On April 23, the color-coordinated Cambridges gathered outside their front door. Kate Middleton held her youngest child, Prince Louis, in her arms. Prince George and Princess Charlotte stood in front of their father, Prince William. Together, they smiled and clapped in unison to support those on the United Kingdom’s frontline. “Thank you to all our incredible key workers!” they wrote on Twitter.
It was just one of many controlled appearances by the children this spring: that same day, the family shared new portraits of Prince Louis for his second birthday. One showed the toddler happily finger painting, the other, smearing said paint all over his face. “Instagram versus reality,” they captioned the diptych, referencing the popular internet joke—and showing off their own social media savvy in the process. A week and a half later, they released a set of four photos of Princess Charlotte helping deliver food to neighbors in need. When it came to lifting the country’s morale during the coronavirus pandemic, it was officially a family affair.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s March 31st departure from the royal family was a seismic event for the monarchy. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with their three children, are likely to be the most affected. They, and other working royals like Princess Anne and the Countess of Wessex, are expected to shoulder more duties and appearances. Although the children are not yet old enough to have any professional responsibilities, their eventual royal workload may be heavier, and arrive sooner, then their elders’ did at that age. William, Kate, George, Charlotte, and Louis are also faced with the lion’s share of the spotlight. While the British press used to cover both the starry Cambridges and Sussexes ad nauseam, now only the Cambridges remain on the right side of the pond.
Then there’s the Queen, who, due her advanced age and the coronavirus pandemic, might be sidelined for the foreseeable future. A report in The Times of London said the Queen will refrain from public duties through the fall. 71-year old Prince Charles is also at a risky age to be undertaking official appearances. William and Kate, once supporting characters, may suddenly find themselves in the lead role.
So far, it’s a part they’re playing well. “I think the Cambridge family have handled lockdown brilliantly. They have been very prominent on social media boosting the spirits of the country,” Claudia Joseph, author of How to Dress Like A Princess, says. “We have seen Prince William in a Blackadder sketch, the Duchess of Cambridge chatting to nurses and carers, Prince Louis making a rainbow poster and the whole family clapping our NHS.”
As they ride out the pandemic at Anmer Hall, their Norfolk country home, the Duke and Duchess are doing their best to juggle their royal responsibilities alongside their parental duties. “They don’t have much free time as both Kate and William are working hard online, but when they do, they go for bike rides across the private parts of the Sandringham estate,” says Ingrid Seward, the Queen’s official biographer and editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine. “When they are able to, which they now can, they take the kids to the local beach and play in the rock pools—this suits all three children.”
Mom Kate also plays in the kitchen with her children. “Kate, who loves cooking herself, is very keen on teaching her children to cook, and they spend a lot of time baking cakes in the kitchen at Anmer Hall,” Seward says. Middleton previously revealed the family all makes pizza together, and that little Louis loves to look at Mary Berry’s cookbook.
Out in the country, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, have plenty to keep them occupied: “They play hide-and-seek, pick bluebells and frolic with their cocker spaniel Lupo or pet hamster Marvin, on the grounds,” says Joseph. Mischief undoubtedly ensues, likely led by the energetic Charlotte. “Charlotte is the braver of the two older kids and always willing to try anything while George is more reticent. He always wants to be doing what Charlotte is doing,” Seward says.
With schools closed across the country, the two eldest children are now attending online classes. Kate called the process of remote learning “challenging” in a recent interview with the BBC. She also revealed that, although it felt mean, she didn’t tell them about their Easter break. This empathetic admission surely resonated with many parents-turned-teachers everywhere: “You can tell that William and Kate are very normal parents. That’s why they appeal to the great British public,” Joseph says.
Although the Cambridge children are certainly privileged, their parents aren’t shielding them these dark and unprecedented times. Instead, they’re involving them in their royal duties more than ever. They’ve publicly clapped for frontline workers, painted rainbows in support of the NHS, and delivered food to in-need neighbors. Already at this young age, they’re learning their roles as altruistic and public figures. And that may be the very thing that bonds the children together: “One thing all three of them have is a well-developed sense of philanthropy,” Seward says.