This month heralds two royal birthdays: the Princess of Wales will celebrate her 41st on 9 January and Princess Michael of Kent her 78th on 15 January. The latter princess, who was very athletic in her youth (her mother was an Olympic skier), has had rotten luck with her health over the past couple of years, revisited by old skiing injuries that necessitated a new knee and setbacks while recovering from Covid-19. We will be talking with her about her life and work as an author in the coming months.
Last year Catherine was so pleased with the photos taken for her 40th birthday by fashion photographer Paolo Roversi that she agreed to join other leading lights in displaying their portraits in venues that have special meanings to them around the United Kingdom. She chose the University of St Andrews, where she met William; Anglesey, the island in North Wales where they lived in the early years of their marriage; a church in Pangbourne near where she lived as a child; and Reading University, not far from Royal Berkshire Hospital where she was born. They will have a permanent home at London’s National Portrait Gallery when it reopens this year.
Having been a member of the royal family for more than a decade the Princess of Wales has found a niche that she believes is of international importance. Catherine is putting her considerable energies into studying a child’s early years. In a rare interview with the Daily Telegraph she expressed her hopes and concerns.
‘I have become more and more sure of one thing,’ she said. ‘If we are going to create a healthier and happier society for future generations, we must start by understanding and acknowledging the unique importance of the first five years of life.
‘Over the past three decades, the body of evidence to support this has grown substantially. We now know that in the first five years of our lives, our brains develop faster than at any other time and that the impact of those years is hugely significant.’
Good for her. It is certainly something many of us were unaware of, having been taught that children should sleep happily in a pram while nanny – if you were fortunate enough to have one – did her knitting. This was the way Prince Charles was brought up, though not his sons. As a former nursery school teacher Diana knew how to entertain children and put her skills to the test with William and Harry, although the Queen used to think they were very naughty – which of course they were.
After a media fuss about the wisdom of competing in ITV’s reality TV show I’m A Celebrity Mike Tindall, husband of Zara, narrowly missed out on being in the final. He demonstrated how to behave in a dignified way while enduring the nastiest of the programme’s infamous ‘trials’ to remain in the show. Princess Beatrice took to Twitter for the first time in two years to say of Mike: ‘He’s just the greatest’.
Mike was a favourite of the late Queen, who knew what a handful her granddaughter Zara could be. As a child Zara decided it would be fun to dissect Her Majesty’s pearls by removing the string; needless to say, she never did it again.