The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s decision to tour the UK despite coronavirus restrictions was further questioned today when Downing Street repeatedly refused to endorse the trip.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked five times whether he believed the three day rail journey was necessary or Covid-compliant.
Each time, he simply replied that it was a matter for the palace, elaborating only to highlight the current guidelines by which the public had been asked to abide.
Downing Street later appeared to backtrack, only adding to the confusion, insisting that Boris Johnson welcomed the morale boost the royal would provide.
A No 10 spokesman swiftly added: The PM is delighted to see the warm reception the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have received on their hugely valuable train tour of England, Scotland and Wales.
The tour will be a welcome morale boost to frontline workers who have done so much during the pandemic. The lack of an immediate ringing endorsement came after Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, admitted he would prefer it if no-one was having unnecessary visits.
Nicola Sturgeon had also appeared less than impressed that the royal train had ventured over the Scottish border on Monday.
When asked directly whether the trip had been in breach of her cross-border travel ban, she failed to endorse the trip, saying only that her Government had made sure that the Royal household were aware, as you would expect, of the restrictions in place in Scotland so that could inform both the decision and the planning of the visit.
But if the Cambridges were aware of any political debate they certainly did not show it, throwing themselves into the final leg of the tour in Cardiff, where they roasted marshmallows and took part in a Secret Santa with students before heading to a care home in Bath.
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, welcomed the visit to Cardiff, saying it was wonderful news that they had been to see the impact of the pandemic on local communities.
Throughout the pandemic, organisations across the country have stepped up to support those in need and our choirs, bands, actors, film-makers, museums and the technical crews that support them are no different, he said.
Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, also backed the trip, saying: Wales’s cultural sector is one of our greatest assets, so it was great to see their Royal Highnesses in Cardiff experiencing some of the rich talent we continue to produce.
Kensington Palace sources have insisted the tour, designed to pay tribute to those who have gone above and beyond this year, was organised with co-operation from the Government, high lighting that it was a working visit.
The Cambridges kicked off the final day of the trip at Cardiff Castle, where they listened to a samba band, met university students and heard about the mental health challenges they faced during the pandemic.
They browsed some of the Christmas stalls and toasted large marshmallows over a fire. Touching one of the sticky sweet treats with her gloved hand, the Duchess, dressed in a red Alexander McQueen coat, got the giggles and said: I’m going to have that marshmallow on my fingers all day.
The Cambridges were joining students from Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales as they unwrapped their Secret Santa gifts to one another. The visit coincided with Christmas at the Castle a festival of Christmas activities staged at the tourist attraction throughout December.
Kensington Palace sources insisted the tour, designed to pay tribute to those who have gone above and beyond this year, was organised with co-operation from the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments, highlighting that it was a working visit.
The whole premise of the tour is to acknowledge the sacrifices made by so many this year and to thank people, one source said. They are working, and travelling across the border is permitted for work purposes.
Royal sources have also insisted that it was essential work that could not be undertaken via Zoom. The Cambridges admitted that they were still struggling over their plans for Christmas. The couple told students in Cardiff that they did not know who to spend the festive season with.