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Prince William’s telling gesture for Kate Middleton

By newadmin / Published on Tuesday, 15 Mar 2022 08:39 AM / No Comments / 55 views


One brief gesture during William and Kate’s latest outing tells us everything we need to know about whether the monarchy will survive.

The duties of a 21st century monarch are no small potatoes.

There are endless investitures, myriad meetings with courtiers, a weekly audience with the Prime Minister, having to officially receive all 175 ambassadors to the Court of St James, opening parliament, signing off on all bills to make them into law – and that’s all before one has had a chance to put in a good showing at Ascot.

But when Prince William accedes to the throne a few decades from now, he will have added a very important new role to that ever-expanding list: Umbrella holder.

Overnight, the royal family was out in force, such as it is now in its vastly reduced state, at Westminster Abbey for the annual Commonwealth Day service.

Kate, Duchess of Camridge fronted up in blue in a clear show of support for the people of Ukraine, pairing her blue Catherine Walker coat dress with a favourite set of sapphire earrings and matching pendant, which she also wore when the couple met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife in 2020. (In these times, a bit of diamond diplomacy can’t hurt now can it?)

But we need to talk about what happened after the ceremony, as the Cambridges were leaving Westminster Abbey, having managed to sit through the service without once looking like they might nod off.

As Kate accepted a posey from a small child and shook hands, it started to rain. So what did the future King William IV do? He turned to an aide, got an umbrella and shielded his wife to let her keep going, which she did without missing a beat.

As they moved down the line of choristers, the duke did his chivalrous bit, keeping his wife of nearly 11 years dry.

Now, this is all clearly touching proof that their union is still going gangbusters after more than a decade, three children, three house moves, two dogs and that time Kate flirted with a fringe.

But what is far more fascinating is what this moment perfectly reveals in only three seconds: That William instinctively understands that Kate is the secret to his future regal success.

He might have the blood of centuries worth of sovereigns flowing in his veins but it is Kate, a descendant of coal miners and self-made entrepreneurs, who will be key to the monarchy’s survival.

Sure, she has done her fecund bit and popped out three children, a tiny future monarch and two siblings, all the while demonstrating a baffling fondness for mumsy coat dresses.

William might currently be enjoying incredible buoyancy in terms of his public approval, with February polling finding that 80% of respondents had a positive view of him, but he knows what side his bread is buttered on.

He might be admired for his dedication to addressing climate change and on the issue of mental health but it is Kate who truly dazzles. It is Kate who crowds will wait under drizzly skies to catch even the briefest glance of, it is Kate they will obsessively read about and follow and it is Kate who will charm the next generation with her natural warmth and humour. (Last month she became the first future Queen of Great Britain to spontaneously have a go on a huge slippery dip during an official overseas tour.)

As an “impeccably placed, longstanding royal insider” told the Times’ Roya Nikkhah earlier this year: “William will be respected. Catherine will be loved.”

That’s born out in the numbers. Research done by Ipsos in the UK in February found that Kate is only second to the Queen in terms of the most popular HRHs, beating out her husband who came in third place. In fact, in the last year, and even after the allegations raised by Meghan and Harry in their Oprah interview, Kate has enjoyed a seven percent bump in popularity.

What instances like the Great Umbrella Moment of 2022 reveal is that William is not only aware of this, but also astutely embraces the status quo.

While his father Prince Charles viewed Diana’s crowd-enthralling magnetism with side-eyed jealousy and festering resentment, his son clearly has a markedly different and eminently more sensible, not to mention feminist, view of things.

At the very heart of it, William’s job boils down one to one key responsibility: Ensuring that the monarchy, and by extension the commemorative shortbread tin industry, survives.

Clearly, he understands that the best way achieving that is to let Kate shine and that in moments like today, his job is to happily accept a supporting role in proceedings.

Clever boy, especially given that the house of Windsor has only just managed to scrape through one of its most turbulent, and perilous, periods in decades.

There has been the shameful and squalid Prince Andrew debacle, which has only been dragged out of the headlines (and US court system) by a reported $21.5 million cheque.

And then there has been the never-ending Sussex fiasco.

In fact, the last time that the Cambridges took their seats in the abbey was for the Commonwealth Day service in 2020, which also just happened to be the final official outing of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The contrast between the two events could not be more wildly marked.

Having two months earlier peremptorily announced their exit from royal life, after their DIY half-in, half-out plans met with cold, hard regal reality, this was to be the Sussexes last engagement as working HRHs.

Back then, the Sussexes arrived wearing a cemented-in-place smile (the duchess) and a permanent grimace (the duke), after 48 hours of controversy and foot-stomping over just who would get to be in the official procession.

By the time the Sussexes and the Camridges took their seats, three quarters of the ducal duos failed at their very British duty to wholly repress their emotions and looked monumentally sour. (Meghan, meanwhile, kept that big grin firmly plastered on with such force I was surprised her veneers didn’t crack. Say what you will, when she commits, she commits.)

And this time around? William and Kate greeted Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall with wide smiles, with all the reports from inside the abbey at pains to point out just how chummy it all was. Later, the Cambridges were photographed beaming and looking like they were having a simply SUPER day out!

Even the most ardent of royalists could not have predicted that things would look so rosy for the palace in 2022. It was only 12 months ago that the Sussexes spent two hours painting a picture of the institution as callous, racist and heartless to a global audience of 50 million people. In the wake of the interview, the royal family’s future was far from assured.

Yet here we are: The Windsors, even perennial also-rans Charles and Camilla, are clocking up record approval ratings, and the UK is enjoying the giddy rub up to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations set for early June.

Moreover, the image of the royal family as deeply fractured has been firmly replaced with one of big smiles and cheery displays of unity. The last time William and Kate were inside the 750-plus year old church it was for the duchess’ charity Christmas carol concert, which saw nearly all of the Queen’s adult grandchildren turn up to show their support.

Harry and Meghan’s fate has proven similarly remarkable, only inversely so. While they launched themselves on the US market, enjoying huge commercial deals and launching a shiny new website, all glittering promise and bright eyes, the reality is today much more ho-hum.

They have not substantially moved the dial on any of their chosen causes, have not released a single minute of podcast or of TV content in 15 months, and have broadly failed to establish themselves as power players. When Meghan lobbied Senators over paid parental leave late last year the reaction was decidedly lukewarm. As Senator Susan Collins told Politico at the time, ​​”I was happy to talk with her, but I’m more interested in what people from Maine are telling me about paid leave.”

Their exuberantly photoshopped appearance on the cover of Time magazine’s most influential people issue was resoundingly mocked and immediately became meme gold. In February they took home the top gong at the NAACP Image Awards, an awards night which, as many commentators were quick to point out, also just happened to be organised by the same New York PR firm, Sunshine Sachs, which has reportedly advised Meghan for years.

Fortune, for the Sussexes, seems to have been a fickle business.

With a spokesperson confirming that Harry won’t be attending the service of thanksgiving for Prince Philip set to be held later this month, all eyes are now on the Jubilee celebrations. Will Harry and Meghan turn up? If they do, will they be allowed onto the Buckingham Palace balcony for the big moment or left in the background? And whose handcrafted fascinator will cost the most?

While we wait with bated breath (okay fine, probably just me and those shortbread manufacturers) at least we can take comfort in knowing that the monarchy is in one very safe pair of hands – Kate’s that is. And William? Well, he has to hold the umbrella.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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