The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made global headlines last week after making a success of their visit to the Caribbean, as fans flocked to see the golden couple on their first royal tour since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Like Princess Diana before her, Kate – who touchingly opted to wear her late mother- in-law’s jewellery on the trip – dazzled royal supporters as she warmly greeted children, frontline workers and leaders alike, winning support despite a sometimes bumpy visit during which Jamaica’s desire to become a republic and leave the Commonwealth, removing the Queen as Head of State, was made clear, as well as demands for reparations for the part the monarchy played in slavery.
Posing for photographs and looking adoringly at one another, and even dancing closely during a traditional dance, it’s clear the royal couple are going from strength to strength as they prepare to celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary on 29 April.
But Katie Nicholl, author of Kate The Future Queen, who has been on several tours with Kate, says that despite the Duchess’ smiles, she still feels the “wrench” of being taken away from her young family, Prince George, eight, Princess Charlotte ,six, and Prince Louis, three.
“I remember being with her when we were on a tour together in Bhutan [in 2016, when Princess Charlotte was just 11 months old] and we had a moment to talk about how difficult it was to leave little children behind,” Katie says.
“Despite being the Duchess of Cambridge and being able to afford around-the-clock nannies and so on, she had her mum looking after Prince George and Princess Charlotte, which struck me as just really normal.
“I could see how much comfort and confidence that gave her in getting on with her job, which she does brilliantly, but I think it is always such a wrench for her to leave her children behind.”
That juggle is only set to intensify over the coming years. With the Queen, 95, becoming increasingly frail, there’s no doubt that William, 39, and Kate, 40, are coming to terms with what is likely to be a busy time ahead.
Their tour, which took place to kick-start celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year across three Commonwealth nations, comes amid concerns for the physical health of the monarch, who was last week reported to be occasionally using a wheelchair.
She has also cancelled a series of engagements, including the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey earlier this month, after suffering from Covid19 and reportedly revealed during a private audience at Windsor Castle that she “can’t move”.
Now, former royal Butler Paul Burrell tells Closer that while the Queen may be struggling with her health, she’ll be watching Prince William and Kate “with pride” as they perform their royal duties.
“William and Kate are being groomed right now,” says Paul, who worked for the Queen for a decade and for Princess Diana for the following 10 years. “They are serving their apprenticeship (to become future King and Queen) in the Caribbean – in the same way the Queen once did herself, because she is getting older and it’s inevitable what will happen.
“The Queen will be very proud of them and their duties will be more as time goes on. It’s sad for them because they have a young family and I’m sure they are going to see less and less of them.”
As a working mum, Kate has previously been open about suffering from “mum guilt” when she is forced to spend time away from the children.
Being interviewed by Giovanna Fletcher for an episode of her podcast in 2020, and asked whether she feels guilty leaving her children while on royal duty, Kate replied, “Yes, absolutely – and anyone who doesn’t as a mother is actually lying.
“Even this morning, coming to the nursery visit here [on a royal visit]– George and Charlotte were like, ‘Mummy, how could you possibly not be dropping us off at school this morning?’
“It’s a constant challenge – you hear it time after time from mums, even mums who aren’t working and aren’t pulled in the directions of having to juggle work life and family life.”
Meanwhile, Katie tells Closer the Duchess is a more hands-on mum than most people believe.
She adds, “Kate is there for morning routines and she does the school runs when she can, and she organises play dates so the children have a very normal experience. Kate wants to be modern, she wants to be hands-on, she wants to be present. She’s all of those things, and she’s juggled that hugely important element of royal duty with looking after three children.
“As a mother, I think it’s very clear that she’s taken the reins and is doing things her way, but she feels that juggle and she’s been very honest about it.”