There’s a strange schism when it comes to royals and vacations: Royals love to take long stretches from the business of the monarchy…but their vacation homes are pretty grim.
Sandringham, Queen’s Norfolk’s Christmas estate, resembles the setting of a Gothic horror story while Balmoral, Her Majesty’s Scottish home, has been partially modeled on a Bavarian schloss. All that off-putting gray stone and fake medieval turrets are enough to give the bravest of young HRHs lifelong nightmares.
And yet, when it comes to holidays, the House of Windsor is second to none. Princess Margaret used to jet off to Mustique and bask in the Caribbean sun with blatant regularity (you could probably still smell a whiff of coconut oil long after she came back asking for some whiskey in the London Drawing Room) while the Queen Mother quickly bought herself a resort castle – the Château de Mey – and would camp there for lavish stays, away from anything as bourgeois as work.
And sadly, this royal tradition of holidaying as if it were a competitive sport is one that William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, eagerly carry on. In the past 18 months, they have taken nearly four months off and are currently in the middle of their annual summer vacation of about two months.
As the Duke and Duchess are set to travel to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this week to wave the Union Jack and prove how good they are at cheering, in a normal year once the final trophy from Wimbledon postponed in July, it is time to release the Ambre Solaire, the duo not returning to their position until the beginning of autumn.
This year, of course, June was a busy month for the Cambridges given all they had to do for the Platinum Jubilee, but as is usually normal, in July we only saw Kate at a charity polo match and in the Royal Box at Wimbledon, barely a show of royal elbow grease. (Any sort of “work” that can be done while holding a glass of chilled Pimms barely counts as a hard graft now?)
August, as unusual, will see Kate disappear completely from the radar, usually only reappearing around mid-September.
Similarly, in 2021, the only official engagements Kate undertook in July were watching tennis and football, after which she took almost nine weeks off, meaning that from late June to mid-September her absence from the office was basically over.
The same schedule also took place for William, apart from two Earthshot Prize meetings he managed to organize and a church service. Gosh, however, manages to do so much?
The couple have been to France twice in the last year (for Kate’s brother’s wedding and for a skiing holiday) and Jordan, as well as spending time in Scotland and Norfolk.
There’s no getting around it: William and Kate have a vacation problem.
And, as we all know, the first step is to admit it.
The problem here is that just because they can take months out of the year, which traditionally royals have, doesn’t mean they should.
For years, the couple and their team have focused on building the Cambridge brand, that of them as a hard-working and so normal couple. Watch them there, boldly taking on the most pressing issues of the day, including mental health and climate change, and then heading home for bath time!
This is the formula that has been concocted to try to ensure that the monarchy still survives. The idea seems to be to let Prince Charles be, well, Prince Charles, complain about the preservation of hedgerows and give the occasional barnstorming speech about the environment and his Aston Martin that runs on white wine (really) and the British will reluctantly tolerate it.
Meanwhile, alongside all of that, William and Kate are pioneering a much braver, more committed, and more proactive version of royalty that also exhibits a true cult of personality.
At the heart of the birth of Cambridge Inc. is the relativity of the couple and its willingness to be vulnerable. We’ve heard Kate talk about the loneliness of new motherhood and appear on a parenting podcast while William has regularly spoken of the emotional toll his years as an air ambulance pilot took on him and his grief over the loss from his mother.
These tricky outings aren’t unique but are integral to their public personas, aiming to turn them into the first senior members of the royal family who are seen as truly human and in touch with the real world; who did more than just spy on the hoi polloi while watching the world through the window of a golden car. (They have one of course, but it’s terribly difficult for the school to manage.)
But for all the H&M dresses Kate wears, they’re not a normal middle-class family, no matter how many Audi station wagons they add to their fleet and how often young Prince George learns to use the self-checkout at Waitrose.
The Duke and Duchess can take extensive time off whenever they want as they have full control over their schedules apart from key events like Trooping the Color and Remembrance Day, which means they can skip a week on the beach, albeit in Cornwall’s Isles of Scilly, rather than their 19th century mahogany desks whenever the mood takes you.
They also don’t, like the vast majority of the world, have a very limited amount of leave to be carefully tended to and can instead wander off to spend more quality family time, Harrods buckets and shovels in tow, when they wish.
But, it is time for the Cambridges to give up this royal advantage. They can’t have nearly a hundred vacation days a year and still try to sell themselves as the Duke and Duchess of relatability.
Every time William and Kate accidentally remind the world of how unnormal their lives are, it undermines all the work they do the rest of the year to market themselves as the approachable faces of the modern royal family.
There’s also the fact that this pesky bad habit also serves to rekindle the Lazy Kate narrative that haunted her for years. Before their wedding in 2008, the Daily Mail reported that the Queen thought Kate needed to get a job.
‘The Queen has admitted she has no idea what Kate is actually doing,’ a senior aide said at the time and that Her Majesty is ‘of the opinion that Kate should work’. She believes in a modern monarchy and is convinced that the Royals should lead by example.
A source close to Kate said at the time: ‘Most of the time she waits for William to come home so they can go on holiday.’ (Ouch.)
Then there’s the fact that the duo didn’t begin full-time royal duties until 2017. Diana, Princess of Wales, on the other hand, was thrown into the deep end and sidetracked to charm the masses in the centers -regional cities even before having obtained everything. wedding confetti from her hair.
What anyone worth his Walter Bagehot knows is that the British monarchy, in the years to come, will suffer its greatest test since Oliver Cromwell started having ideas. The Next King is a man garnering lukewarm support at best, at a time when the Royal House has suffered a series of physical beatings in recent years from which it has yet to recover, thanks to Prince Andrew’s horrific behavior and the seismic eruptions of Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Things for the Crown aren’t exactly looking for ticketsy-boo, hence why so much rests on William and Kate.
And yet, they seem willing to gamble any winnings they’ve made for time off duty with the kind of enthusiasm Margraret probably reserved for every new bartender in their twenties at their favorite Mustique watering hole.
Of course the Duke and Duchess should take a holiday and of course they shouldn’t have to ask their manager for time off (although the image of the 96-year-old Queen spending part of her day illuminating requests for HRH vacation is fun) . But these crazy kids have to find some kind of middle ground between the extreme privilege of royalty and the image of them as ordinary, hard-working parents who just happen to have the keys to the Tower of London. (Yeah, I know they don’t really have them, but they sure could get their hands on them, couldn’t they?)
It’s time for William and Kate to channel less Princess Margaret and more Princess Anne. And as far as the Princess Royal is concerned, the swimwear industry’s loss was only the monarchy’s gain…
Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.