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.