Role Model Royals
The Australian Women's Weekly|April 2021
As we celebrate William and Kate’s 10th wedding anniversary, Juliet Rieden asks: can the close-knit Cambridge five steady the royal ship with their duty, dignity and family values?
Juliet Rieden

IN the fallout from Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, the spotlight falls glaringly on the Cambridge family to keep the British (and Australian) monarchy moving forward. More than ever, Prince William, Catherine and their three children are seen as the – hopefully – shining future of what, as The Weekly goes to press, is a royal family under attack.

It’s pertinent that the first member of the House of Windsor to publicly deny the shocking claim of racism within the royal family that Harry and Meghan alluded to in their interview was Prince William. He and Catherine were visiting a school in East London when a reporter shouted: “Is the royal family racist, Sir?”.

Off-the-cuff media questions are frowned upon by royal aides and consequently usually ignored, but a frustrated William spoke from the heart. “We’re very much not a racist family,” he replied. That response echoed around the world in seconds. In just seven words, William had begun to redress the damage wrought by his younger brother.

The progression of this couple since their majestic Westminster Abbey wedding on a glorious spring afternoon on April 29, 2011, has been a powerful example of how at best the monarchy can grow and flourish.

While Kate took a while to hit her stride, in the past two years, the prince and the duchess have both shifted up a gear, with many spying the qualities of leadership, diplomacy, confidence and quiet charisma that point to the sort of king and queen consort they will one day be.

“In all likelihood Prince Charles will be king for a short time and then William will assume that role, probably when he’s about 50, and I think he will be superb,” says veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards, who’s been photographing Prince William since he was born.

“For a long while I never thought that, but it was on the trip to Israel in 2018 when William was so statesmanlike that I thought, this is the future. William is going to be a brilliant king.”

That crown may be some decades away, but with Harry and Meghan no longer working royals and the revelations in their TV interview firing pot shots at the ancient castle walls of the House of Windsor, the onus is more than ever on Kate, William, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis to present a united front of youthful solidarity, duty, dignity and family values.

British royal correspondent for The Mail on Sunday Emily Andrews believes it’s crunch time for William and Kate. “I think Harry and Meghan’s departure has definitely put a strain on both the public and private life of the royal family,” she tells me. “Prince Charles had already made it clear that he wanted a slimmed-down royal family and the future was going to be just the six of them: Charles and Camilla, William and Catherine, and Harry and Meghan. With the loss of the global superstars that Harry and Meghan represent and the acrimonious way in which they quit, there has needed to be some steadying of the ship. It now all rests on William and Kate’s shoulders.”

While the pressure must be extreme, Prince William and Catherine’s ‘keep calm and carry on’ modus operandi is very much inspired by Her Majesty’s reign, but with a 21st century twist that has included some impactful personal narratives from the couple as they embed their star power into initiatives they hope will effect real change, now and long into the future.

Changemakers

The couple’s Royal Foundation is the brains trust of the Cambridge brand. It started, of course, very differently as William and Harry’s charitable Foundation, which their wives, Catherine and Meghan, later joined. This was to be the dynamic vehicle for the work of the “Fab Four”. But the June 2019 departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to set up their own foundation was the first sign of the rupture that ended in Harry and Meghan moving to California.

But as the brothers went their separate ways, William and Catherine took charge of the Foundation and have made it the engine room of their work. Victoria Hornby first started working for the couple just before their wedding and is now Director of Programs at the Royal Foundation.

“When the Duke and Duchess announced their engagement, they decided to have a charitable gift list for members of the public to make donations to a number of charities rather than sending wedding gifts, and I was seconded to help them put their gift list together. Then, in September 2011, I joined the Foundation. I immediately found them to be hands-on, compassionate and committed,” she says.

“The work is driven by them and their vision – whether it’s the conservation work of the Duke, or the Duchess’s work on addiction and children’s early years. They would ask us to look into particular areas, we would go away, do some research and come back to them, and they would steer it from there. They are both very thoughtful and deliberate in what they do and the scale of ambition is impressive. The model for the Foundation is to really push on a particular subject and dig in to it. They believe passionately in change and are very confident changemakers.”

Family portraits

Alongside the work, the public interest in the couple’s private family life has been intense and something they quickly learned they would have to manage. Involving their children in sets of carefully choreographed photos may have been a tough call – especially for Prince William, who early on pleaded for privacy for his sons and daughter – but those photos are gold in the court of public opinion.

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