Prince William and Kate Middleton are moving back to London full time next year, giving up their bucolic existence in Norfolk to meet the twin demands of increased royal duties and getting their kids settled into good London schools.
The move to the capital is part of a comprehensive re-alignment of roles and responsibilities in the royal family ahead of the accession of King Charles, a process given new urgency by the queen’s Christmas health scare.
Although the palace has declined to officially confirm the Cambridges’ move to London, it has been rumoured for some time amongst court sources that William and Kate were planning to relocate.
A timeline began to take shape in recent days after it emerged not only that Prince George’s name is down for Wetherby school, William’s alma mater, and he will be starting there in the fall, but also that William’s contract as a helicopter rescue pilot—a job he is growing bored of anyway—apparently expires in March.
So the move back to the big smoke (although there can scarcely be a less smoky residence in London than the splendid Kensington Palace, on the edge of Kensington Gardens, part of London’s vast network of interlinked city-center green spaces) will take place at the latest by June or July, and possibly sooner.
It had long been quietly expected, following a series of health scares including a 2011 heart attack, that Prince Philip would pre-decease his wife who is five years younger than him, at which time it was expected that the queen would retire for longer and longer periods of time to Balmoral, her castle in the Scottish Highlands, emulating her great hero, Queen Victoria.
Simultaneously Prince Charles would take over more of her duties, move his office to Buckingham Palace in readiness for his reign and William and Kate would, in turn, begin to wear some of Charles’s many hats.
But Philip is showing a wonderful ability to keep on going; he is still taking on engagements, pressing the flesh at official functions and even driving his beloved horse drawn carriages around Windsor Great Park. He clearly intends to die in his boots.
And this Christmas it was the queen’s health—the palace resolutely continues to insist she has nothing more than a “heavy cold”—which caused long standing plans to be changed at the last minute and for her to miss church on Christmas Day.
The astonishing litany of celebrity deaths since Christmas Day—George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds—have dominated the news agenda and somewhat obscured quite what a vital occurrence—or non-occurrence—the queen missing the Christmas Day church service at Sandringham was. She has not missed it in nearly 30 years.
Royal sources insist that she was well enough to participate fully in Christmas Day at Sandringham. However, news that the queen will not be attending any public duties for the months of January and February, and is likely to stay at her country house rather than returning to London to rest and recuperate from the heavy cold, has further upended many previous assumptions about the transition between the two reigns, and, of course, William and Kate’s expected responsibilities in the next few years.
If the queen and Philip do plan to spend more time in the country, it will be even more essential for the younger royals to be in London to stem an already-present sense that court is being hollowed out.
The truth is, of course, that while the palace has made detailed plans for dealing with the days subsequent to the queen’s actual death, and the transition of power to King Charles, a process known by the codename “The Bridge,” there is no way that the manner of the queen’s actual passing can be foretold.
So it makes a good deal of sense for William and Kate to be on the spot in London sooner rather than later.
A source told The Telegraph: “The Duke, in particular, has a lot of thinking to do over the Christmas and New Year period. He has his job as an Air Ambulance pilot, which he enjoys very much, but he also wants to take on more royal duties, as does the Duchess. Decisions about schooling and nurseries are all part of that.”
The return of William and Kate to London will be widely welcomed by the press, who have become increasingly uncomfortable with William and Kate living hundreds of miles away from the capital and the public eye, while receiving lavish state funding predicated on them being public figures.
The time is nigh for William and Kate to dive into public life, and living in London is an essential part of that change.