AS my mother put it, William and Kate are looking “very Royal” these days. She’s right. There was a new kind of polished assurance from the couple as they disembarked from their plane in Canada.
The Duchess of Cambridge looked especially regal in her blue Jenny Packham ensemble and her Lock & Co hat set at a just-so jaunty angle. Observers with long memories might agree that the former Miss Middleton was clearly channelling the 1940s style of the Queen Mother.
She could have worse role models. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the daughter of a Scottish noble, was no princess either. And when she married her own prince, the world was far more judgemental.
Yet she found her niché as the matriarch of a family which came to embody the very ideal of duty and public service. And even in the Blitz, she was always smart.
For her part, the Duchess of Cambridge has struggled with finding her “look”, veering from some really quite bizarre ensembles – remember that blue neck-to-navel chiffon number she wore to Kensington Palace? – to playing it matronly safe with frumpy belted coats which bring to mind a supporting role in Call the Midwife.
Don’t dismiss these kind of musings as shallow fashion frippery. We’re in the 21st century. First and foremost, the modern Royal Family has to look right. An image can speak a thousand words, cross all language barriers, and find itself beamed around the world in seconds. It is no accident then that the Duke and Duchess and their two small children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, all matched in various shades of blue. The image said “unity”.
And the message, underpinned by the Canadian maple brooch the Duchess borrowed from her mother-in-law, was clear. The Royal Family is as vital now as it is ever was, in all senses of the world. Two future Kings of Canada walking down the aeroplane steps together. This moment cannot have been lost on the thousands who have cheered them on through their tour so far, or the millions who have watched through the media.
Nor has it been lost on the Royal Family itself. A spokesman pointed out that he couple couldn’t wait to tour “a country that will play such an important part of their lives for many years to come”.
The Duke of Cambridge is apparently the most-admired Royal in Canada, according to a poll for Forum Research Inc. He’s the favourite choice with 25 per cent of the vote. His wife comes second with 20 per cent while Prince Harry ranks third with 13 per cent.
There are Republican murmurings, of course. However, what is clear is that Canada most definitely still considers itself part of the Commonwealth and sees no reason to change. In this, we should look beyond the matching outfits and carefully-chosen jewellery.
In a year which has been rocked by Brexit, and in a country which seems to be veering from political paralysis to panic, the Royal Family is our one constant. Sending this photogenic foursome to Canada seems like a good business decision if nothing else.
At times, the Duke of Cambridge has been criticised for being “the Prince without portfolio”. Now he is having to step up to the plate – especially as the older members of his family are having to take a less-public role.
Earlier this month, even his aunt, the Princess Royal, often dubbed the “hardest-working Royal,” was compelled to cancel all engagements, including a trip to Mozambique, because she was suffering from a chest infection. She is 66. Although the Royals are renowned for their indefatigability, they are not blessed with immortality, nor immunity from health problems.
The message this trip also delivers is one of continuity. This can be painful.
Who can look at Prince George with his mop of blond hair and not be reminded of his father at the same age?
Who can have this thought and not be sad for a moment to think how William lost his mother in such tragic circumstances?
When all the waving and cheering has ceased, the tour will be remembered as a marker in the sand. It has provided an emerging identity for a young couple who have often been criticised for having none.
This trip to Canada has taken William and Kate almost to the other side of the world, but it has also brought them closer to us.