Lessons Learned from the Caribbean
It’s been less than a week since The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were wheels up in The Bahamas, concluding a controversial eight-day tour of three Caribbean nations. Since then, Kensington Palace has been hard at work to separate out its principals – William and Kate – from what proved problematic about the visits. For starters, there was the release of a longer and more personal statement from William than we’re used to. My thoughts on it are included at the end of the post linked above.
Then came a few media briefings from Palace staff to an assortment of news outlets. It’s safe to assume this thanks to a plethora of stories that came out that focused on how William and Kate intend to operate going forward. The two that jump to mind are one from The Daily Mail on how William intends to change the culture of “never explain, never complain” and another from The Evening Standard that says Kate is poised to undertake more solo trips abroad.
With the former, the point is clear: William “gets it” and is a 21st century royal who speaks Millennial. The language used in background quotes is very careful not to insult the style of the Queen (and arguably The Prince of Wales), but the agenda is very much to underscore that William took issue with some of the tour’s imagery and that he is perfectly prepared to respond and take accountability – counter to the House of Windsor’s history of stoic, if occasionally pained, silence.
I have no idea whether or not William actually flagged moments like the open-top Land Rover ahead of the tour – maybe he did or maybe it’s strategic spin done in post – but the larger point about William’s style is, I think, based on fact. We saw as much with the release of the statement, which it sounds like he did without running the wording by the Queen or Charles. (One report said both households were given a heads up via Whats App a few minutes prior.)
My guess is the story about Kate is a purposeful placement to continue the narrative that she’s “come into her own” as a working royal and officially entered a new phase of her career. Again, some of that is based on objective fact – she is owning issue campaigns distinct from those of William and she’s in a new phase of her life where her children are firmly in school. And some of that, however, is I think a continued response to the years where she faced criticism for working part-time while she was a newlywed/new mother, and then, of course, the comparisons she drew to The Duchess of Sussex in 2017-2019 based purely on work ethic. And then, separate from the agenda of Kensington Palace, is that of the Royal Family writ large – Kate is popular with a younger generation and putting her out there more is a net positive as they brace themselves for another year of likely hits from the Sussex camp (Harry is, after all, slated to release a memoir).
Another Point of View
As discussed in my post on the tour, the Caribbean visit generated a lot of criticism for the Royal Family and how royal tours are conducted in general. What I mentioned, but didn’t dive into, is the fact that William and Kate received a lot of positive coverage and, of course, were cheered by sizable crowds everywhere they went. In other words, there’s a bit of a disconnect between how this tour was experienced in the moment and how it looked to the rest of us.
I want to share a few passages from an article written by royal biographer Robert Hardman:
“[W]hat they really needed on the team was a wily old Palace veteran to scout for political landmines […] What no one knew was that Mr Holness would be using the Cambridges’ arrival for some clumsy grandstanding. Had they done so, royal aides might have finessed it and also prepared the couple.
“As it is, the moment reinforced several misconceptions that have bedevilled this tour. One is that the Crown is somehow ‘clinging on’ to ‘power’ in the Caribbean; that these young nations are boldly rising up to shake off the shackles of colonialism. This is untrue […] It was not out of deference or nostalgia that countries like Jamaica opted to stick with the Queen when they became autonomous. They did so because they viewed the Crown as a tried-and-tested protection against overmighty political masters. It is harder to tinker with the judiciary or the armed forces if these answer to an entity above politics. But that argument is now largely forgotten. Much better to paint the Crown as the evil symbol of centuries-old oppression, safe in the knowledge that the royals cannot debate the subject.”
I felt like it was important to highlight this article, and the POV it represents, because, yes, there is support for the Royal Family in this region, including Jamaica. And the relationship that each country has with the UK and Commonwealth is distinct and nuanced. That is very much for each to battle out themselves, a point I don’t think anyone – including the Windsors – disagrees with. The fact remains, however, when there is backlash to a tour to this extent, then it’s worth examining why, as Kensington Palace now says it’s doing.
And even if the majority of that backlash is coming from the UK and US – as some are arguing – that’s still rather important. One comprises the Royal Family’s base and the other is a reflection of how the institution is being viewed and discussed on the global stage.
Andrew the Supporter
I covered The Duke of York’s attendance at his father’s memorial on Tuesday. Though, the issue is less his attendance and more that he took a prime position as his mother’s escort in and out of Westminster Abbey on the heels of a sexual abuse lawsuit settlement and forced departure from public life.
Multiple outlets are now reporting that the decision to attend *with* the Queen was Andrew’s, his reasoning being based on his proximity to his mother at Windsor. That is obviously a very different narrative than the Queen requesting he do the job because she wanted him by her side. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. It certainly sounds like Andrew, but it could just as easily be a way of combatting the sense that the Queen is willfully blind to his faults despite how offensive many find is presence to be.
Regardless, given the nature of this event, I’m not overly up in the arms on this issue. That said, I love to be done talking about the DoY.
It’s been reported that after the memorial service, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, their husbands, and Mike and Zara Tindall attended a long lunch at Scott’s, a restaurant in Mayfair, London. I don’t know, I just like little anecdotes where members of the Royal Family interact with one another like normal people and not CEOs of corporate subsidiaries. So, here you go 🙂
On the Horizon
I’m not going to cover the remaining Jubilee tours from The Earl and Countess of Wessex and The Princess Royal, but there are some exciting events coming up. And after two years of pandemic life, we’re woefully in need of them.
In theory, the Queen will attend the opening of Parliament on Tuesday, May 10. Given her mobility issues, the final decision on her presence won’t be made until much closer to game time, but it will be interesting to see how the Palace handles this.
Then, on Thursday, June 2, we will finally have a resumption of Trooping the Colour. It’s crazy to think it’s been three years since we’ve seen everyone crowded on the BP balcony, and I can’t wait.
Thursday will also kick off a weekend of Jubilee-centered events. Friday will see a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral for the Queen’s service, while Saturday will feature the Derby at Epsom Downs and a live concert on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
On Sunday there will be a “Big Lunch” and a pageant. From the Royal Family’s website:
“Every year since the idea began in 2009 The Big Lunch has encouraged communities to celebrate their connections and get to know each other a little bit better, coming together in a spirit of fun and friendship. In 2022 The Big Lunch will bring the Jubilee celebrations into the heart of every community.
“People are invited to share friendship, food and fun with neighbours as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. A Big Jubilee Lunch can be big or small – street party or picnic, tea and cake or a garden barbeque. The Big Lunch provides tips and ideas for hosting an event. Over 1400 people have registered to host Big Jubilee Lunches so far, with events being planned across the length and breadth of the country.”
Last but not least, we can expect a visit from William and Kate to the US later in the year when they attend the next Earthshot Prize event. I’m very curious to see where exactly they end up going and to what extent they keep their visit focused on the event itself versus expanding this into a mini-tour. The Royal Family has taken a hit in the US courtesy of Sussexit, so it would be smart to use the opportunity as one to remind that particular audience William and Kate are still relevant.
With that, Happy Weekend 🙂