The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have embarked on a train tour of the United Kingdom to thank frontline workers ahead of the Christmas holidays. William and Kate are traveling aboard the royal train this week for a three-day whistlestop tour of England, Scotland, and Wales.
The couple, who have been desperate to get back on the road according to their aides, left Euston station on Sunday night to board the royal train, a nine-carriage train used only rarely by the royal family. They had the chance to thank staff for keeping the tube and rail system running during the pandemic, and were serenaded by the 80s singer Shakin’ Stevens, who revealed he was asked to sing “Merry Christmas Everyone” by the couple.
Kate and William arrived in Edinburgh Monday morning, where they were greeted by a piper playing Christmas songs. Their first engagement was at the Scottish Ambulance Service in Newbridge, which provides an emergency ambulance service to over 5 million people. The Duke and Duchess thanked staff for their efforts during the pandemic before crossing the border to Berwick, where they met with primary school children wearing reindeer headdresses and saw real reindeer.
The Cambridges, known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn in Scotland, were both in face masks and high spirits at the Holy Trinity First School in Berwick Upon Tweed. Kate, dressed in a blue Catherine Walker coat, and William got to meet three reindeer named Chaz, Crackers, and Echols. The reindeers had been brought there by staff at Kensington Palace as a surprise for the school children.
The itinerary for the three day tour is being kept under wraps so as not to attract crowds, and the Cambridges will end the trip in Windsor, where they will be reunited with the Queen and other senior members of the royal family for a historic photo call.
Kate and William were said to be thrilled to have the chance to carry out the feel-good festive tour and were granted the Queen’s permission to use the train, the most expensive form of royal travel, in order to carry out the country-wide program. It is the first tour the couple have carried out since the start of the pandemic in the spring. They will travel 1250 miles around the country to meet frontline workers, volunteers, care home staff, teachers, school children and young people to hear about their experiences and the work they have done over the past nine months.
Aides have said that the couple’s visit will focus on the UK’s arts, heritage and live performance sector, which has been supported throughout the pandemic by the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The goal is “to celebrate community spirit and demonstrate the impact of the public’s generosity this year by showcasing organizations and initiatives that have been supported by community relief funds including the NHS Charities Together,” a palace aide said.
The Cambridges were chosen by the Queen to be front line workers when the country went into its first lockdown during the spring. At the time Prince Charles had been diagnosed with Covid, with William also catching the virus just weeks later. Neither royal suffered severe symptoms and continued working throughout the pandemic, carrying out video calls and virtual openings of the Nightingale Hospitals built to take care of Covid patients.
While William and Kate have been among the most high-profile working royals during the pandemic, they have been keen to get back to traditional royal duties and are understood to have come up with the idea for the mini tour with their team of staff.
A spokesperson for Kensington Palace said, “The Duke and Duchess are very much looking forward to shining a spotlight on the incredible work that has been done across the country throughout this difficult year and to sharing their gratitude on behalf of the nation for all those supporting their local communities ahead of the Christmas holidays.”
Travelling by royal train, where the couple will be sleeping in single beds in separate rooms, is a rare honor. The distinctive burgundy-liveried nine carriage train is rarely used because of the cost of running it. Queen Victoria was the first reigning monarch to use the train in 1842 when she travelled from Slough to London Paddington. The Queen last used the royal train to carry out a visit to Chester in 2018 with Meghan Markle.
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