As Prince Andrew falls further into disgrace, Kate Middleton and Prince William are the royals who will likely suffer the most.
Saturday - 15/01/2022 12:15
Kate Middleton left to clean up Prince Andrew mess
Who would want to be Queen? That’s a question I think about a lot. Sure, the perks are pretty impressive: The vast, draughty castles at your disposal, getting to naughtily make the Prime Minister wait once-a-week and knowing you have the fourth fleet at your disposal but still … It’s a very boring and highly repetitive job that means working 363 days-a-year and committing to spend your entire life making trivial small talk while being forced to open Midlands leisure centres.
But for whatever reason that job is one that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge seems to fancy, quite badly, and one she will get her perfectly manicured hands on in the next 20 years or so.
However, if she wants there to actually be a throne still waiting for her then, in recent days, achieving that gilt-edged ambition became that much harder thanks to her uncle-in-law Prince Andrew.
The 61-year-old disgraced royal has had his attempt to have the civil sex abuse court case he is facing in New York dismissed, paving the way for the trial to go ahead towards later this year. In the coming months, he faces being deposed under oath and on camera over allegations that he raped Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts) on three occasions when she was a teenager, a claim he has long denied.
Then, on Friday, the news broke that the Queen had finally decided to strip her son of his honorary military roles and that he would longer be allowed to use his styling as His Royal Highness in what looked like a too little, too late attempt to insulate the monarchy from the fallout of the Andrew mess. (Talk about trying to shut the barn door after all of Her Majesty’s pride-and-joy thoroughbreds have long since bolted …)
And it is here that the future Queen Catherine enters the frame because trying to sort out much of this debacle and yanking the monarchy back from the precipice will now fall on her shoulders.
(Recently the Telegraph revealed that her husband Prince William has been known to charmingly find her after a hard day of royal graft offering and to ask, “Darling, can I get you a drink … a glass of champagne?” Handy, because she’s going to need it.)
Let’s start with the practical part of this equation.
Since Andrew initially stepped down as a working member of the royal family, a number of his former official roles including with the English National Ballet and the Outward Bound Trust have remained empty. Now, after the Queen’s defenestration of her son, there are even more vacancies which will need to be filled, including Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, Royal Colonel of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, and Royal Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Factor in too here the positions left vacant, including President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, patron of the Royal National Theatre and Captain General of the Royal Marines, thanks to the hasty exit of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2020.
It is into this breach that Kate, William and later their children will be required to step.
There is no way to get away from the fact that the monarchy is simply running out of able hands to do their bit. They are not only an ageing workforce (the Cambridges are the only ones under the age of 55) but a fast shrinking one with the Palace having lost 27 per cent of their full-time royal ‘staff’ since 2019 with the resignations of not only Andrew but the Sussexes too.
While some of the positions left empty by Andrew, Harry and Meghan might fall by the wayside others such as the English National Ballet and the Colonel of the Grenadier Guards will have to be filled, very likely meaning that even more is about to be lumped on William and Kate’s Limoges porcelain plates.
This situation could also put pressure on the couple to put their children to work sooner than they might have hoped. While the duke and duchess have gone to extraordinary lengths to give their sons and daughter as normal of a life as possible, those good intentions could be about to brutally collide with the reality of the fact that the royal family is now chronically shorthanded.
William undertook his first official engagement at the age of only eight, the very same age his son Prince George is now, when his parents took him on a visit to Cardiff in 1991 with the tiny suited royal figure awkwardly working the rope line.
While George has technically already taken part in an official outing, adorably attending the Royal International Air Tattoo when he was only two, that is hardly the same as being forced to spend hours shaking the hands of pensioners when most kids his own age were at home watching Captain Planet.
Any hopes William and Kate have had about putting off their son and heir’s royal future have taken a hit and George’s public journey to the throne could begin sooner than they might have wanted.
Beyond all of this, while the Andrew imbroglio will mean all of the royal family’s lilywhite shoulders will now all need to be put to the wheel, there is a significant part of this tawdry situation that only Kate can fix and that is the profound reputational damage the monarchy has suffered.
While Charles and William in recent years might have earned the public’s respect with their assiduous but unexciting climate change work, it is solely the Duchess of Cambridge who engenders the sort of mass public love and adoration that is the lifeblood of the monarchy.
The UK is totally enamoured with Kate and counteracting the very serious harm done by Andrew (and to a lesser degree, Megxit) to the image of the Crown will come down to her being pushed even more to the fore in a pretty blatant attempt to dazzle and charm the masses.
Buckingham Palace is clearly cognisant of this given it was her, and her alone with the future William V sidelined to a supporting role, who hosted the charity Christmas carol concert at Westminster Abbey last month.
Kate at the ‘No Time To Die’ World Premiere at Royal Albert Hall on September 28, 2021. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Every photo of her and her perfect bouncy blow dry beaming as she meets children and old age pensioners is an antidote to the toxic fug that has shrouded the royal family for several years now.
The fact of the matter is, she might be the granddaughter of a coal miner but without Kate there is no royal magic, no stardust. Take her out of the picture and all you have left is a bunch of middle-aged men in expensive suits earnestly talking about hedgerow preservation and carbon emissions.
Likewise, the troika of adorable small Cambridges. Rolling them out for public viewing, for example when George and Charlotte joined William for the start of the Sandringham marathon last June, serves as excellent counter programming to all the negative headlines and PR crises. Moreover, the image of them as a happy family is a much-needed tonic given that the Windsor brand has become synonymous with dysfunction and squabbling.
Is any of this what Kate signed up for when William slipped that stonking great sapphire back on her finger in October 2010? Maybe not but it would only be two months later, in December 2010, that Andrew flew to New York for that five-day stay with his convicted sex offender friend Jeffrey Epstein. He and they didn’t know it then but he was about to change all of their lives, forever.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles