Boris Johnson backtracks to give support to 'morale boosting' royal tour

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: Prince William and Kate visit students at Cardiff Castle

The Prime Minister’s office has backtracked after appearing to distance itself from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s royal train tour as the couple travel around the country thanking key workers and meeting people impacted by the pandemic.

Prince William and Kate are on the third day of their whistle-stop tour, which has seen them cross the borders into Scotland and Wales as they met people involved in the response to the coronavirus situation.

Having suggested the trip was a “matter for the palace”, Boris Johnson has now welcomed the “morale boost” of the three-day tour.

A No 10 spokesman said: “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.”

They faced a less than warm welcome by the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, while Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething suggested he would have preferred if they hadn’t been visiting Cardiff.

Asked about whether Boris Johnson shared the concerns about the travel William and Kate, both 38, had undertaken, the Prime Minister’s spokesman earlier said: “That is obviously a matter for the palace and I would point you towards them.

“But we set out clearly the tiers and the advice around the current guidelines that we are asking the public to abide by.”

CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 08: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit Cardiff Castle to meet local university students and hear about some of the challenges they have experienced during the pandemic, with a particular focus on mental health on December 08, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. The Duke and Duchess are undertaking a short tour of the UK ahead of the Christmas holidays to pay tribute to the inspiring work of individuals, organizations and initiatives across the country that have gone above and beyond to support their local communities this year. (Photo by Jonathan Buckmaster - Pool / Getty Images)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Cardiff Castle to meet local university students. (Jonathan Buckmaster - Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at 10 Downing Street after chairing the cabinet meeting in London, United Kingdom on December 8, 2020. (Photo by Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's office appeared to put distance between him and the royal couple's tour. (Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency)

Read more: Prince William admits he and Kate are struggling to make Christmas plans

Asked about whether the couple had complied with the rules during the trip, the spokesman said: “I’m making the general point that we have set out the regionalised tier system that is now in place and the guidance that we are asking people to abide by.”

Royal sources had previously said the trip was planned with the cooperation of all devolved nations and their governments.

Sources have also pointed out the couple is working and therefore able to travel within the current guidelines.

The couple has been seen in face coverings at various points on the tour, though haven’t worn them at some of the outdoor venues.

Prince William caught coronavirus in the Spring, but the news of his diagnosis remained secret for several months.

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (R), and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (L) smile during a visit to Cardiff Castle in Cardiff in south Wales on December 8, 2020, on the final day of engagements on their tour of the UK. - During their trip, their Royal Highnesses hope to pay tribute to individuals, organisations and initiatives across the country that have gone above and beyond to support their local communities this year. (Photo by Jonathan Buckmaster / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN BUCKMASTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
William and Kate took a three day tour around the UK to meet key workers. (Jonathan Buckmaster/AFP)

Gething, the Welsh health minister, said on Tuesday morning as the couple arrived in Cardiff, that he did not want the trip to be seen as an excuse by others not to follow the rules.

He told BBC Radio 4: “I’d rather that no-one was having unnecessary visits, and people always have divisive views about the monarchy, but their visit isn’t an excuse for people to say that they are confused about what they are being asked to do.

“I’m not particularly bothered or interested because I don’t think that is going to be an excuse for people to say: ‘I should go and behave in a different way and I should act as if the harm that is being seen in front of us in every part of our healthcare system is not taking place’.”

And Sturgeon said the trip had gone ahead despite the palace being informed of various travel restrictions.

CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 08: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge toast marshmallows during a visit to Cardiff Castle to meet local university students and hear about some of the challenges they have experienced during the pandemic, with a particular focus on mental health on December 08, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. The Duke and Duchess are undertaking a short tour of the UK ahead of the Christmas holidays to pay tribute to the inspiring work of individuals, organizations and initiatives across the country that have gone above and beyond to support their local communities this year. (Photo by Jonathan Buckmaster - Pool / Getty Images)
The couple toasted marshmallows during a visit to Cardiff Castle to meet local university students. (Jonathan Buckmaster - Pool / Getty Images)

She said: “The royal visit is a matter for the royal household and the arrangements around it, and any questions about those arrangements, should be directed to the royal household.

“The Scottish Government was advised about the intention to visit, and we made sure that the royal household were aware, as you would expect, of all of the restrictions in place in Scotland, so that could inform both the decision and the planning of the visit.

“But I think any questions about that should be directed to the royal household.”

The comment from Number 10 comes soon after two government ministers voiced their support for the trip.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said it was “wonderful” that they were in Wales, while the Welsh secretary Simon Hart said it was “great” to see the couple in the capital city of Cardiff.

READING, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 08: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge meet NHS staff at Royal Berkshire Hospital on December 8, 2020 in Reading, England. The royal couple paid tribute to the efforts of staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, during the final day of engagements on their tour of the UK. During their trip, their Royal Highnesses have paid tribute to individuals, organisations and initiatives across the country that have gone above and beyond to support their local communities this year. (Photo by Matthew Childs - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
William and Kate meet NHS staff at Royal Berkshire Hospital, where the duchess was born. (Matthew Childs - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
READING, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 08: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge meet NHS staff at Royal Berkshire Hospital on December 8, 2020 in Reading, England. The royal couple paid tribute to the efforts of staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, during the final day of engagements on their tour of the UK. During their trip, their Royal Highnesses have paid tribute to individuals, organisations and initiatives across the country that have gone above and beyond to support their local communities this year. (Photo by Matthew Childs - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The royal couple paid tribute to the efforts of staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. (Matthew Childs - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
BATH, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 08: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on a visit Cleve Court Care Home on December 8, 2020 in Bath, England. The royal couple paid tribute to the efforts of care home staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, during the final day of engagements on their tour of the UK. During their trip, their Royal Highnesses have paid tribute to individuals, organisations and initiatives across the country that have gone above and beyond to support their local communities this year. (Photo by Paul Grover - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
William and Kate also visited Cleve Court Care Home in Bath. (Paul Grover - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to Bath and then Berkshire after their trip to Wales on Tuesday.

Their tour included a visit to the Royal Berkshire Hospital where the duchess was born.

Graham Sims, chairman of Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, told her: “Welcome back.”

They met some of the staff at the hospital and enjoyed music from steel drum players.

William and Kate were shown a badge designed by lead nurse Rafael Fernandes and funded by NHS Charities Together to mark the year of the Nurse and Midwife in 2020. William and Kate were announced as joint patrons of NHS Charities Together on Monday.

The couple also went to Cleeve Court Care Home in Twerton, Bath, where they met some of the residents and the carers.

The visit took place outside but the couple waved to some of those who stayed inside.

The tour will finish later on Tuesday.