Keeping Up With the Upkeep

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Understanding royal finances is challenging at best, and utterly confounding when certain publications feel compelled to push their own narrative, leading the British taxpayer to believe he/she is somehow being shafted. There is no finer example than Buckingham Palace’s recent announcement that it plans to undergo a ten year refurbishment to the tune of £369 million. The long overdue renovations are to be funded by profits from the Crown Estate, and therein lies the confusion. What is the Crown Estate? Who does it belong to, and is the taxpayer being shafted? With tabloid-instigated furor at an all-time high, now seems as good a time as any to answer those very questions, as much of the ire raised is somewhat misplaced and almost certainly misguided.

Who better to explain the cogs and sprockets than a former member of the Household?  Here, I, along with my father, Dickie Arbiter, a one-time press secretary to the Queen, will attempt to offer some clarity.

Buckingham Palace is falling down. Though not exactly crumbling into a heap, it will do unless $461m is spent on renovations over the next ten years. The plan is for miles of aging cables, lead pipes, electrical wiring and boilers to be replaced, many for the first time in 60 years.  The result will be a Palace fit for the 21st Century.

The questions is:  how has it been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair?  For more than two decades the Monarchy has not received sufficient funding to cover maintenance. The oldest part of Buckingham Palace dates back to 1703, and the newest, the familiar frontage, to 1847.  The electrics haven’t been overhauled since 1949, and the state rooms were last decorated in 1952.  Given that we live in an era in which mobile phones have a shelf life of eighteen months, these upgrades would seem long overdue.

Until 1993 maintenance for all occupied royal palaces – Buckingham, St James’s and Kensington, as well as Windsor Castle – was the responsibility of the British government through its Property Services Agency (PSA).  Subsequently, maintenance was handed over to the Royal Household.  All well and good, however, it was not provided enough funding for the ongoing upkeep.  The 2014-15 Sovereign’s Grant Annual Report allowed only $14.6m for maintenance – far too small an amount for far too great a task.

In order to understand royal funding, one must understand the Crown Estate, an independent real estate business established by an Act of Parliament.  It is from the Estate that the Sovereign Grant is drawn, albeit via the Treasury.  Introduced in 2012-13, the Sovereign Grant Act represented the most dramatic overhaul of the royal finances since the Civil List of 1760. Today, the Queen receives 15% of the Crown Estate profits, through the Sovereign Grant, in order to run the business of monarchy.  The Treasury holds on to the remaining 85% thereby benefitting the nation’s finances.  The Crown Estate does not belong personally to the Queen, nor does it belong to the government.  It is the property of the sitting sovereign, and though property can be sold, bought or mortgaged, the Queen cannot dip into it to do her Christmas shopping.  Were it not owned by the reigning monarch, the land would no doubt be broken up and owned by private entities.  In such a scenario 85% of profits would not be handed over to the Treasury.  In fact the government might be lucky to even see any tax revenue, as funds would be squirreled away to off-shore accounts and tax havens.

While it is the official residence of the British Monarch, Buckingham Palace is essentially a glorified office block with a few private rooms set aside for accommodation.  Each year it plays host to over 90,000 guests by way of State Visits, Investitures, receptions and garden parties.  It is not personally owned by the Queen, but rather held in trust by the Crown.  When the Palace announced that $461m was needed for renovations, the media went into overdrive with headlines screaming, ‘The Queen lives there; she should pay for it!’.  It’s a baseless argument.  Yes, she holds the highest position in the land, and that position requires her to live in the official residence of the British monarch…but it is not her property.  The hundred and fifty-seven year old Palace of Westminster is undergoing a forty-year £7bn restoration.  Are MPs and peers being asked to foot that bill?  No, of course not.  What the stories behind those royal headlines failed to outline in detail is the fact that, in a roundabout way, the Queen is paying for the Buckingham Palace renovations.  Here’s how:

  • As already established, each year the Queen receives 15% of the Crown Estate profits, via the Sovereign Grant (via the Treasury), to fund Windsor PLC. The government holds on to the remaining 85%.
  • The refurbishment of Buckingham Palace will be funded by an increase in the Sovereign Grant of 10%.
  • Under this plan, the Queen will receive 25% of the Crown Estate profits (10% of which will cover the cost of repairs), and the Treasury the remaining 75%.
  • Joe Public’s taxes are not being increased to cover Palace repairs, nor is the Queen getting a pay rise.
  • Therefore we can conclude that profits from one part of the Monarch’s estate are being used to pay for the upkeep of another part of the Monarch’s estate.

In the wake of the 1992 fire at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace was opened to the public for several weeks each summer in order to pay for the Castle’s renovation.  It was such a successful venture, that it has since been suggested that the current necessary repairs to Buckingham Palace be paid for in the same manner.  A nice idea, but not quite so simple.  Today, all revenues generated from Palace entry fees and souvenir sales go towards maintaining the Royal Collection, one of the largest and most important art collections in the world.  While it is held in trust by the Queen for her successors and the nation, it, too, is not owned by her as a private individual.  The Collection is comprised of more than a million fine and decorative art objects.  Unlike the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery, which in 2015-16 received $46.3m and $30.1m in government funding respectively, the Royal Collection receives no government grants, no sponsorship, no donations and no legacies.  It is completely self-funded, and is emblematic of how the modern monarchy has consistently sought ways to fund its own upkeep.  Buckingham Palace is no exception.

The United Kingdom is considered a country of living history.  Each year, tourists flock by the millions to visit galleries, museums, cathedrals, abbeys and royal palaces, as well as to witness world class pageantry.  As home to our head of state, Buckingham Palace is an integral part of our national heritage and identity.  It is our responsibility to see that it is maintained for generations to come.  Unfortunately, preservation comes at a cost.  In this instance, however, the cost isn’t ours to bear.

Different Strokes

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Debating the merits of William versus Harry in 140 characters via Twitter is no mean feat, and while I believe comparisons between the princes are both unfair and redundant, it is also essential to look at the big picture.

As patron and conceiver of the Invictus Games, Prince Harry has excelled in his position in Florida this week. He has hugged his way across Orlando championing the needs of veterans and urging those of us watching to shelve the pity in favor of being inspired by the incredible accomplishments of the many wounded yet valiant servicemen and women. As a veteran himself Harry carries his own scars from the battlefield, and as such he has devoted himself to aiding in the physical and mental rehabilitation of these brave men and women.

Watching Harry do what he does so well inevitably leads to comparisons to his older brother, Prince William, who has in recent weeks been accused of being work-shy, reluctant and even lazy. For those in the peanut gallery it’s rather easy to sit back and throw around criticism, but there are other powers at play.

Up until the abdication of her uncle, King Edward VIII, the Queen led an idyllic childhood, one in which her parents, largely free of the stresses of royal life, were very much present. With the untimely death of her father in 1952 and her subsequent accession, it was a childhood she had little chance of emulating for her own children. The demands of the job kept her away for months at a time, and even when she was home she was burdened by the strains of constitutional duty. Criticism therefore swayed the other way with accusations of her being a detached and uncaring mother. As the direct heir, Charles too was denied the quality time with his children he no doubt longed for. He has always been an attentive father, but due to the nature of his position Charles and Diana were required to be fulltime working royals. Given the extremes of their experiences, Charles and the Queen are very keen for William to be afforded the quality family life they were forced to sacrifice.

As second-in-line to the throne there is no set constitutional role for William, and with a long royal future ahead, is it really such a bad thing that he be allowed the opportunity to give his children a loving well adjusted childhood? After all, George too will one day assume the mantle of sovereignty. The Queen’s advancing years are of course front and centre when the argument for William to “do more” escalates, but do more he will upon the upcoming conclusion of his air ambulance contract.

The other issue often forgotten is that for better or worse Prince Charles has pretty much spent his entire adult working life overshadowed by others. First by his beautiful, charismatic young wife and later by his popular son and daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. Before the ink on the marriage certificate had even dried, calls rang out for William to overstep his father to become the nation’s next king. Constitutionally it doesn’t work like that, but it was no doubt a bitter pill to swallow for Charles, a man who has devoted his entire life to preparation for the top job. At sixty-seven Charles is the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, and when he does eventually become king he will do a fine job, but with society ever more driven by youth and beauty, he will constantly be fighting a losing battle to remain relevant. If at this stage the Queen or indeed Charles wanted William to be doing more, he would most definitely be doing more, but there’s no denying his destiny is calling.

Yes, Harry is doing a cracking job, and as long as he’s single and without children, it is easier for him to keep the focus on his royal role without the added pressure of impending kingship. With the births of George and Charlotte and his resulting drop in the pecking order, it would have been very easy for him to fumble around and lose his way. One only has to look to Prince Andrew to see the difficulty in carving out a successful role within the royal family when there really is no set role to be had. Instead, the success of Harry’s chief causes – Sentebale and Invictus – promise to be tangible long-lasting legacies for which he should be immensely proud. He connects in a way that is truly infectious, and his energy and vitality are a tremendous asset to both crown and country. Like his mother before him Harry is a big hugger, and his tactile and affectionate approach is embraced wherever he goes. It is a style that works beautifully for him, but why should the same be expected of William?

Out of respect for the position it is unbecoming for the future head of state to run around hugging everybody. The Queen doesn’t do it, nor does Charles, so why should William? William connects with his particular patronages in his own way, and it is individuality that should be recognized. If everyone took Harry’s approach the monarchy would become one big love fest. Us reticent Brits like the formality of our monarchy, and all that hugging would prove quite alarming at a tree planting, state banquet or during a walkabout.

The Queen struggled to identify with Diana’s touch-feely approach, but she acknowledged its positive impact right away, and she supported Diana throughout all her charitable endeavors. I am not comparing William and Harry to the Queen and Diana, but rather using their unique styles to illustrate how important individuality is and how neither approach is right or wrong. Throughout the royal family, from Charles and Anne, to Camilla, Sophie, Edward and Philip, each member of the family brings his or her own flair to the table, and each has its place.

I too am ready to see William find his calling and to embrace his destiny in a way that inspires confidence, but for a man who lost his mother so publically and tragically, and who has no say in his future, it is also important to recognize that he is a human being wrestling to find an acceptable balance between his public and private roles. We are all fallible and we all make mistakes. William wouldn’t have been forgiven quite so quickly as Harry over the Vegas antics, just as Harry wouldn’t be required to exhibit the same level of decorum with a visiting head of state.

Everyone loves Harry, but pitting brother against brother, style against style and position against position is an imprudent exercise. Harry will continue to shine within the royal family, but it is William who will be king, and it is William who has a lifetime of service ahead. I wouldn’t discount him just yet.

 

 

Harry’s Mission

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Prince Harry will spend this Wednesday in the United States where he will join First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, in Virginia and Washington DC to promote the upcoming Invictus Games taking place in Orlando, Florida in May 2016.

The day will commence at Fort Belvoir Military Base, where the party will meet wounded servicemen and women currently undergoing recovery and rehabilitation programs. They will tour the state-of-the-art USO Warrior and Family Centre, a facility designed to support wounded, injured or ill veterans, their families and caregivers; and they will view a sporting event similar to one that will feature in next year’s Games. Later, Harry will attend an Invictus board meeting and reception, where he will meet those involved in organising the Games in the US before returning to London that night.

It’s a long way to travel for a single day of engagements, but Prince Harry, a former serving officer, is devoted to advocating the needs of veterans while also highlighting the positive impact of Invictus, an international adaptive sporting event for wounded servicemen and women. The inaugural Games took place in London in September 2014 and saw over four hundred competitors from thirteen nations compete in nine sports. The brainchild of the Prince, Harry was personally inspired to create Invictus after attending the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs in 2013. Though two separate events, the mission is the same: to use the power of sport to inspire recovery and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.

Prince Harry served ten years in the British Armed Forces, carrying out two tours of duty to Afghanistan during his tenure, before retiring in June of this year. He has witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of life altering injuries, and he has made it his mission to highlight the plight of veterans so often sidelined upon their return from combat. The on-going success of the games also offers Harry an opportunity to emulate his father’s achievements with The Prince’s Trust and his grandfather’s highly respected Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, albeit on a much smaller scale.

With the births of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Harry has dropped to fifth in line to the throne, but he remains a prominent member of the royal family. Much like his mother, Diana, he has proved to be a natural with people from all walks of life, and his boyish charm and cheeky sense of humour allow for unexpected, candid moments that have further sealed his worldwide popularity. His aim is to not simply be a ribbon cutting, tree planting, plaque unveiling royal, but rather one who gets stuck into the job at hand.

In 2013 he joined twelve injured servicemen and women from the UK, the US and the Commonwealth on a 200-mile trek to the South Pole on behalf of Walking With The Wounded. Earlier this year he played Wheelchair AFL (Australian football) at a soldier recovery centre in Australia’s Northern Territory, and most recently he joined a six-member injured veteran team in Shropshire, England for a 17-mile stretch of their 1000-mile Walk of Britain expedition.

With no set guidelines or definitive constitutional role for a royal in Harry’s position, it can be very difficult to carve out an identity and leave a positive mark. Prince Andrew proved to be a rather good trade envoy until his less than stellar personal choices led to his downfall. Andrew’s daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, not classed as official working members of the royal family, have each held a number of positions within the civilian workforce, but in recent months have been consistently criticised for spending a little too much time on holiday. It is easy to be dammed either way, but Harry is ever more determined to lend his name to the greater good, and he has chosen his causes wisely.

Last week Harry attended a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral marking the 75th Anniversary of Explosive Ordnance Disposal. While there, he was photographed crouched before wheelchair reliant soldiers who had lost limbs and suffered other life changing injuries as a result of their time in service. It was a simple gesture, but one that proved to the veterans that they remain viable human beings with a relevant role in society.

Often in the US the championing of veterans’ needs is hotly politicised. Celebrities such as Gary Sinise and Mark Wahlberg have fought to raise widespread awareness, but more often than not the welfare of veterans is a cause Hollywood’s elite tends to avoid due to its divisive political connotations. The beauty of a politically neutral royal is that no agenda can be linked to a visit, and so the focus remains on the individuals rather than the politics they may inadvertently represent.

In a 2014 address Prince Harry said, “For me, the 2014 Games were just the beginning of the Invictus story. The competitors showed grit, determination, and humour: an absolute refusal to be beaten or defined by their injuries. I can’t wait to see the American public supporting these inspirational men and women at the next games.”

The Invictus Games were designed to inspire those who have suffered so much, but as Remembrance Sunday and Veteran’s Day approach, the Games also serve as a reminder that perhaps it is those who will be watching from the bleachers who should be truly inspired.

The 2016 Games will mark the beginning of the Invictus story in the US, but their long lasting legacy may offer those competing the happy ending they so justly deserve. For that, Prince Harry should be very proud.

History in the Making

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Just like her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria before her, Elizabeth II was never expected to be crowned.  As the eldest daughter of the king’s second son, Prince Albert (later King George VI), hers was a life destined to be lived in relative privacy, but the 1936 abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, after a reign of only 325 days, changed the course of history.  Already the country’s longest-lived monarch and the world’s oldest-serving sovereign, at approximately 5.30pm this Wednesday September 9th Elizabeth will reach yet another milestone when she becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch, breaking Victoria’s record of sixty-three years seven months and two days…

(Please click the link below to read the article in full on CNN.com)

http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/08/europe/arbiter-queen-elizabeth-longest-reign/index.html

Snapped!

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In a not altogether surprising move, Kensington Palace has released a letter expressing its concern over the growing number of paparazzi photographs taken of Prince George in recent weeks – photographs subsequently bought and published by the foreign press. While aides were quick to praise the British media for not printing illicit photos, they issued their strongest warning yet to those who choose to forgo decent editorial practices. Citing the serious issue of security, the statement also drew attention to the perverse way in which such photos are obtained.

Many would argue that all children, not just those who are royal, should be allowed to play free of the prying eye of a photographer intent on financial gain, sequestered in the boot of his car, equipped with a long lens…but George is not just any child. There have been photos of him playing with his mother at a park close to the family’s Norfolk home, images of him on the beach with his grandmother, Carole Middleton, and others of him out and about with his nanny in London. The list goes on.

Paparazzi pix have plagued the British royals for decades. More than thirty years ago images of Diana frolicking in the surf were splashed across every British front page, and who could forget those above-the-fold corkers of Fergie having her toes sucked. When William and Harry were children, step-ladders were regularly propped against school walls in the hopes of gaining surreptitious photos, but the Royals are not alone in their fight for the privacy of their children. The British press now blurs the faces of famous offspring, but around the rest of the world there doesn’t appear to be any strict regulation. No doubt one day Suri Cruise, Harper Beckham and Shiloh Pitt will have plenty to say on the topic.

The question is how do you mandate a global press? Given the nature of their position as future King and Queen Consort, is it unreasonable of William and Kate to demand privacy for their children?  The Duke and Duchess have both expressed a desire to provide as normal a childhood as possible for George and Charlotte, and their efforts to offer experiences beyond Palace walls should be applauded. But it’s also true that any parent would be alarmed by the idea of his or her child being stalked. When it comes to the Royal Family, however, the lines of decency are often blurred as outlets feed what has become an insatiable public appetite.

Since his mother’s death William has made no secret of his feelings towards the media – feelings that were further cemented by the publication of photos revealing his wife sunbathing topless in the South of France in 2012. The Palace has consistently maintained its stance that unofficial photos are a clear breach of privacy, but when pictures are taken in a public place there is very little recourse, especially when there are occasional exceptions to the rule.

In 2014 royal-friendly Hello! Magazine published paparazzi photos of Kate and George en route to their hols on the Caribbean island of Mustique. The Palace didn’t utter a word. When pressed for comment aides said the photos were taken in a “public place” where dozens of other tourists were milling around, so “anyone” could have taken them. Yet it wasn’t just anyone who took them; it was a paparazzi photographer with his eye on the prize. In 2013, however, when photographs of Kate on the beach in Mustique were sold to the highest bidder, it was made abundantly clear that the Royals were not happy. As the Palace now fights to gain stricter control over what is and isn’t printed, it also needs to establish a clearer position on what qualifies as a public place. Early indications seemed to illustrate that the airport was indeed a public place. The beach? Well, that was a negative. With regards to the children it is now imperative that enforced guidelines accompanied by harsh consequences are put into place.

In this era of twenty-four hour news and online publications fueled by the necessity for click bait, there will always be those who refuse to be curtailed. Should outlets be banned from covering various engagements they might at the very least begin to question their editorial choices.

Some have suggested that William and Kate follow the model set by many of the European royal houses, which choose to provide regular updates and official photographs of royal children. It is a model that simply wouldn’t work for the British Royal Family. During the Cambridge’s 2014 tour of Australia and New Zealand, George undertook two engagements with his parents. William and Kate offered surprising access to their first-born son, resulting in a wealth of adorable footage. Nevertheless, during the family’s day off in Australia photographs of Kate and George playing privately were snapped and promptly sold. The couple was again remarkably accessible on the day of Princess Charlotte’s christening and provided official photos only three weeks later on the occasion of George’s second birthday. Generations of royals have just had to deal with invasive pictures, but William and Kate are a modern royal couple seeking a modern royal life. Today’s strongly worded letter indicating a zero-tolerance approach is just another example of their modern way of thinking. Whether or not their demands can be enforced only time will tell.

It wouldn’t matter how many official photos were released; as long as the public continues to click on links to pictures revealing private moments, images will be taken. By opening the conversation Kensington Palace is raising awareness as to the seedy fashion in which paparazzi photographs are obtained. And yet, let’s say an online entity teased a spread of Prince George eating an ice-cream while playing in the sand box with his baby sister and Lupo, which “somebody else” posted to Facebook or Twitter…would you click on the photo? Until there is a collective “no” it is a battle William and Kate have very little chance of winning.

 

A Royal Christening Fit for a Princess

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In an unprecedented move members of the public have been invited to greet the Royal Family tomorrow as they arrive for Princess Charlotte’s much anticipated christening at The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Sandringham – the site of Diana, Princess of Wales’s christening fifty-four years ago. Though the service itself will be private, royal fans will have an opportunity to glimpse the new family of four in public for the very first time. The decision to welcome well-wishers is in stark contrast to the christening of Prince George, a far more private affair held at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace in October 2013, in which public access was restricted.

Upon the announcement of the new princess’s baptism Kensington Palace said, “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be pleased to welcome well-wishers into the paddock outside the church. The Duke and Duchess are hugely grateful for the warm wishes they have received since Princess Charlotte’s birth – many of them from local people in Norfolk – and are delighted the paddock can be opened on the day of the christening.” It is an enormous step for a couple determined to guard and protect the privacy of their children in their formative years.

While William and Kate’s gesture of goodwill was a welcome surprise there will be no surprises when it comes to the christening itself. Officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it will be steeped in the symbolic customs and traditions long associated with royal baptisms.

Charlotte will be christened in the same gown as her big brother – a replica of the 174-year-old Honiton lace and white satin gown, first made for the 1841 christening of Princess Victoria, the first child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The original gown, worn by every royal baby from Princess Victoria to Lady Louise Windsor, was subsequently deemed too delicate for further use and following Lady Louise’s christening in 2004 it was retired and preserved. The replica, made by the Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly, was first worn by Viscount Severn, son of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, for his christening in 2008. It has been used by every royal baby since.

Water for Charlotte’s baptism will be held within the Silver Gilt Lily Font designed by Prince Albert and commissioned in 1840 in anticipation of the birth of his first child. Lilies were believed to signify purity and water lilies symbolized new life. The font, which is housed at the Tower of London, has been used at every royal christening since 1841.

Traditionally royal babies are christened using water from the River Jordan. It is the river in which John the Baptist baptized Jesus and where the Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt by crossing the river into the Promised Land. Due to its symbolically meaningful ties to Christianity, water from the river continues to be used by several other Christian royal houses today.

In Queen Victoria’s era christenings were opulent, grand affairs attended by royals from across Europe. Today, they are far more personal, intimate ceremonies for close friends, godparents and family members. There are no hard and fast rules for selecting godparents. George has seven, William has six, Charles has eight and Edward I had twelve. Princess Victoria’s godparents included a king, queen, two duchesses and a duke, but as illustrated by the choices made for Prince George, William and Kate are far more likely to base their selection on friendship, trust and loyalty as opposed to status and wealth. George may be the future king, but not one of his godparents is a titled royal.

Sunday promises to be a beautiful (reportedly pastel?) occasion immersed in history and tradition. As four generations of royals make their way into the sanctuary of St. Mary Magdalene for Charlotte’s first introduction to the church, the nation will bear witness to a sense of continuity and living history. Elected officials may come and go, but the Royal Family remains a link to Britain’s past and a testament to its future.

Wimbledon v The Battle of Britain

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Since this article was published a spokesman for the RAF told Britain’s Daily Express newspaper, “The reason she (Kate) is not there is that all of the members of the Royal Family on the balcony are honorary air commodores and she isn’t one.” Unfortunately, the criteria for members of the Royal Family in attendance at the Battle of Britain commemorations was not stated in the original brief. It was baffling that Kate should not be included in such an important anniversary, and so the legitimate reason for her absence has been well received. Kate is the most senior member of the Royal Family to not currently be a Honourary Air Commodore. Given her history as a former member of the RAF family, hopefully it will be an honour bestowed in the not too distant future.

Debate ignited across social media platforms earlier today upon Kensington Palace’s announcement that William and Kate will attend quarterfinal matches at Wimbledon on Wednesday, but that only William will join the Queen and “other members of the Royal Family” in commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain next Friday. The question of whether or not William and Kate do enough will rumble on between royal lovers and haters for decades. It is a topic I generally avoid, as opinions are often extreme, and it can be hard to find the middle ground. For what it’s worth I think Kate is doing exactly what is expected of her for now, and that if the Queen wanted her to be doing more she would be, but in this particular instance it’s not about if they’re “doing enough;” it’s about perception and the couple’s ability to strike a reasonable balance between their public and personal lives.

Given William’s position as second-in-line to the throne, the Cambridges are fortunate that, for now at least, the pressure is off. As they are not currently required to be full-time working royals, William is able to carry out a civilian job – the first British direct heir to do so. By extension Kate is able to remain a stay-at-home mother (a noble profession sometimes pooh-poohed by those who don’t know how hard a job it can be). This type of hands-on royal parenting can only be beneficial for the couple’s two young children, and looking ahead to the future George stands to be the most normal, well-adjusted monarch to ever rule the land.

Having said that the timing of this week’s events are unfortunate. Much like William’s 2014 decision to hunt wild boar the day before launching an appeal to end the poaching of endangered wildlife, more thought should have been given as to how it might be perceived for the Duchess to attend Wimbledon, but pass on Friday’s commemorations.

I don’t begrudge Kate one second of her time at Wimbledon. She has made no secret of her passion for tennis and her attendance benefits the sport, players, All England Club and Britain itself (especially given the Queen last attended in 2010 following a thirty-three year absence), but Kate’s presence on the balcony at Buckingham Palace for Friday’s RAF flypast would be of far greater significance.

Kate’s grandfather, Peter Middleton, was an RAF fighter pilot. He served during WWII and used the wing tips of his Mosquito warplane to divert German “doodlebug” flying bombs away from London. At the time of the Royal Wedding in 2011 William was serving as an RAF Search and Rescue Pilot. During the couple’s 2011 tour to Canada Kate confided in a fellow service wife saying, “I always worry when William goes off on a mission,” and she later wrote the foreword to “Living in the Slipstream,” a book about life as an RAF wife. As a former RAF spouse herself, Kate has a deeply personal connection to the military branch.

WWII veterans are dying off at an alarming rate, and it won’t be long before marked anniversaries will be devoid of those it is our duty to honour and commemorate. As a nation we have a responsibility to educate future generations about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before us, and we can never, never forget the role they played in fighting for our freedom. The Royal Family is there to lead by example and provide a focus for national unity. On virtually every royal tour undertaken a wreath is laid at a war memorial. Come November each year, the Royals attend services marking Remembrance Sunday. Given their long historical ties to the military, the needs of veterans are constantly championed by members of the Royal Family. The Battle of Britain ranks alongside the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo as one of the most significant in British history. It was the first major battle to be fought entirely in the air, and it was the first significant strategic defeat for the Nazis during WWII, therefore events marking its 75th anniversary are of high importance on the royal agenda.

Centre Court tickets to Wimbledon are certainly a royal perk, but they are also a privilege, and along with privilege comes duty. As a mother myself, I am a staunch advocate for maternity leave, and I believe Kate should be allowed to enjoy it for as long as possible. If that includes an adult’s day out at the tennis to regain her sanity, then I’m all for it. Unlike royal mothers before her Kate is very lucky to be able to spend these precious, formative years with her children, but given the nature of her role, it is also important to remember that she is not just a “normal” mother. She is the wife of an heir, the mother of an heir and a future Queen herself; with that comes an enormous responsibility to the nation. As a senior royal and one of the family’s core members – as highlighted during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations – Kate is immensely popular, and her presence at the Battle of Britain anniversary would raise the profile of the event even further, thereby making it accessible to younger generations.

It is my hope that come Friday the suits behind the scenes will recognize how invaluable Kate’s presence would be to those currently serving, those who have lost family members in conflict and those who served seventy-five years ago. Should Kate make a brief but symbolically meaningful appearance alongside “other members of the Royal Family” on the balcony, the battle for balance would be won in an instant. A tight five-setter could last for hours, but with a simple look skywards to the approaching RAF Spitfires, Hurricanes and Typhoons dutiful reverence could be paid in mere minutes.

All in the Family

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In announcing the name of their newborn daughter, HRH Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge, William and Kate achieved the near impossible. By paying tribute to both sides of the family and promoting the continuity for which the monarchy is so famed, the couple received worldwide praise and resounding public approval. Their choice also ensured a scandal free beginning for their newborn tot.

By nature William and Kate are a very traditional couple, so their decision was always going to be a conservative one, but it is one steeped in royal history and family tributes galore.

Charlotte, the feminine form of Charles, William’s father’s name, also happens to be Pippa Middleton’s middle name. Charlotte has not been used by a member of the royal family in over two hundred years, and so chances are the couple chose it more for its familial significance than the history it evokes, but its history is an interesting one.

George III married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (the nation’s longest-serving consort after Prince Philip) on September 8th, 1761 in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. Kate’s second pregnancy was announced on September 8th, 2014, and the Chapel Royal is the likely venue for Princess Charlotte’s upcoming Christening. Coincidence? Yes, but isn’t that the beauty of royal history?

George and Charlotte first met on their wedding day, but regardless theirs was a happy union complete with fifteen children. Their eldest daughter, Princess Charlotte, was designated Princess Royal in 1789, a title newborn Charlotte is expected to one day assume as the eldest daughter of the reigning monarch. In 1762 George purchased Buckingham House – the site where Buckingham Palace sits today – as a family retreat for his Queen.

George IV’s only child, a daughter named Charlotte Augusta, married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg on May 2nd, 1816. A hundred and ninety-nine years later May 2nd now marks the date of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge’s birth. As Princess of Wales Charlotte was an immensely popular royal figure, and her tragic death at the age of twenty-one, mere hours after delivering a stillborn son, was widely mourned.

The youngest daughter of Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, is named Charlotte. Among William’s other cousins are boys named George, Alexander and Louis, all names William chose when naming his own son in 2013.

Elizabeth was the only certainty in predicting a royal baby name. As the name of both William’s grandmother and great-grandmother it seems an especially fitting choice given the Queen will become Britain’s longest reigning monarch on September 9th of this year. Elizabeth also carries personal significance for the Middleton family. It is the middle name shared by both Kate and her mother Carole, as well as being the first given name of Kate’s maternal great-grandmother and her great-great-grandmother.

William has always strived to include his mother in the key moments of his life, and as such the most poignant and personal of Charlotte’s three names is that of her late grandmother, Diana. Perfectly placed so as not to be a burden, it ensures Diana’s memory is kept alive for the next generation of young royals. Charlotte’s name honours the women most cherished in both William and Kate’s lives as well as paying homage to William’s father, but perhaps more importantly it also allows for her to have her own identity within the royal family.

In the unlikely event she were ever to assume the throne and chose to keep her first given name, she would become Her Majesty Charlotte, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, but for now HRH Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge will do very nicely indeed.

 

Girl Power

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As the Great Kate Wait of 2015 drags on, giving a whole new meaning to Kate’s somewhat unfair nickname of the noughties, “Waity Katie,” bets on the arrival of a new baby a girl continue to be placed at a feverish rate. As of today, 70% of those laying down their hard earned cash are convinced the world is on the verge of welcoming a new princess.

I suspect different parties are hoping for a girl for different reasons. Based on the so called “Kate Effect” and subsequent “George Effect” the great British High Street is no doubt salivating at the prospect of record sales should HRH Princess (fill in the blank) of Cambridge be spotted in one of their outfits. As one headline blared this week, “Baby Girl Could be Worth $1.5 Billion to the Country.” Magazine and newspaper editors are well aware of the dramatic rise in sales when a royal baby hits the cover, especially a little girl. And then there’s Disney, which will always appreciate princesses in the zeitgeist, but as with all things relating to the monarchy, there is also a far greater historical significance should a baby girl arrive.

There have been thirty-four kings and only six queens over the course of the British Monarchy’s thousand-year history, and yet some of the nation’s most enlightened times have occurred during periods of queenship. Elizabeth I led the country through the Golden Age, and Victoria and Elizabeth II – the two longest reigning monarchs – both made their mark with perhaps the most illustrious and progressive legacies of all. While it is unlikely this child will ever be crowned, as the daughter of the second-in-line to the throne, her role will be significant. Prince Charles has made no secret of his desire to slim down the monarchy, but in looking at his family’s immediate bloodline – William, Harry and George – it stands to be a heavily male dominated one. In an institution viewed by some as archaic and out of touch, it is imperative to have a strong female presence.

Princess Anne – Baby Cambridge’s great-aunt – grew up with three brothers, and was once described as, “The greatest king the country never had.” She is patron of more than two hundred charitable organizations and carries out approximately five hundred public engagements per year. A notable equestrian, she won two silver medals and a gold at the European Eventing Championships, and she was the first member of the Royal Family to compete in the Olympic Games. More importantly she has supported her mother throughout her reign, flown the flag for Britain and promoted brand Windsor around the world. As the only girl born to Elizabeth and Philip, she has matched and often surpassed the accomplishments of her brothers.

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, also true blood princesses, are not “working members” of the royal family and generally only roll out for State and Ceremonial occasions. So, yes, it would be nice for the baby to be a girl so that we can all ooh and ah over poufy dresses, fairy wings and ballet shoes (although as a Windsor she’s more likely to be mucking out stables and shooting pheasant), but in truth the birth of a girl matters on a far deeper level. The monarchy needs a baby girl to fill the female void of future generations.

The twentieth century was ushered in by Queen Victoria and the twenty-first by Queen Elizabeth II. Should George live to eighty-seven he will be the first monarch of the twenty-second century, but as I have said before the British monarchy is anything but predictable. If punters are right and William and Kate do announce the birth of a baby girl the true and rightful “spare,” it’s certainly possible that a seventh Queen may ring in the year 2100.

In the event the couple welcomes a boy, however, I sincerely hope there won’t be a collective groan of disappointment heard around the world, after all on the few occasions we have seen Prince George he has been a veritable treat.  The birth of any baby is cause for celebration regardless of gender, race, religion or indeed status, and as Prince Harry, the world’s most eligible bachelor has shown, naked billiards sells magazines too!

Di-nastically Speaking

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Much like ardent young royal watchers of today, enamored by the Duchess of Cambridge’s very being, I was similarly enamored by Diana, Princess of Wales when I was a youngster. She was a rare breed. Stunningly beautiful, immediately accessible, witty, charming and endearingly mischievous; she was a one in a million. Of course that was long before the, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” type interviews and tell-all books alleging suicide attempts and acts of betrayal, but back then I was unaware of her more scandalous infamy. I quite simply adored her…I still do.

Now, as the world awaits the impending birth of William and Kate’s second baby, potential names have become the topic of rampant speculation and heated debate. More accurately, girl’s names are causing the biggest stir as there seems to be a worldwide assumption that the couple are expecting a princess. If assumptions are indeed correct she will be the first Princess of Cambridge born into the royal family in 182 years. The birth of any baby is cause for celebration, but given the recent changes in the Laws to Succession, her arrival would be a historical one.

In choosing a name, titled royals tend to turn to the family tree, as opposed to 100,001 Best Baby Names. Traditionally they pick dynastic names, and there are in fact a wide variety to choose from. Elizabeth, Alice, Victoria and Charlotte have all been frontrunners, but the sentimental favorite among punters remains…Diana. In a Today Show poll 32% of Americans predicted the name was a shoo-in, and in the UK the bookies’ odds of a baby named after her late-Grandmother change almost daily as Diana becomes an increasingly popular choice. That said, in the event the couple do welcome a baby girl, it is my hope that they do not name her Diana.

Today Diana’s name is as divisive as the very institution of monarchy itself. While some have virtually sainted her, others have been vehemently critical, accusing her of being childish, unhinged and self-serving. Contrary to popular belief the Queen was very fond of Diana, but should her name be bestowed as a first name upon the baby, it would be perceived as a slap in the face to the monarchy. In the years since Earl Spencer’s scathing attack on the Windsors at Diana’s funeral, the nation has moved on and Diana’s legacy has been celebrated. She has become a part of royal history. Her memory has been preserved, and the royal family is once again enjoying a renewed sense of popularity. Out of respect to the Queen, Charles, Camilla and the baby herself the couple simply wouldn’t do it. Diana’s name conjures up both positive and negative responses the world over, and whichever side of the fence you’re on the moniker seems to me an almighty burden for a newborn baby to carry.

Since Diana’s death almost eighteen years ago, William has honoured his mother’s memory in a private and personal fashion. He has taken on many of her patronages and continued to champion her causes. At his wedding in 2011 the Bishop of London The Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, a close friend of Diana and executor of her will, gave the address. He also conducted Kate’s confirmation at The Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, where Diana’s coffin rested in the week following her death. The hymn Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, which was sung at both Diana’s funeral in 1997 and at the memorial marking the tenth anniversary of her death in 2007, was chosen for the royal wedding. Julia Samuel, also a close friend of Diana, was asked to serve as a Godmother to Prince George. William chose Kensington Palace, his own childhood home, to be the primary residence for his family, and perhaps in the most public acknowledgment of his mother’s memory, he gave Kate Diana’s engagement ring. William doesn’t need to name his second-born child after his mother in order to honour her; he does so by being a good husband and father.

I still miss Diana. She was a one-off, and I don’t believe the world will ever witness another quite like her. Daily comparisons to her late mother-in-law are already Kate’s cross to bear. Shouldn’t a baby girl be spared the same fate? Diana’s tragic, untimely death and iconic status will ensure her memory is kept alive for generations to come. She wouldn’t want her granddaughter to languish in her shadow. She would want her to go out into the world, to make her own mark and help those less fortunate, to enrich the lives of others and to carve out her own unique identity…possibly as Alice, Elizabeth, Victoria, Charlotte or my own personal pick – Alexandra.