Kate Middleton and Prince William's Train Tour Has Sparked More Controversy

Kate Middleton and Prince William have come under further criticism for the royal train tour they undertook in December amid travel restrictions across the UK.

the duke and duchess of cambridge visit communities across the uk
(Image credit: WPA Pool)

In December, Kate Middleton and Prince William took a three-day tour of England, Scotland and Wales aboard the royal train, in order to thank those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour sparked controversy at the time, with both Scottish and Welsh politicians questioning its necessity as lockdown measures restricted travel across the UK. Royal sources said at the time that the tour was a work trip and therefore fully legal, adding that it was planned in consultation with the British, Scottish, and Welsh governments.

A new report by Scottish newspaper The National, however, reveals that Scottish government officials repeatedly emailed aides for the Cambridges, advising that the tour might have to be called off. Reporters for The National accessed the emails after submitting a freedom of information request, as Harper's Bazaar reports.

On November 12, John Somers, private secretary to Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, emailed aides for William and Kate about their plans. "You’ll know that we are currently asking people living in Scotland to avoid unnecessary travel from local authority to local authority and to keep journeys within the area they live to an absolute minimum," Somers wrote.

"From a personal point of view I think the [train tour] is one which would mean a lot to many people living throughout the country. My anxiety though is the practical aspects of it and how presentationally it may be difficult if travel restrictions are in place," Somers continued. "I think my view is that at the moment the chances of the tour having to be postponed are potentially quite high."

In a subsequent email on November 19, Scotland's head of cabinet, parliament, and governance James Hynd emailed the Cambridges' aides. "The Scottish Government is likely to bring forward statutory restrictions on non-essential travel both within Scotland and also into and out of Scotland,” Hynd wrote. "These rules will come into force from 6pm tomorrow. They will have no set termination point but will be reviewed regularly. This is obviously likely to have a major impact on the plans you are working on I am afraid."

Speaking to the National about the emails, Scottish member of parliament Deidre Brock condemned the Cambridges, noting, "People are having to stay in their houses, we can’t meet family or friends, we can’t pay proper respects at funerals, we can’t even hug our loved ones when they’re going through hard times."

"I would have hoped that the Royal Family would have had enough empathy to respect what people are going through rather than looking for publicity," Brock continued. "The Scottish Government pointed out the travel ban twice and the Welsh Government made clear it wasn’t happy. This 'work trip' wasn’t essential work, it wasn’t for any of the exemptions laid out in the rules and the guidance."

A spokesperson for Kate and William responded to the criticism in a statement to Harper's Bazaar, reiterating their previous comments about the legality of the tour. "The same guidance we gave last month [before the tour] still stands," the spokesperson said. "The Duke and Duchess were travelling for work purposes and all rules were fully adhered to. The trip was planned in consultation with the U.K., Scottish and Welsh governments."

Emily Dixon
Morning Editor

Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.