With only a handful of senior working royals left to deploy, there’s no doubt that Prince William and Kate Middleton are the jewels in the crown.
They’ve topped the popularity polls for years, but with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle having exited stage left – lobbing several controversial grenades behind them – the Prince and Princess of Wales’ currency has never been higher.
Concurrently, the monarchy is navigating its survival into the future, with the younger crop of royals absolutely crucial to its success.
And herein lies yet another growing problem for the Palace.
As the no-nonsense Princess Anne so bluntly responded to a Canadian journalist who questioned plans for a more “slimmed-down monarchy” earlier this year: “[It] was said in a day when there were a few more people around. I’m not sure what else we can do.”
William and Kate may not have officially responded – but one can only assume they were doing some furious nodding as they read that particular quote.
For all parents – royal or not – their kids’ wellbeing is the priority.
Back in 2018, Kate gave birth to their youngest, Prince Louis, just a month before Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding.
Surely, after seven years of shouldering the young royal charge, she must have felt relief to know she’d now have some breathing space to focus on balancing work with those crucial early years of child-rearing.
Fast-forward to this week, and William and Kate have reportedly again come under fire for not doing enough work.
“There’s a growing feeling that William and Kate aren’t pulling their weight. They are the future of the monarchy and are themselves senior members of the Royal Family,” a royal source told OK! magazine recently.
Another noted the “difficult position” the couple is in as they juggle royal duties with parenting three children, aged 10 and under.
“William and Kate have been put in a very difficult position of choosing between the right path for their family or the future of the monarchy. Both are very important to them, but they have decided to put their children first while they are so young.”
In fact, the couple’s decision to take two full months off work to hang out with their kids over the British summer holidays reportedly created added tension within The Firm.
“They’re [William and Kate] very popular, they’re a huge asset to the UK, but there have been eyebrows raised in other parts of the royal household about the amount of time they’re not doing official engagements,” royal correspondent Richard Palmer told the Daily Express earlier this year.
It’s certainly the case that after a blitz of glamorous appearances and starring roles in the lead-up to and during the coronation in May, the Wales’ have been relatively quiet.
In fact, William – as head of the UK’s Football Association – copped an unprecedented wave of backlash in August when he declined to make the trip to Sydney to watch England take on Spain in a historic Women’s World Cup Final.
Adding further fuel to the fire around his decision was that members of the Spanish royal family were present for the historic game, including Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter, Infanta Sofia.
The cost of the trip and carbon footprint were cited as reasons for why he didn’t make the lengthy trip for such a short period – but there was also plenty of speculation it was largely due to the game falling in the midst of his family’s summer holiday.
Outspoken British commentator Piers Morgan summed up the public reaction best, when he tweeted simply: “Get on a plane to Australia asap, YRH (Your Royal Highness).”
Kate herself has also been specifically targeted with criticism, with the Daily Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle (a fictional byline which collates royal stories based on tips) describing her as “reluctant overseas traveller”, having made only two official overseas trips this year.
The column detailed how there had been “high hopes” at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that Kate “would not only make more overseas visits but would also bring the children … but it seems that school and routine are now more important than helping the FCO” with its diplomatic efforts.
Well … Yeah.
It’s also understood that Kate won’t be joining William at this year’s Earthshot Prize Awards in Singapore next month, which – given her glamorous, showstopping appearances in previous years – will come as a huge disappointment to royal fans (and journalists).
But as a source hit back in the Daily Beast: “If the accusation is that Kate isn’t pulling her weight, that is absurd and everyone who knows them knows it. It is not exactly a state secret that she has three children aged 10, 8, and 5 on whom the future of the monarchy depends.”
The source went on to point out that William and Kate have chosen to ignore the criticism.
“She works incredibly hard. They have had this type of criticism from the press before and I’m sure they will have it again. It’s water off a duck’s back.
“Real people understand that you have to prioritise your children at that age, and you can’t both just go flying off to New York at the drop of a hat.”
With William and Kate steadily maintaining public favour throughout the year, despite allegations there are frustrations behind palace doors, it’s clear that most of us regular people get it.
We get that parents are busy, that the early years of childhood are manic – and fleeting.
In fact, the couple’s decision to try and prioritise parenting over work at this crucial time is probably one of their more relatable decisions.
But that doesn’t diminish the looming issue for the Palace – and with Prince George only 10, Princess Charlotte aged eight and Prince Louis just five years old – they’ve likely got years left of navigating royal duties between an increasingly small team of ageing staff.
Wonder if Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie are looking for some extra work?