In December, Prince William and Kate Middleton embarked on a festive three-day tour of the U.K., traveling by royal train through England, Scotland and Wales to thank essential and frontline workers for all their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made multiple stops during their 1,250-mile journey, and ended with a visit to Windsor and a reunion with Queen Elizabeth and the senior royals.
It was considered somewhat controversial, as while many felt the tour was a cheerful and feel-good moment at a difficult time, others were less than thrilled with the Cambridges’ decision to travel across borders at a time that many were being told to stay at home, aside from essential travel, just before the holidays. Scottish and Welsh government officials reportedly raised questions about the necessity of the tour at the time, but according to Harper’s Bazaar, Kensington Palace said that it was legal as it was a work trip, and that it was planned in consultation with British, Scottish and Welsh governments.
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Now, a new report in Scottish newspaper The National has revealed that the Cambridges’ staff allegedly ignored emails from Scottish and Welsh government aides that suggested the tour might need to be canceled or postponed. The National obtained the emails via a Freedom of Information request, per Harper’s Bazaar.
The correspondence includes an email sent in November by John Somers, the principal private secretary to Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to Prince William and Kate’s aide, in which Somers notes that “we are currently asking people living in Scotland to avoid unnecessary travel from local authority to local authority and to keep journeys within the area they live to an absolute minimum,” and that while the tour “will mean a lot to many people living throughout the country…[M]y anxiety though is the practical aspects of it, and how presentationally it may be difficult if travel restrictions are in place.” Somers wrote, “I think my view is that at the moment the chances of the tour having to be postponed are potentially quite high.”
A few days later, James Hynd, the head of Scotland’s cabinet, parliament and governance, sent an email to the Cambridges’ aides and wrote, “The Scottish Government is likely to bring forward statutory restrictions on non-essential travel both within Scotland and also into and out of Scotland,” and “These rules will come into force from 6pm tomorrow. They will have no set termination point but will be reviewed regularly. This is obviously likely to have a major impact on the plans you are working on I am afraid.”
Prince William and Kate, who embarked on the tour despite the warnings, have responded to the new criticism, as a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released a statement to Harper’s Bazaar. “The same guidance we gave last month [before the tour] still stands,” reads the statement. “The Duke and Duchess were travelling for work purposes and all rules were fully adhered to. The trip was planned in consultation with the U.K., Scottish and Welsh governments.”
The U.K. is now under a third lockdown, and Prince William and Kate are isolating at their country home, Anmer Hall, with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. The Cambridges are staying at the Norfolk estate for the foreseeable future, though the royals are optimistic about the future, as Queen Elizabeth is reportedly hoping the Palace will be able to go ahead with Trooping the Colour this year.