Veteran royal watcher turns purple over Kate’s shamrock ‘snub’
The more relaxed approach of younger royals is not always appreciated
The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, prepares to try on a hat in a visit to a charity shop in Holt, Norfolk, on March 18th. She spent the previous day with her children instead of presenting the St Patrick’s Day shamrock to the Irish Guards. Photograph: Arthur Edwards/Reuters
Did the Duchess of Cambridge snub the Irish Guards on St Patrick’s Day? Britain’s royal correspondents think so, rounding on Kate Middleton for spending the day in Norfolk with her children, George (2) and Charlotte (10 months), instead of presenting the shamrock to the guardsmen.
The duchess’s husband, Prince William, was on hand to review the parade and make the shamrock presentation but that was not good enough for veteran royal watcher Ingrid Seward. “For Kate to miss an opportunity to honour the armed forces with such a lame excuse shows a distinct lack of understanding.” she wrote in the Daily Mail.
“If she wants to be thought of as a modern princess who will go the extra mile for the brave soldiers she represents through her charities, she should have been there at their new barracks at Hounslow, not at home in Anmer Hall. It somehow made the covenant between royals and the military look as if it didn’t matter.”
In the same way that dogs tend to look like their owners, royal correspondents over time adopt the grandeur of royalty, eventually becoming grander than the royals themselves. So Seward reminded Kate that she is “the first girl with true working-class roots to marry a future king” as she lectured her on abandoning the 115-year tradition of a senior female royal presenting the shamrock.
ParadeThe Irish Times
Many years ago, when they were posted to Berlin, I knew them rather well and watched the late queen mother present the shamrock a number of times. She showed up year after year for decades (despite the fact that, as Seward noted, it clashed with Cheltenham) repairing to the officers’ mess after the parade for an unchanging lunch of roast lamb.
When I asked a flinty drill sergeant from Belfast once if they ever thought of varying the menu, he gave me a contemptuous look. “She loves lamb,” he said. “She always says so.”
Seward is not alone in contrasting the sense of duty shown by the older royals with the more relaxed approach of the younger generation. Prince William, once regarded as something of a paragon, has recently faced accusations of laziness from his industrious betters among the royal correspondents.
“Wills is throne idle,” lamented the Sun, as it revealed that he waited until mid-February to perform his first official duty of 2016. The fact that he also works as an air ambulance pilot did not impress the paper, which complained that he was on duty for only 80 hours a month.
Ever consistent, the Sun reported a few days later that civil aviation authority regulations limit flying hours to 90 in any 28 consecutive days, while EU rules require pilots to have 36 hours of rest between shifts.
Prince William last week dismissed the sniping as “part of the job”, and the royal family can soon expect a few months of good publicity as Queen Elizabeth prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday. Her real birthday is on April 21st but the official birthday is a moveable feast, this year falling on June 11th.
There will be a street party in the Mall, a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral and the traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade. The government announced this week that pubs will be allowed to stay open until 1am on June 10th and 11th.
Rocky patchPrincess Diana
For some members of the royal bureaucracy, this is nothing short of impertinence and at a lunch party recently, I heard two of them fulminating against it. They feared that the prince would seek to transform the coronation ceremony, which has remained essentially the same for a thousand years, to better reflect today’s multicultural, multifaith Britain.
The traditional ceremony involves being anointed, blessed and consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, after the monarch, clutching sceptres and orb, takes an oath to maintain the Church of England. “This is the last medieval coronation ceremony in Europe and it’s redolent with a sense of the divine right of kings,” one of them said. “He may not be happy with that. But he’d better get used to it.”