As members of the royal family prepare for their summer break, they must be relieved that this eventful year is more than halfway through. The Queen’s frailty placed a larger workload on family members than had originally been expected, even without the celebrations for her platinum jubilee. The Duke of Kent and his siblings – all of whom are over 80 – did their bit to cover certain events that Her Majesty’s immediate family couldn’t manage, but it wasn’t quite the same. Her presence was most sorely missed during the traditional carriage processions along the course at Royal Ascot, and however many other members of the family were present, without the familiar figure of the Queen in the first carriage it seemed a little lacklustre.
She was, however, able to host her luncheon parties at Windsor Castle and once the guests had left to meet the royal carriages in the Great Park she could settle down and watch the racing on television in peace. Without having to socialise with her guests in the royal box the Queen was able to concentrate on the racing itself, which she must have thoroughly enjoyed. Being an expert on equine blood lines she would have been able to indulge herself by not only studying form but also checking out the pedigrees of all the horses.
The good news is that, apparently, the Queen is back in the saddle riding her fell ponies and enjoying being out with her dogs, albeit with the aid of a very smart golf buggy. It is a positive sign she is regaining some of her legendary mobility, as evidenced by her travelling to Edinburgh for Holyrood Week and then spending a long weekend in Norfolk.
The Prince of Wales has not had an easy time in recent months. Just as he had delivered a poignant speech on slavery to Commonwealth leaders at the conference in Rwanda, acknowledging it to be ‘the most painful period of our history’, The Sunday Times published a story that wiped his heartfelt words off the front pages. The newspaper revealed that between 2011 and 2015 the prince had received three cash donations totalling €3 million from the then prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. The cash was received during private meetings at Clarence House and then deposited into the account of the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund. This fund supports the prince’s pet charitable causes, and there is certainly no suggestion of wrongdoing. What there was instead was criticism that Charles had risked compromising himself; questions over his judgement were raised even by his biggest supporters. Many said he demonstrated either astonishing naivety or the arrogance of a person who feels he is not constrained by the conventions that govern the rest of us.
Being royal is increasingly difficult, as witnessed by a video posted on YouTube of the Duke of Cambridge arguing with a photographer who had been filming him and his family during a bike ride on the Sandringham estate. How William didn’t lose his temper completely is a credit to him, but it did bring home that – despite their many privileges – the royal family live in a gilded cage without what most of us value above all else: freedom.