have multiple engagements on an official state visit to France on Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18, including a black tie dinner.

Tuesday saw Kate on an engagement with the RAF Air Cadets (for which, style watchers take note, she wore a military-inspired jacket from Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini).

However, anyone who thought this burst of activity signified a newfound work ethic for the Cambridges, who are often accused of over indulging in their leisure time, was to be disappointed.

The next day the shutters went up, Kate and William retreated to Norfolk and, astonishingly, Kate only has three public appearances between now and that trip to France.

The first is next Wednesday (February 22), when she will undertake her first engagement as the royal patron of Action for Children, visiting mental health projects for children in Wales.

Kate has another engagement on the last day of February in London, opening the Ronald McDonald House at Evelina London Children’s Hospital. Aside from a church service on March 9, Kate will otherwise be out of public view until the Paris trip.

Despite extensive counsel to the contrary, it seems William and Kate are not yet ready to give up the leisured life they have for some years been enjoying with their ‘Turnip Toff’ landowning friends in the backwaters of Norfolk, a hundred miles from the capital and any serious, sustained press scrutiny.

Their argument is that they are busy working behind the scenes, and raising their kids, and that making sure the next generation of royalty is as sane and balanced as possible is just as important work as cutting ribbons.

There was initially some sympathy for the Cambridges’ position among the public and the press, but it is starting to wane.

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Working parents, for example, find it deeply galling when Will and Kate start talking about how hard it is to be a mom or dad.

As one well-informed British commentator who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily Beast: “Whenever he talks about how hard parenthood is you realize he has no idea how his choices come across.”

The commentator says this is, “partly because no one dares tell him that doing so little looks pathetic; they surround themselves with yes people including staff and friends. They are very spoiled and indulged.”

Certainly, the persistent chatter among the journalists who cover the royal beat is informed by constant disbelief of how little the Cambridges do, despite regular admonishments in the press.

There have been regular hints by the Cambridges’ team that the couple will do more once their children are older. Many had expected that process of stepping up their game to begin this year--a process given new urgency by the queen’s Christmas health scare. But on the currently available evidence, that is not happening.

The Daily Beast inquired of Kensington Palace whether Kate’s engagement schedule for the next few weeks represented the frequency of engagements we should expect from her for the next few years.

The palace responded by re-sending the Daily Beast a press release from January, which stated that the Cambridges were, “keen to continue to increase their official work on behalf of The Queen and for the charities and causes they support” and that “from this autumn” they would “increasingly base their family at Kensington Palace,” in order to allow for this.

Being “keen to continue to increase” one’s workload from the fall is better than nothing, but it’s a far cry from a solid commitment--and understandably many observers are skeptical that anything will change much when the couple is living in London.

Kate will almost certainly have another child next year (or even this year), which could well be another excuse to spend another three years out of the spotlight.

If William and Kate do slip up, the press, who have showed Olympian levels of restraint in their coverage of the royals in recent years, will eat them alive, so heavily built up is the resentment from a series of sleights, non-co-operation and attempts to cut them out of the picture.

William is headstrong and doesn’t listen to his father (mind you, who can blame him?) and only hires youthful advisers who will agree with him.

Which means there’s only one person who can tell William to jump and be asked how high.

Your Majesty?