William, Kate & a Tempest in a Teapot

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On Monday the Daily Beast published yet another column arguing that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a work problem. This recent spurt in activity, it says, masked an otherwise unchanged rhythm of activity that sees a handful of engagements here and there before the couple retreats back to Norfolk where their country home, Anmer Hall, is located.

Further, it says that that William and Kate’s argument that their privacy is premised around spending time with their children is tone deaf to the reality of most working parents, and that William purposefully surrounds himself with “yes men,” who won’t stand up to him and/or lack the experience to point him in the right direction. The column ends by claiming William doesn’t listen to his father, the Prince of Wales, and the only member of the Royal Family that can guide him is the Queen herself.

Let’s discuss.

The Daily Beast: “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.”

First of all, the fact that the media focuses only on Kate’s activity is hugely problematic. Just as Kate carries out engagements by herself, so, too, does William, except those don’t garner nearly as much press coverage. Neither do the engagements of the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke of York, the Duke of Edinburgh or even, at times, the Queen herself. The only member of the RF who comes even close to getting as much attention as Kate is Prince Harry and this is, in large part, because he is, yes, photogenic and engaging, but also because he is unmarried and still has the “fun” bachelor reputation. When he marries that attention will transition to his wife and he’ll be in the same boat that William is.

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So, why is this an issue? Well, Kate isn’t the future monarch. William is. If you want to make an argument that William doesn’t have a heavy enough workload, fine, but don’t use Kate as your example to prove that. Also, what would you have Kate do in-between engagements? Roam the streets? Lead a parade through Kensington Gardens? Film a reality show so we can monitor her activity 24/7? She went home after work. The family has a country house. They use it. That’s a privilege, but one that plenty of non-royal people have.

She “only has three public appearances between now and that trip to France.” That trip to France is in mid-March, which is about three weeks away and will include eight engagements between her and William. Not including yesterday’s, she has two appearances scheduled between now and then and, given that Kensington Palace usually doesn’t announce engagements more than a week or two out, it’s entirely possible more will be added before then. And even if there’s not, I’m not seeing the problem.

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Consider this: should Kate add significantly more engagements to her schedule, say, two or three per week, there would be a wall of press coverage that would eventually damage both her and the monarchy. She would risk overexposure. It would also blow any chance for any other member of the RF – which really means their charities – receiving any attention whatsoever.

Her level of engagements is on par with her station within the RF. What it’s not is proportionate to her popularity, but the Palace’s problem is not to feed “our” appetite, but rather manage it in a way that’s effective.

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The Daily Beast: 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.

Read the press release Kensington Palace put out last month. They were very careful to say that Anmer Hall would still be used and that the family would be slowly transitioning to London later this year. Not by February 1 or any other arbitrary date. Yes, they live in Norfolk sometimes. They have friends there. Those friends own land. There is less media scrutiny in the English countryside than there is in the capitol. Which part outrages you?

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

This dynamic isn’t unique to William and Kate. This comes up anytime a wealthy, famous person talks about day-to-day life being challenging. Inevitably, there will be some corners that snap back that they have money, help, more leisure time and options to address the hardships of work, parenthood, fitness, etc. Sure. But unless you’re under the impression that money literally raises one’s children or performs their job, then there’s likely some common ground to be found. Parenting is challenging and raising children is and should be a relatable experience. William and Kate acknowledging those difficulties can, in many ways, be empowering of parents, not condescending. It really depends on the context, of which there is none here.

What I will grant you is that KP has made missteps on this front, using time with the children as an excuse for engagements one or the other parent has missed. And that is, yes, stupid. They should stop doing that. But to be clear, those words didn’t come out of the Camrbidges’ mouth, they came from the Palace press office. I am willing to take that with a grain of salt so long as it stops.

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The Daily Beast: 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.

Yes, this is exactly why they released the press release, which I said back in January. To quote myself (because why not?): “This is an insurance policy for if and when the couple is criticized for still spending considerable amounts of time at Anmer Hall this year.” Am I a fortune teller? Maybe.

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The Daily Beast: 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.

Oh, really? If William and Kate are running their procreation plans by the Daily Beast then 1) clearly they don’t “hate” the press as much as we all give them credit for and 2) my apologies for second-guessing the majority of this article. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the only two people who know for sure whether William and Kate are planning to have another child are William and Kate and whoever they’ve discussed said matter with. And I feel fairly confident in saying that latter group is pretty damn small.

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What I also don’t care for here is the tone of voice about Kate taking time off when she has a child. SHE HAD A CHILD. She has suffered severe HG with both of her pregnancies, works normally during her second and third trimesters, and then takes maternity leave after her children are born. She is allowed to and should be encouraged to do this, not because she is a royal duchess but because she is a woman and a parent. And not for nothing, but Kate and William emphasizing the time investment required is a good thing for other parents.

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What’s the argument here? That Kate might have a third child as an excuse to get out of her job? If so, then we’ve hit a new low.

And three years? Please. Princess Charlotte is less than two and Kate’s engagements have seen a more regular cadence in the last six months. Prince George is three and a half, and there likely would have been a similar shift earlier had Kate not become pregnant with Charlotte when she did. The rate at which she chooses to have children is squarely *not* our concern and opening that up for comment does a disservice to working mothers everywhere – whatever you think of them or the nature of their work.

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The Daily Beast: 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?

This may very well be true, but in order to argue the merit of this, you have to accept the premise of the argument which is that there’s an overwhelming consensus that the Cambridges are dropping the ball. I think that’s open for debate, but more importantly, I don’t necessarily agree that the Queen begrudges William and Kate their schedule until now. I think the Queen recognizes that her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, resented giving up his own career when she ascended the throne. I think she recognizes that she missed out on a lot of her children’s early years because of the nature of the job (and her generation, but that’s another matter altogether). Yes, the Queen values hard work and duty, but duty without purpose is meaningless.

The time for William and Kate to work at the same rate as Charles and Camilla, and then the Queen and Philip, will come. In the meantime, they are in the process of increasing their workload and transitioning to full-time Royals. Give them a beat to do so.

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