Today’s columnist, James Taylor: Working through problems

James Taylor
James Taylor
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The Duke of Cambridge has made the headlines recently – not for what he has been doing but for what he has not been doing.

The amount of time he spends working as a pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance has led to a backlash about the number of royal engagements he has been able to care out.

Much has been made of the fact that his grandfather, the 94-year-old Duke of Edinburgh carried out more engagements last year than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry combined.

Members of the Royal Family are in a difficult position when it comes to work outside the royal round.

If they don’t work, they are accused of living off the taxpayer but as soon as they do they are accused of not fulfilling their duties.

Lessons do, though, seem to have been learned from the example of the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

When they married in 1999, the Royal Family was emerging from the dark days of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales less than two years previously.

Keen to modernise and seem more relevant, it was announced that the Earl would continue with his independent production company and the Countess with her public relations company while both would carry out a small portfolio of royal engagements on the side.

Ultimately this failed. The Earl of Wessex specialised in making royal and historical documentaries leaving himself open to accusations of unfair advantage and access – whether this was true or not.

The Countess of Wessex was caught in a sting by the News of the World’s undercover reporter the ‘Fake Sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood.

Although she wasn’t found to be selling access to members of the Royal Family, the damage was done when she made indiscreet remarks about her in-laws and other public figures.

In 2002 it was announced that the Wessexes would give up their business interests in favour of supporting the Queen.

The fact that the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry are working in the public sector means they have avoided accusations of profiteering.

However, their work tends to be done discreetly to allow them to carry it out with the minimum of fuss but when people are unable to see it, they naturally forget. This can lead to accusations that they are doing very little.

Of course, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are now working parents with a young family.

Eyebrows were raised when the Duke eschewed a BAFTA event in favour of spending the evening at home with his children.

On this subject, I think the last word belongs to the late Sir Angus Ogilvy, Princess Alexandra’s husband.

When his children were young, he and the Princess tried to spend as much time at home with them as possible but when he was told that attending an event would help 200 disabled children, he was heard to ask “who are more important, 200 disabled children or your own children?”

It’s a problem with which many working parents will sympathise.

* James Taylor, Royal Watcher