Prince Harry has arrived in Brazil after charming Belize, the Bahamas and Jamaica. His informal approach to the royal tour endeared him to audiences throughout the Caribbean. In Jamaica, he diffused a potentially awkward meeting with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who favours cutting ties between Jamaica and the Constitutional Monarchy, by giving her a hug and declaring her his “date for the evening.” Despite concerns that the visit to Brazil would be disrupted by protesters objecting to the United Kingdom’s claim on the Falkland islands, Harry successfully promoted Anglo-Brazilian trade, joking “Please, please – if we show you how to play rugby – don’t do what you’ve done with football, and leave us wishing we hadn’t!”
Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, the Duchess of Cambridge accompanied her grandparents-in-law Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to Leicester, the first stop on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom. The royal party received an enormous welcome with thousands of people gathered around Leicester cathedral, De Montfort University and the Clock Tower. The Duchess’s presence demonstrates how completely she has been integrated into the royal family since her wedding last year. Prince William is currently stationed in the Falkland Islands but the Duchess continues to undertake royal duties in his absence with the support of his grandparents.
Prince Harry’s tour of the Caribbean and the Duchess of Cambridge’s involvement in the Diamond Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom should be seen as a kind of apprenticeship in the life of public service expected of a working member of the British royal family. Both Harry and Catherine have been learning from more experienced members of the royal family. Harry has been in constant contact with his brother, Prince William, who completed a successful tour of Canada with the Duchess of Cambridge last year. Catherine is learning from the Queen’s lifetime of experience undertaking public engagements. This support for younger members of the royal family reflects the values of Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary, who firmly believed in mentoring new generations of princes and princesses.
Following her marriage to the future King George V, in 1892, Mary of Teck had a difficult introduction to life as a senior member of the royal family. Although her grandmother-in-law, Queen Victoria thought highly of her, she had a difficult relationship with George’s mother, the future Queen Alexandra, and sisters Louise, Victoria and Maud as they viewed her as a poor relation and thought little of her intellectual interests. Mary also had to overcome her own natural reserve for a life in the public eye, eventually receiving acclaim on royal tours such as the 1901 commonwealth visits to Australia and Canada.
As a result of her difficult introduction to royal life, she was determined to help future generations of the royal family adapt to their duties. When a younger relative complained of being tired from visiting a large number of military hospitals during the First World War, Mary stated, “You are a member of the Royal Family. We are never tired and we love hospitals.” Mary took a close interest in her granddaughters, the future Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. She insisted that the their education include extensive knowledge of the United Kingdom’s history and government, taking them on frequent educational trips to museums and other historic sites.
In recent decades, Queen Mary’s belief that older members of the royal family should mentor younger ones appeared to be less prevalent. Both Prince Charles and Princess Anne expressed their discomfort with public engagements before eventually becoming among the most active members of the royal family. In the 1990s, both Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York discussed their feelings of isolation within the royal family as a cause of the breakdown of their marriages. Catherine’s travels with her grandparents-in-law and Harry’s consultations with his brother demonstrate that Queen Mary’s ideal of apprenticeship for young royals has been revived. Both Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge are receiving plenty of support from more experienced members of the royal family for a long career of public engagements.