*Exclusive* Royal Expert Victoria Arbiter Clears Up Royal Family Rumors
In celebration of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first wedding anniversary, we called upon Arbiter to clear up those pesky pregnancy rumors, how Will and Kate may plan to spend the special day, and where exactly Prince Harry will live in Kensington Palace (not in his brother and sister-in-law’s apartment).
After kibitzing about the year that has just passed (while she covered the events of April 29th from London, I awoke at 4am ET to watch and weep in my parents’ basement), we got down to business.
KL: Will there be anything special to mark Kate and William’s one year anniversary in London?
VA: No, I think knowing those two, it’s going to be one of those occasions where they’re not spotted anywhere. Very quiet, very low-key. They will be at three engagements leading up to April 29th, so I’m sure people will give them flowers and congratulate them. But I would imagine that they’ll just spend the actual day privately. I don’t know if William’s on duty yet; We haven’t been told whether or not he’s working that weekend. Hopefully he’s got that Sunday off, but I think they’ll probably just stay at home and take the dog for a walk and just enjoy the day privately, whereas last year they were sharing it with 2 billion people. This year it’ll be just the two and a half of them.
SL: What makes this particular documentary unique from the many others that will air?
VA: What’s quite nice about the ITV one is that though it wasn’t done alongside Clarence House, the producers were given permission to talk to all the wedding vendors-the photographer from the day, the florist, the cake maker, the bridesmaid dress designer. It’s being done with as much of a royal seal of approval as can be while not being officially confirmed by the palace.
SL: How do you determine which special(s) you want to contribute to?
VA: Who’s producing it normally gives you a really good indication of the type of program it’s going to be. I also ask who else they’re talking to. What I quite like about ITV’s approach is that initially they thought that they needed to present both sides. So they were thinking they needed to do the Republican side as well and the people who don’t really care about Will and Kate one year on. I love that they finally figured anyone watching this [special] is a Will and Kate fan and loved the wedding and is really looking forward to a retrospective.
The whole hour is just “Ra ra! William and Kate,” which I think is nice, but the sources they’ve spoken to are also going to present a balanced side. It’s not just going to be a nauseating “We love them! We love them!” because you need to get something else across. What I like about these producers in particular is that they were so enthusiastic and raring to go and very well-prepared, but they didn’t know everything. They asked really great questions and I think they’re going to offer a really nice insight. I get irritated when I’m doing a taped piece vs. live, with how it can be edited. A few things that I’ve done recently were edited in such a way where they’ve put two soundbites together so it looks like you’re saying one thing, but actually that’s not what you said at all. And so, oftentimes what happens with sentiment towards the royals is that “Oh, it’s just fluffy, it’s just nonsense. Who cares?” When my point of view is that it’s so significant and the historic significance behind the queen and sixty years on the throne is tremendous, and so I wish people would dig a bit deeper sometimes.
For example, this whole Harry and Mollie [King] story – yes, it sells magazines – but it’s just daft. Five minutes ago it was “Harry and Chelsy are back together!” and before that it was “Harry and the lingerie model” and “Harry’s married to his career!” I don’t think any of this is happening. He’s a flirt, so that easily gets misconstrued because it’s fun to talk about Harry.
KL: Like when the Daily Mail got all hot and bothered over Mollie wearing a royal blue blouse and red jeans.
VA: Yeah, didn’t they saying “Oh, she’s got the royal insight?” Everybody’s wearing colored jeans at the moment, and it probably just happened to look nice. It’s funny that people stateside may think, “Well, it’s the Daily Mail, it is a British publication.” The American view of things vs the British view of things (and I mean no disrespect. I love how excited the Americans get) is a totally different approach. There was something recently – I can’t remember which network broadcast it – but it was “Royal baby fever is taking over Britain!” It is not even close. No one’s talking about it over in the UK. Nobody’s interested. When Kate announces it, they’ll be happy for her, but nobody’s going to give it a second thought until the day she delivers the baby.
KL: I remember you telling me that only when Clarence House declares that Kate is pregnant is when it’s official. No one else.
VA: Exactly, exactly. And again, I think what happens is that people get so caught up in saying it because at some point, they’re going to be right and then it’s going to look like theygot the scoop. I want to say to them, “No. That was just good timing! You didn’t get the scoop.”
KL: Reports are stating that Kate doesn’t want to take away from Her Majesty’s Jubilee by announcing her pregnancy. Do you think that she and William take into consideration the Queen’s upcoming celebration?
VA: Absolutely. That would have been their #1 concern. It’s sounds awfully clinical, but the royals plan. They [Will and Kate] were together a long time [prior to getting married], which is why I think everyone was expecting them to get started on a family pretty quickly.
Both William and Charles were born within a year of their parents marriage, plus Will and Kate have been together a long time, and age becomes a factor. She’s only 30, but if you want a big family, then you have to start figuring, “Ok, well if I’m going to have a year or two years in between…”. I think there was definitely a sense that they wanted to have a year or two years just as a married couple first, but the absolute concrete decision would have based on the fact that it is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year. She is the focus, she is the center of everyone’s attention, and they are well aware. The hoopla surrounding a pregnancy announcement would have completely overshadowed that.
KL: And all of the planning that went into planning this momentous occasion would have been moot.
VA: Exactly. And William adores his grandmother. They have a very close relationship. Though he can be quite stubborn, William wants to make sure that the focus is in the right place. It’s unlikely that during any of our lifetime, we will ever see a monarch on the throne this long.
KL: Speaking of Her Majesty’s 60 years as the sovereign, the Prince of Wales is the oldest heir to the throne in history, isn’t he?
VA: Yes. And if something catastrophic were to happen where both Charles and the Queen died within a couple of years of each other, William would still be in his 30s, whereas the Queen was much younger (when she ascended the throne).
Also, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge knew they would have Jubilee duties, and there’s no way Kate’s ever going to want to be photographed on royal tour hugely pregnant. Also take into consideration her comfort, her health, her tiredness. She doesn’t want to be traipsing round Tuvalu seven months pregnant. These were divied out for a reason, so there were a lot of factors, but those were probably the primary ones.
Next year there are no significant events on the royal calendar, though Charles is turning 65. It will just be the normal happenings that they’ll [the royals] roll out for. It’s not anyone’s major birthday, major wedding anniversary, or major anniversary of any kind, really.
KL: In June, when the celebrations take place in London, are William and Kate going to retrace their wedding route?
VA: I think they’ll take buses to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and then after the church service they’ve got cocktails and a lunch reception at Mansion House. It’ll just be the immediate royal family who will then travel back by carriage from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately it’s not everybody. So far it looks like it’s just the Queen, Prince Philip, Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry, which I’m a little bit disappointed about. I kind of wish it was the whole shabang.
KL: Why not the Queen’s other children? Why not Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward?
VA: That’s a very good question. I honestly don’t know because they’ve [the palace] got enough carriages. I was over in London for the Golden Jubilee [in 2002], and everybody was in carriages that day. So, I’m not sure. On the one hand I thought, “Is it cost-saving?” but that seems daft. I’m hoping that it’s just an initial decision, and now they’re just trying to figure out everybody else, because I think the public would like to see everybody. They’ll all be on the balcony, though.
KL: I read that when Charles ascends the throne, he and his courtiers are trying to trim the number of working royals.
VA: There has been a lot of talk of that, though nothing official being announced. I think Charles is eager to make a lasting mark somehow. He’s going to need to be a little careful, though. You don’t want to go in and change everything and start giving off the vibe that you’re too big for your crown, so to speak.
Prince Andrew’s quite British in the fact that he really wants daughters Eugenie and Beatrice to have a role in the family. I guess when you look forward, you think to yourself, “Does that mean Harry’s kids won’t be significant one day?” I don’t know, because Harry will technically hold the same position as Andrew does now.
I don’t think Charles is going to change anything too dramatically. It would be a mistake if he did. I do think he’s keen to show the British public that he is aware of how much it costs to run this machine, but he’s also aware of what royal patronage can do for a charity. I think it’ll be one of those things where he’ll look at the numbers and say “Ok, if Beatrice were to be a patron of this charity and this charity, will it make a significant difference? Is she a big enough draw?” Edward and Sophie (Countess of Wessex) work their tails off, but they never get any credit for it, as does Princess Anne. There are a lot of charities that would suffer greatly if the royals were trimmed down too dramatically, because these organizations count on royal patronage.
KL: When the Queen Mother died in 2002, she left a ton of charities without a royal patron.
VA: Exactly, and the same happened when Diana gave up a load of charities. She decided to trim back and focus on a few, which I imagine would have hurt tremendously, but she didn’t want to do it maliciously. Look at William and Kate (of course they’re top tier): They raised $1 million for Unicef in a 24-hour period. That’s huge.
Aside from the financial side, there’s something very charming and very endearing about a royal showing up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Queen or Sophie. It’s special. There isn’t really anything like that here in America. Celebrities will sometimes go and do a secret visit, and it’s lovely, but it’s not the same.
KL: I need your help on clarifying Harry’s move to Kensington Palace. People think he’s shacking up with Will and Kate. What they don’t know is that KP is a huge complex.
VA: He’s moving into an apartment at Kensington palace, but not in with William and Kate. That just makes good headlines. Because so much of news has gone online, every outlet is thinking “What’s going to make someone click on this story?” And so something like that is going to draw someone in.
Kensington Palace is interesting. There are aerial pictures of it in various newspapers, so you can see it’s not one massive building like, say, Hampton Court. Buckingham Palace is built in a quad, and there are various apartments that are broken up within belonging to different people. I think Prince Andrew still has rooms there, as does Edward. Kensington Palace is broken up into lots of individual apartments, as well as offices and a museum. Harry’s just got what I believe are former staff quarters. He will eventually take over the cottage that William and Kate are in right now when they move into Princess Margaret’s former place.
KL: That cottage is a two bedroom, right?
VA: Yes, and it’s basic, but nice. Obviously the cottage needed a bit of rewiring, etc because it’s old, so Will and Kate are hoping to move to the larger abode next year, which is also why baby timing works out.
KL: Why did Harry move out of Clarence House?
VA: Harry is 27 now and he’s got a successful miltary career and didn’t really want to live in the same home as his father. However, I think they both [William and Harry] needed time before moving back to their childhood home. It would have been quite heartbreaking the first time, I’m sure, that they went back to Kensington Palace. That’s where they lived with their mother. There’s a lot of happy memories there.
There’s a long driveway that goes up to the security gates, and they would have driven up a bazillion times with their mother. I’m sure the first time that they did that would have been incredibly difficult. With that said, there’s some comfort in going home, I suppose.
What’s lovely about Kensington Palace is that you’re right next to Hyde park, and it’s easily accessible to everything (the high street is a five-minute walk from the palace). It’s kind of like a mini-suburbia in London. It’s got all the shops that you would want, but it’s quieter and feels more residential.
Clarence House is right in the center of town and it’s down the road from Buckingham Palace. There, it’s hard just just leave home and walk for a bit because there are a millions tourists, whereas from Kensington, you can fly under the radar.
KL: So oftentimes you don’t really even know that you’re in the city?
VA: Exactly, that’s what’s so nice. Plus it’s located in West London, so it’s a really quick drive to Heathrow. It’s close enough to Buckingham Palace, so you’re on hand for official duties. It’s about the most ideal place in terms of feeling “homey. ” Clarence House and St. James Palace are a lot older. They’re a lot stuffier, I suppose, and feel a lot more formal, whereas Kensington Palace suits the young royals’ more relaxed nature.
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