How Kate and William have stepped up to new roles in time of royal crisis ‘Inspirational’

Kate and William ‘very easy with each other’ says expert

As Covid forced the 94-year-old Queen and the Prince of Wales, 72, to work from isolation, the next generation suddenly found itself centre stage. And with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex resigning from royal duties to live abroad, the pressure on William and Kate to show the way had never been greater. In the past, the future King and Queen had sometimes looked a little shy, even awkward, as they tried to adapt to a life of royal duty. But the way they have responded to the challenge of lifting the nation’s spirits, right from the start of the pandemic, has been inspirational.

Before the first lockdown, they went out to offer comfort and support, connecting with the public in a relaxed and natural way. They quickly re-arranged their charity work to prioritise help for those most affected by the pandemic – the homeless, the lonely, those with mental health issues and, of course, NHS and care staff and other key workers.

On our behalf, they gave muchappreciated thanks to those on the front line in hospitals, care homes and the emergency services. Teachers, voluntary workers and vaccine scientists were not forgotten.

They showed that as parents they shared the concerns of ordinary families, from worries about loved ones’ health to homeschooling and home-working.

When Covid first took a grip in mid- March, Prince William posted a personal video message to rally the nation and to support the National Emergencies Trust, which he had helped to launch to raise funds for local charities supporting those in hardship as a result of the pandemic.

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He said: “Whenever and wherever adversity strikes, the people of the UK have a unique ability to pull together. The way that local communities support those affected shows the very best of our values and human nature.”

Just days before the nation went into the first lockdown, William and Kate visited the

London Ambulance Service’s 111 control room in Croydon, which was already being swamped with calls about Covid-19.

Prince William, himself a former air ambulance helicopter pilot, said: “It’s at times like this when we realise just how much the NHS represents the very best of our country and society – people from all backgrounds and walks of life with different experiences and skills, pulling together for the common good.

“Not only are NHS staff and emergency workers responding to the needs of the public, they – like the rest of us – are concerned about their families, friends and loved ones. They need our support as much as we need theirs.”

The Prince called for more help for rough sleepers, while Kate recognised what a threat the closure of schools would have on the mental health and wellbeing of children.

William, 38, patron of homeless charity The Passage, told chief executive Mike Clarke in a phone call: “We are in a life and death fight to help those living on the streets in this public health emergency.”

Within a week all rough sleepers had been given shelter under the national Everyone In scheme.

Kate, a passionate believer that early childhood experiences can shape young lives, championed the cause of early years support for families. In February the Duke and Duchess were in Swansea to meet parents and children for Kate’s under-fives initiative, meeting parents, talking to local businesses and sampling the local ice cream.

Within weeks, the Duke and Duchess had their own family worries as Prince Charles had to self-isolate with the virus.

As the nation clapped for the NHS, William and Kate released a video showing Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, applauding too.

The couple threw themselves into home-schooling the children while mastering the technology that enabled them to carry on their moraleboosting work via video calls.

They put in just such a call to Casterton primary school, Burnley, to talk to the children of essential workers and to thank staff who were continuing to teach them, even during the Easter holidays. They also gave a rare personal video-call interview to the BBC to talk about isolating at their family home, Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, admitting that home-schooling Prince George, seven, and Princess Charlotte, five, at the same time as looking after toddler Prince Louis, two, had proved “challenging”.

Kate said: “The children have got such stamina. You pitch a tent, take the tent down again, cook, bake. You get to the end of the day, they’ve had a lovely time, but it’s amazing how much you can cram into a day.”

She said she and William had explained to the older two what was happening, adding: “It’s been ups and downs, probably like lots of families. You don’t want to scare them and make it too overwhelming.”

The Duchess admitted that conducting so much royal work by video calls from home had also been tricky.

“It gets a bit hectic, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “With a two-year-old you have to take the phone away, but it’s nice to keep in touch with everybody.”

William told of their worries about his father, saying: “I have to admit, at first I was quite concerned – he fits the profile of somebody, at the age he is at, which is fairly risky.”

He was also keen to express his concern for the mental health of those stuck at home and his worry that people would be reluctant to seek help.

He said: “It’s important that other people aren’t forgotten and those who do need help, and do need support, and haven’t necessarily ever had to think about their mental wellbeing, start to do that in this weird climate we’re in.”

The Duke, from his own experience as an air ambulance pilot, worried that health care workers and first responders might take the job home with them.

“We’re not superhuman, any of us. So to be able to manage those emotions and that feeling is going to take some time after all this is over,” he said.

Kate hoped that one positive to come out of the crisis might be that we would all have a new appreciation for health care workers and those in essential jobs, like supermarket staff and public transport workers.

She said: “What we’re seeing now is the NHS and the frontline workers doing the most extraordinary job. It’s going to dramatically change how we all value and see our frontline workers.” What was not revealed in the BBC interview, nor in any of the other dozen or so telephone and video interviews the couple did in April, was that William himself had the virus. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson seriously ill at the time, William chose to quietly isolate at home rather than cause more alarm.

May brought more public video calls, as well as Zoom calls to the family they could not see in person. The Duke and Duchess were among several members of the Royal Family who made calls to health workers around the world to mark International Nurses Day.

They were in fits of giggles as they tried to stand in as bingo-callers on a video call to the Shire Hall Care Home in Cardiff. And when they visited the home three months later, after lockdown, outspoken resident Joan Drew Smith, 87, had them roaring with laughter again when she told them they did a “bloody sh***y job”.

William and Kate celebrated Volunteers Week at the start of June by video-calling two organisations that rely on volunteers: Conscious Youth in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, and Machynlleth Corona Community Response (MCCR) in Powys, Wales.

On the call to MCCR, William said: “Thank you for all the volunteering you’re doing, thank you for all the time and effort you’re putting in. It’s been hugely rewarding. You have been a lifeline to all the people who you’ve helped in the area.”

Kate added: “One of the things that would be amazing is if everyone in their communities was to carry on and still celebrate volunteering. Everyone’s got something to give back.”

In early July she made a video call to cheer up young players at a south London primary school who were disappointed at Wimbledon being cancelled. Revealing that she was about to be joined by a surprise guest, she teased: “I’ll give you a few clues… he plays tennis for Great Britain. He’s a former world number one…can you guess?”

They could, shouting out Andy Murray’s name the second she stopped speaking.

By then, the couple had been doing some volunteering of their own, packing and delivering food to pensioners near their home. William was helping Shout 85258, a crisis text line launched in 2019 after a donation from the Cambridge’s Royal Foundation and Kate was making “check-in and chat” calls to the elderly and vulnerable as one of the Royal Voluntary Service’s NHS Volunteer Responders.

They included two lengthy calls to 85-year-old Len Gardner, caring full-time for his wife Shirley, 84, who has Alzheimer’s.

When he asked how he should address her she insisted: “Call me Catherine,” before chatting to him about making pasta and taking her children to watch sheep-shearing.

Len, from Batley, West Yorkshire, who had undergone radiotherapy for bladder cancer, revealed later: “Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be talking on the phone to the future Queen of England.

“I will treasure our conversations for the rest of my life. Those calls helped me because they gave me something to look forward to.”

Later in June, as lockdown restrictions were eased, William visited scientists in Oxford working with AstraZeneca to develop a vaccine against the virus, and told Professors Sarah Gilbert and Andrew Pollard their work was “incredibly exciting”.

Kate paid a visit to a local garden centre in Fakenham and bought lavender, bay leaf and rosemary to plant in a garden at The Nook, one of the East Anglia Children’s Hospices.

Her husband devoted some time to his passion for conservation, as he and Sir David Attenborough both launched documentaries on the subject.

William said: “I can’t talk about coronavirus without mentioning how many people sadly lost their lives and how terrible and sad that all is. But I think the tiny little ray of light, if there’s any ray of light from this, is that it allows us to take stock and to refocus our priorities.

“I’ve been really heartened by what I’ve been hearing from other people and how they’ve started to appreciate nature.”

In October, the Duke joined his grandmother the Queen on a visit to the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, near Salisbury, to speak to scientists studying coronavirus.

A few days later William and Kate paid tribute to NHS workers once more in a special visit to St Bartholomew Hospital, London, where they launched the Duchess’ community photography exhibition, Hold Still. They met specialist oncology pharmacist and keen photographer Joyce Duah whose picture of colleagues, taken at the hospital at the height of the pandemic in April, had been shortlisted.

The unique collection of portraits of the UK during the pandemic would later feature heavily in the Queen’s Christmas message.

Just before a second national lockdown came into force, the Duke and Duchess were joined by Good Morning Britain star Kate Garraway to honour the NHS at the Daily Mirror’s Pride of Britain awards. In a recorded segment they praised Kate for her ‘resilience’ during husband Derek Draper’s long battle against Covid-19 for which he was still being treated in hospital.

The Duchess told her: “I think you’re amazing to do this – you’ve had such a hard time yourself. How are you all doing?”

The TV presenter replied: “We are doing okay – it’s very difficult, you can’t visit. The children still haven’t been able to visit. I think that is a huge pressure for everybody.”

As the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine came closer to approval, William made a video call to congratulate some of the scientists he had met in June.

The royal couple returned to the subject of early years support when Kate made a key speech about the Five Big Questions survey she had launched in January. She warned your this made that problems of addiction and poor mental health in later life could often be sparked by difficult childhoods.

On a video call to four dads who had benefited from early years support courses run by London-based charity Future Men, William expressed his concern that many fathers needed more support with parenting skills.

He told them: “I worry an awful lot, a lot of dads out there who just don’t know what to do, and they don’t know where to go.

“And they may not have such good – either grounding, foundations or support around them to be able to know what to absolute all and remarkable do.”

As the country emerged briefly from the second lockdown in December, William and Kate embarked on a three-day tour of the UK by Royal Train to pay tribute to “the inspiring work of individuals, organisations and initiatives across the country”. The 1,250-mile trip took them from London’s Euston Station, to Manchester,

Edinburgh and South Wales, meeting frontline workers, volunteers, care home staff, teachers, schoolchildren and young people, hearing about their experiences and sacrifices.

Speaking at Fareshare, the food redistribution charity in Manchester, William said: “Catherine and I felt it was extremely important to visit just some of the heroes that have emerged this year, to thank you for all that you have done.”

There was particular emphasis on the UK’s arts, heritage and live performance sector which had to be supported throughout the pandemic by the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

They were greeted on their return by a grateful Queen, at a socially distanced outdoor catch-up in Windsor.

In the run-up to Christmas, William made three surprise visits to volunteer at The Passage homeless shelter.

He spoke to residents who had been moved into the emergency accommodation and, wearing a face mask and apron, worked alongside helpers packaging food and serving hot meals.

Back in London, William and Kate took their children to see a lottery-supported performance of Pantoland at the Royal Palladium to thank key workers once more.

William told the audience: “You include community workers, volunteers, teachers, NHS staff, representatives from the emergency services and military, researchers working on the vaccine, people helping the homeless, those manning vital call centres and staff from across a wide range of frontline charities.

“You have given your absolute all this year and made remarkable sacrifices.”

In a special video released later, which revealed how the Duke and Duchess had arranged for all those in the audience to be given surprise Christmas gifts, the royal couple also took it in turns to read lines from a reworked version of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ to honour key workers.

William read the line: “The moral of the story, true now more than ever, is remarkable things happen when we all work together.”

The online video had fans in tears.

One commented: “The Cambridges have done a wonderful job this year. Well done to them all? I am sure the Queen is very proud.”

But William and Kate were not finished. They had their own poignant Christmas Day words for the beleaguered nation. Their Instagram message read: “This Christmas our thoughts are with those of you who are spending today alone, those of you who are grief stricken from the loss of a loved one and those of you on the frontline who are somehow mustering the energy to put your own lives on hold and at risk to look after the rest of us.

“Wishing you a merry Christmas doesn’t feel right this year, so instead we’re wishing for a better 2021.”

The energy William and Kate have mustered, while putting their lives on hold, to support the people of this country bodes well not only for the New Year, but the future of the whole Royal Family.

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