Kate Middleton going missing after Commonwealth service is a bad look

Odd things are afoot inside Buckingham Palace. This week, rehearsals will start inside the ballroom where a replica of the ‘Coronation theatre’ has been secretly built for King Charles and Queen Camilla, meaning they can practise for the two-hour ceremony in private with only tittering aides and their dogs watching on. (Might the Queen have borrowed a Poundland tiara from Princess Charlotte? I’d like to think so.)

Meanwhile, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, a princess went missing.

OK, the Princess of Wales’ husband Prince William probably knew where she was. It’s not time for the posse of slightly terrifying, armed official protection officers who dog their every move to call in MI5, Interpol and the producers of Cold Case.

However it’s unusual in the tightly scripted and choreographed royal world, for a frontrow player like the mother-of-three to do something of a disappearing act.

A disappearing act, that is, that the Palace has not (and most likely won’t) comment on.

Things started as normal on Tuesday, with the royal family cheerfully trotting along en masse to Westminster Abbey for the annual Commonwealth Day service, an outing laden with symbolism, history and the threat of dozing off mid-choral sing-song. (Never let it be said that being a working HRH is anything but a never-ending test of a human being’s capacity for tedium. Ennui must be a major occupational hazard.)

Kate turned up looking like she has been secretly mainlining Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily and WhatsApping with fashion doyenne Anna Wintour, with the princess done up in a $5481 Erdem suit that was reminiscent of Christian Dior’s iconic New Look. (Has someone finally gotten around to spending their recently acquired Duchy of Cornwall billions?)

Inside the Abbey, Kate managed not to yawn, fidget or check that eBay auction she has been watching, before greeting some small children on the way out. This was some textbook princess-ing if ever we’ve seen it.

And then … Poof! The lady vanishes.

After the service, King Charles, Camilla, Princess Anne, her husband Sir Tim Laurence, Prince William and the newly elevated Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh all trooped back to Buckingham Palace for the Commonwealth reception. Imagine a lot of high commissioners clutching glasses of orange juice waiting nervously to take their turn to make 30 seconds of small talk with the King about that one bit of the service where the organ really got going.

However, conspicuously absent from all the polite chitchat was Kate, despite a press release having previously said she would be attending.

With no official word about her no-show, the current theories are that her inclusion in the release was a mistake or that she left to pick up her three young HRHs from their Windsor school, Lambrook.

But … do we really buy either?

Firstly, does a well-oiled and experienced press machine like the Palace make admin mistakes? (Maybe cost-cutting measures have gotten such that courtiers have started letting work experience kids have a go on the Commodore 64 they use to crank out the official missives …)

Secondly, the Waleses have a nanny, aides, and probably more staff than a Fiji-bound P&O cruise ship, not to mention that her parents live nearby to their home, Adelaide Cottage. Someone else could clearly have picked up Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and their piles of maths homework. (‘Finnigan can only invite 12 friends along to his hunting weekend. If they will drink three bottles of Jägermeister each, how many buckets will his butler need to get in?’)

Sure, Kate’s desire to perpetually do the school run is admirable and all, but that does not change the fact that her priorities in this instance are really quite off.

This was Charles’ first time out of the gate as King on a major Commonwealth occasion, an organisation that is made up of 56 member nations, covering 2.6 billion people or nearly one third of the people on Earth. More than half of those who live in the Commonwealth are people of colour and more than 60 per cent are under the age of 29.

The reason this matters is because, as anyone with access to the internet and a primary school reading age will know, it’s been decidedly bumpy for years when it comes to the intersection of the British monarchy and race.

It is almost exactly two years ago that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex sat down with Oprah Winfrey to imply that her unborn son, during her first pregnancy, faced discrimination based on the fact he would be bi-racial.

In the face of her shocking claims, the Palace responded by yanking the drawbridge up and essentially telling the World it was none of their business. The matter, the late Queen said in a statement, would “be addressed by the family privately.”

(I’m sure you, me and every Netflix subscriber the World over would have heard if the duchess and husband Prince Harry had actually ever been invited back to the Palace to take part in a sharing circle or if Charles, Camilla and the Jack Russells had ever undergone diversity awareness training.)

In March last year, William and Kate accidentally double-downed on making the royal family look like they still get misty-eyed about the empire and regret they don’t get the chance to wear pith helmets or take over chunks of Asia on a whim these days.

Off they jetted to the Caribbean for a tour, never once seemingly having considered that the nascence of Black Lives Matter and the continuing Global reckoning about race might impact their hand-shaking trip through Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

Normally the House of Windsor’s star players, instead the Waleses flew home, chastened, and in dire need of doing some boning up on that whole slavery business. (‘Golly, such rotten stuff!’)

Then of course came that incident just before Christmas last year when Lady Susan Hussey, the late Queen’s longtime lady-in-waiting, was accused of racism by a charity campaigner. Ngozi Fulaney, a domestic violence campaigner, took to Twitter to reveal that Lady Susan had repeatedly quizzed her, asking “where do you really come from?” and calling the interaction a “violation.”

All of these PR squalls the royal family has managed to navigate; stormy waters they have somehow sailed gamely through, trying their best to deal with them.

However is any of this good enough?

Unveiling an occasional statute, such as when William and Kate opened one commemorating the arrival of the Windrush generation of Afro-Caribbean migrants, and the King and Queen busily visiting every ethnic minority community centre they can before pub closing time just feels a bit anaemic.

If Charles really wants to show the UK and the World that things are changing, it’s time to speak up and do more than have an occasional cup of tea with a mufti for the cameras.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the trans-Atlantic trade in human beings made not only the royal family but scores of other families all over Europe very wealthy. That is, the Windsors are just not unique when it comes to the source of some of their fortune.

However, what sets them apart is that we are not talking about some old Norfolk family that used the money to buy half of Wiltshire, but about the UK’s head of state. The King has a responsibility to show moral leadership and must take a stand and truly unequivocally apologise for the monarchy’s connection to slavery and not just sheepishly skirt around the edges. (Charles, on the occasion of Barbados becoming a republic, talked about “the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history.”)

All of which is to say, the Palace has a long, long way to go when it comes to race and it can’t afford for Kate to sit a round out because she wants to take George to his oboe lesson or catch up on Drag Race.

The House of Windsor has a hell of a lot of ground to cover if they ever want to put their very chequered track record on this front to bed. Maybe it’s time for Charles to spend less time rehearsing with a mock St Edward’s Crown made out of papier-mâché by Prince Louis and more time practising saying the ‘s’ word – sorry.

Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Kate Middleton

Originally published at www.news.com.au

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