Harry and Meghan's decision to quit may have serious repercussions for Wills and Kate's family routine, so how will the Cambridge clan cope with the fall out?
Words by Michelle Davies
Every December a retired insurance broker named Tim O’Donovan sits at his kitchen table in Berkshire and painstakingly tallies up which Royal Family member has carried out the most engagements in the previous 12 months. The amateur archivist has been doing this for four decades, using information publicly available in the Court Circular drawn by Buckingham Palace. Once completed, he then sends his list to The Times for publication.
Charles ranks first
This December was no exception, with Mr O’Donovan’s list for 2019 revealing Princes Charles carried out the most engagements with 521 in total. Princess Anne was closed behind with 506, while the Queen was third with 300. Prince William, meanwhile, attended 220 official events, Harry did 201, while their wives Kate and Meghan notched up 126 and 83 respectively.
But next year’s list is going to be a very different proposition without Harry and Meghan being available for ribbon-cutting and hand-shaking duties. So the big question now is: who will now carry out the 250+ engagements previously undertaken by them?
A bigger burden
The most obvious answer is, of course, William and Kate. As the youngest senior Royals in this newly streamlined Monarchy, they are the best place candidates to step up and shoulder more of the burden of public life. Already William has carried out two engagements at Buckingham Palace alone, when previously Harry would’ve appeared with him.
‘The likelihood is that William and Kate will take on more,’ PR expert and Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams confirmed to one newspaper. ‘The institution’s hopes rest on them] and they have the distinction of never putting a foot wrong.’
It’s true the couple are near flawless in how they carry themselves publicly, as proved last week when they carried out a joint engagement in Bradford. Writing in Vanity Fair, seasoned Royal correspondent Katie Nicholl said The Queen in particular is a fan of how ‘unflappable’ Kate is juggling events both home and abroad with motherhood and that the Duchess makes the Royals seem normal and ‘in touch’. ‘The Queen holds Kate in high regard,’ she wrote.
A juggling act
But what will the impact be on them privately if their workload is doubled, as Mr O’Donovan’s numbers suggest it might have to? With three children under the age of seven, Kate and William have a busy home life. Term time is spent living in their apartment at Kensington Palace, while weekends and holidays are spent at their Norfolk retreat, Anmer Hall. An increase in public duties will inevitably mean less time spent at both and presumably an increasing reliance on nannies and Kate’s hands-on parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, for wraparound childcare.
Then there is the inevitable increase in scrutiny that will come with them taking on an even greater public role in the absence of Harry and Meghan. Already their every move is examined and dissected – when Kate was filmed shrugging off William’s hand in the BBC TV special, A Berry Royal Christmas, rumours abounded that something was amiss. Royal watchers claimed it was because the couple are not usually tactile in public, unlike handholding Meghan and Harry, and Kate thinks they should keep it that way, following the Queen and Prince Philip’s decades-long example.
Faced with their lives become even busier, it’s no wonder Prince William was said to be ‘incandescent’ on reading Harry and Meghan’s shock ‘we quit’ statement only ten minutes before it was issued to the public two weeks ago. He must have been all too aware of what it would mean for his young family and how it would heap pressure on him and Kate.
‘There’s a genuine worry over how much this could affect the Cambridges,’ the Mirror newspaper quoted one Palace source as saying.
While the Royal diary is now being hastily rewritten to take Harry and Meghan out of the equation, some plans are firming up – including Kate and William’s first overseas visit of the year. In March they are due to visit Ireland for the first time, visiting Dublin and Cork during a two-day stop.
One expert who thinks they’ll weather the post-Megxit fallout is Kate’s biographer, Claudia Joseph. She thinks the Duchess will rise to the challenge and the crowds will love her even more for it.
‘She’s very much the girl next door, from how she dresses to how she behaves and interacts with people on engagements,’ Joseph said. ‘She is likeable and relatable and that has made her very popular.’