New role in spotlight may need to include visits to other Commonwealth realms such as Jamaica
By Ricky Browne
It appears that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, may now be taking an increasingly visible public role now that the Royal family is going through an upheaval — thanks to the interview that Prince Harry and especially his wife Meghan had with Oprah Winfrey in the United States.
Some shade was thrown at the Royal family in that interview, not least the suggestion that it is a racist institution. In that interview Meghan told Oprah that a member of the family was said to have expressed interest or perhaps concern over the potential colour of the baby that was to become Archie. And Harry confirmed the story.
Oprah made clear later that the person in question was neither the Queen nor her husband Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburgh.
But still the shade was thrown – and the Royal family has had to respond.
The first response came from Buckingham Palace, which was a very well put together 61-word statement, that basically said how sorry they were to learn of the difficulties that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had been having, and expressing concern over allegations of racism.
The statement read:
“The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.
“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
But much of the media has speculated that the monarchy is now in a more endangered position than since the 1936 when Edward abdicated to marry the woman he loved – like Meghan, also an American divorcee by the way.
In fact, there have actually been several other tricky moments since then – like when Diana, the Princess of Wales, gave her own interview and suggested that Charles was not up for the job of king.
Or when Diana died in that tragic car accident in Paris in 1997. That shook up the Royal family a lot, and they had to show some of the empathy and emotion that was Diana’s trademark.
Or just last year, when Prince Andrew had his own interview, and tried to unconvincingly suggest that his friendship with the convicted sex offender and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein was completely above board.
The Royal family survived all those traumatic episodes – and no doubt it intends to survive this too. And it probably will. But it does need to recalibrate.
Its team is not as great as it used to be. At 94 years old, Queen Elizabeth is much respected, revered even, and also loved. But she alone cannot take up the slack left by Prince Harry and his wife.
Her husband Prince Philip is 99 years old and has just returned home after a month in hospital. He is retired anyway.
At 72 years old, Prince Charles is no real spring chicken either, and although he has done sterling work with the Prince’s Trust, his PR image isn’t as good as it should be – not helped by the Sussex’s implication of racism.
Let’s not talk about Prince Andrew, who is now trying to keep as low a profile as humanely possible.
Princess Anne seems to have been in the background for a while, although she does still do royal engagements. And Prince Edward is rarely heard about.
So that brings us to the second in line to the throne, Prince William – who has seemed happy to remain in the background — happy for Harry to take some of the spotlight on royal tours.
His wife, 39-year-old Kate has taken her cue from William and also from Prince Charles’ wife Camilla. She has remained so much a part of the background that she has rarely been seen in the spotlight, and even more rarely heard.
In fact, some people may think that the most memorable thing Kate has said since her engagement to Prince William are the words “I do”.
She has not tried in any way to pick up the mantle of William’s mother Princess Diana, successfully avoiding the press, despite her beauty.
Kate’s outfits seem mainly buttoned-up in an effort to remain demure, never showing too much flesh, and never being daringly sexy, as several of Diana’s were.
Many may have hoped that Megan and Harry would be the next great act in the Mountbatten Windsor show. Their personalities were warm and outgoing and some of the public seemed to like Megan very much.
But much of the UK press decided to portray Meghan in as negative a light as possible, and this caused problems – ending up where we are today, with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex living in virtual exile in Los Angeles of all places.
That move forces William and Kate – to use an expression popular in LA – to step up to the plate.
So far, Kate really has said very few memorable lines, apart from the short one mentioned above.
Most other Royals have said something that they are famous for.
The Queen had her “Annus horribilis” in 1992, the year that three of her children had their marriages end and to top it off the fire that severely damaged her home at Windsor Castle.
Prince Charles had his “carbuncle on the face of a favourite friend” to describe what was to have been a new addition to the National Gallery. The design was hastily changed to reflect something a little more traditional
Princess Diana had her statement about “there were three of us in this marriage”, which helped to severely damage Prince Charles’ image.
Prince William hasn’t said much of note to be honest. But his recent declaration that the Royal family is “very much not racist” is up there.
SAY IT WITH FLOWERS
But there is no comparative quote from Kate. Her style has been to say it with flowers.
The most recent example is her going to Clapham Common on Saturday, March 14, to lay a bouquet of daffodils that she had grown in her own garden, to show her respect for Sarah Everard.
Her trip to Clapham Common showed some guts as it was an illegal gathering. Her visit was well timed though – as the trouble with the police didn’t happen until later.
The visit could help to repair Kate’s PR image, which took a bit of a battering from Meghan in the Oprah interview, when she said that it was Kate who had made her cry before her wedding and not the other way round.
The crying incident was another occasion when Kate said it with flowers, as Meghan said the Duchess of Cambridge had apologised and sent her a bouquet.
Prior to that Kate said it with flowers in an even bigger way, designing a garden for the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.
When she’s not saying it with flowers, Kate is saying it with pictures – with each one worth a thousand words. She has taken photos of her family and sent them to the media for publication, helping to keep media photographers out of the picture.
But now that Harry and Meghan are out of the royal picture, it will mean that Kate will need to up her public profile – if only to assure that her son Prince George will get his opportunity to be King one day – not to mention her own chance of one day becoming Queen.
She may be able to avoid having a speaking part, but the public is going to want to get a greater feel for Kate. Showing her feelings towards the murder of Sarah Everard is a good start.
A good follow up step would be for her to visit with William some of the other Commonwealth realms. There are 16 of them – Jamaica being the largest non-white realm with some 2.8 million people.
There 16 members of the Commonwealth of Nations which are constitutional monarchies and have the Queen as their head of state are: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts, St Lucia and St Vincent in the Caribbean; the former white dominions of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and the Pacific island countries of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. That is a total of 15 Commonwealth realms, plus the United Kingdom makes 16.
If the Royal family is to have any hope of holding onto Jamaica after the Queen leaves office, it is imperative for Prince William and Kate to visit the island and try to make a good impression.
Previously, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have visited several times.
So did Prince Charles and Princess Diana. And later, in 2011, he visited with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Princess Anne has also visited. So did Princess Margaret, who was in the Jamaican parliament for its independence. So did Prince Andrew – who visited while a part of the crew of the HMS Invincible. He gave an attractive friend of mine a gift of a pair of panties with HMS Invincible emblazoned on the front.
More recently Prince Harry visited, and was much admired by many Jamaicans, including the Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who had previously been pushing to make Jamaica a republic. He has since been on a private visit with Meghan to attend a friend’s wedding.
Prince William and Kate have never been, officially or otherwise. It is unlikely that Jamaica will remain a constitutional monarchy for long if its future king does not visit it. And if Jamaica becomes a republic, it is likely that many of the remaining realms, especially in the Caribbean, will follow suit.
Barbados is already threatening to become a republic later this year – and that move could influence many of its sister nations in the West Indies.
Prince William and Kate do not have the same ‘wow factor’ as Harry or Meghan – but a visit from them would be warmly regarded by many.
It might be that the Royal family are quite happy to see the Commonwealth realms go their own way – except perhaps for the former white dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
But if they don’t, they will need to consider reengaging with Jamaica and some of the smaller realms as quickly as possible.
Kate could play a big role in protecting the monarchy in those countries, so that she and her husband, as well as her son Prince George, may one day head a monarchy that is larger than just the United Kingdom.