Forty-eight hours on from news of the Duke of Cambridge’s ski trip to Verbier hitting as Commonwealth Day festivities were unfolding, the news cycle has evolved pretty much as you’d expect. William has been raked over the coals for being, at best, wildly tone deaf and, at worst, a playboy louche who should have grown up years ago.
And I have to say, in watching the fallout, I’ve become a bit less forgiving. The thing is, there’s nothing about this reaction that is surprising and William had to have known that. He chose to go anyway and that choice doesn’t say anything good.
This isn’t what the story surrounding Commonwealth Day should have been, particularly this year, with royal assent for the government’s Brexit bill coming within days. A celebration of the UK’s unity within the context of an annual tradition is all the more critical right now in an atmosphere of political and economic uncertainty. Providing consistency and stability is at the very core of what the monarchy provides. William’s actions undermined that.
He should have been at the ceremony, plain and simple. But if he was going to skip it, then it really shouldn’t have been for a boys’ ski trip. And if it was going to be for a ski trip, then it would have been great if he had stayed away from women a decade younger than him and late night dancing in a club. Alas…
Now an event that should have allowed the Queen to be front and center is about William. A week that should have let the Cambridges shine as they participate in Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and represent the UK in Paris is now going to be awkward and coverage of it laced with eye rolls. And all the while Kate is going to have keep a smile on her face while people speculate whether her husband is cheating on her, bored or just a bit dim.
Whether William likes it or not, his image and reputation are incredibly important to his success and dropping the ball here doesn’t just threaten his own popularity. This will blow over, but each incident has an impact on perception – on him, and on his grandmother, father and son. And if you think a piling up of incidents like this isn’t a big deal then take a look at how often the Prince of Wales is still held accountable for his first marriage. So much so that opinion polls regularly run the of question whether he is too disliked to succeed the Queen.
William has a reputation for being work shy. So does Kate. Whether or not that’s fair is beside the point; it’s literally their job to fix that perception for the health of the institution of which they’re a part. William has been given a lot of latitude over the years to have to take his time, to reconcile himself to his position and cast his role in his own image. He’s 35 now and it’s time to get on with it. I’m not offended by low engagement numbers at this point (though, by the way, see the above image) or protecting his family’s privacy. A lot of people aren’t. But when you’re given that grace, return the respect. This is about doing your job, a thing most people get up and do every day, whether they want to or not, because they don’t have a choice.
This is also about common sense and the shocking lack of it here is troubling.