As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sat shivering on a bench at Batley station in West Yorkshire, I’m sure the thought of being at home in front of the fire with their three children must have crossed their minds.
Quite apart from the biting cold and the quaint conditions aboard the royal train (separate beds, a Formica dining table and a suspicious looking amount of plywood), the run-up to Christmas is stressful enough for any parent, with end-of-term plays, endless school fundraisers and teachers’ presents to worry about.
Kate is very hands-on with all that sort of stuff. The last thing she — or frankly anyone — needs at this time of year is a three-day, 1,250-mile work trip, let alone one where you have to look a) camera ready at all times and b) utterly ecstatic to be there.
Nevertheless, there she was, alongside her husband — stylish, smiling and unflappable, just as she always is.
Above all, doing her duty.
Taking station: Wills and Kate shiver on the Batley platform in West Yorkshire during their second day of a three-day tour across the country
That’s an unfashionable concept in this day and age, where private needs too often seem to eclipse public ones. And a reminder that, for all Kate and William’s commitment to their young brood, they will never shirk in their commitment to their wider family, that is to say the British people.
This pandemic has, like all emergencies, really sorted the sheep from the goats. And few public figures have come into their own like Kate and William. While other royals have taken a back seat — either due to circumstance or desire — the Duke and Duchess seem to have redoubled their efforts to connect with the nation at a time of deep crisis.
In their own seemingly effortless way, they have made themselves quietly essential.
It’s been a masterclass in how royalty can remain relevant in the modern age, and their popularity has rightly increased because of it. All of which probably explains why Nicola Sturgeon has been so grumpy about their trip to Scotland, and why the Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, has been equally disobliging.
Both were chilly on the issue of the royal couple travelling during Covid restrictions, even though — as Kensington Palace has been at pains to point out — they’ve adhered to the letter to all the guidelines. And, of course, William has already had Covid.
But let’s be honest, it’s not really about the rules, is it?
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pictured during a ministerial statement in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in UK history
Kate and William are victims of their own success. Because at a time when both devolved administrations have seized the opportunities presented by Covid to foster divisions and further dreams of independence, the Duke and Duchess are a reminder of all that is good about the British Crown and the Union, which Sturgeon especially is keen to dissolve.
Having so successfully entranced our Celtic cousins with visions of a brave new Scottish dawn, how inconvenient to have Kate and William showing up — twinkly ambassadors for all the morale-boosting qualities of royalty.
It must be especially galling because until they came along, things were going so well for anti-monarchists. As well as Prince Andrew’s troubles over the Jeffrey Epstein affair, 2020 has also been the year of Megxit, with arguably the Royal Family’s brightest stars turning their backs on the UK.
For opponents of the royals, it must have seemed as though all their Christmases had come at once. But they hadn’t bargained on Wills and Kate.
Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething holds a press conference on the Covid-19 pandemic at the Welsh Government buildings in Cathays Park on October 5 in Cardiff, Wales
This is a couple who could easily have spent the pandemic holed up in one of several palaces, eating lime creams and ordering flunkeys to bring them more quails’ eggs.
Instead, they’ve made themselves endlessly available, and not in a look-at-me-aren’t-I-a-special-raindrop sort of a way like Harry and Meghan (who prefer to express their commitment to a nation stricken by Covid from the comfort of their £11 million mansion in California), but altruistically and with palpable sincerity.
For two people to show such maturity and solid moral compass at such a relatively young age — they are both just 38 — demonstrates that whatever else may befall Britain, the long-term future of the monarchy is in safe hands.
What a comfort, not just for the Queen — but for the nation as a whole in these uncertain times.
A feathered fiasco
According to a Mumsnet user, having a real Christmas tree makes you middle class, whereas a plastic one is a sign of more working-class credentials.
If you’re upper class, however, all bets are off, as evidenced by the one belonging to the Duchess of Rutland, chatelaine of Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, which is topped with a giant (artificial) peacock. It’s quite the naffest thing I’ve ever seen — and proof that good taste has absolutely nothing to do with so-called breeding.
The demise of the Ikea catalogue — the Swedish flat-pack chain has announced this year’s print edition will be the last — is the end of an era.
Oh, how I’ll miss poring over its pages, harbouring storage-box fantasies of space-saving Scandi living.
Now I’ll have to make do with shopping online, loading my basket with delights only to discover that the one thing I really want is out of stock. Some things, at least, will never change.
After the year from hell, it feels like the whole nation needs a holiday, especially frontline staff. But one man who also deserves a break is Matt Hancock, who broke down in tears yesterday morning on TV.
His work may not be physically gruelling — but the mental pressure is immense. If anyone deserves a round of applause in the week Britain rolled out a vaccine, it’s Hancock.
Show off those Spanx? No thanks
If you’re going to show them off to the whole world, Katy Perry style, doesn’t that rather defeat the object?, writes Sarah Vine
Funny, I always thought the whole point of Spanx was to create an illusion of svelteness where none actually exists. If you’re going to show them off to the whole world, Katy Perry style, doesn’t that rather defeat the object? Or is that the kind of thing only unreconstructed pre-body-positive old bags like me say?
A £248,000 robot has just been invented that can cook a meal — and tidy up afterwards. Does it do Christmas dinner? Might just be worth it.
I appreciate that break-dancing is a physically challenging activity — but an Olympic sport? Whatever next . . . twerking?
Hurly-Burley for corona Kay
I was tempted to give Sky News presenter Kay Burley the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the hoo-ha over her 60th birthday celebration, where it appears that she broke the Covid Tier Two rules by dining with colleagues in a London restaurant.
But then I remembered that she has been less than relaxed about certain other people’s breaches, notably Dominic Cummings’s lockdown trip to County Durham (which, while controversial, was at least for family reasons and not just for the sake of a party), and I thought better of it.
Kay Burley pictured attending the British Heart Foundation’s ‘The Beating Hearts Ball’ at the Guildhall on February 20, 2018 in London
After Eltiona Skana, the schizophrenic who stabbed seven-year-old Emily Jones to death, was sentenced to life, let us not forget Jonty Bravery, another sick individual who threw a boy of six off a viewing platform at London’s Tate Modern.
In both cases, the authorities were aware of their criminal tendencies. Skana had stabbed her own mother — so how was she able to buy the craft knife that she used to kill Emily?
It’s not just the attackers who must answer for their actions, but a system that identifies them as a danger — and fails to stop them carrying out their terrible crimes.
I made a terrible mistake on Monday night. I watched the new series of The Vicar Of Dibley. Gosh it was depressing, not least because so many of the original cast are no longer with us but mostly because neither is Dawn French’s once great talent.
But that’s what happens when you combine comedy with political correctness: dreary, finger-wagging mediocrity. I’d rather watch Mrs Brown’s Boys. And that’s saying something.
Dawn French pictured as the Reverend Geraldine Granger in The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown
Yesterday was Founder’s Day at Eton, described as ‘traditionally a day of . . . mischief’. It was also the day Will Knowland, the teacher sacked for refusing to remove a provocative lecture in defence of masculinity from YouTube, attended a hearing challenging his dismissal.
The outcome of the appeal is yet to be decided. But if mischief is a core principle of life at Eton, surely Mr Knowland — and the debate he has generated over feminism and free speech — should be tolerated.