For weeks leading up to Dec. 25, London’s papers have reported every little detail—real or imagined—about Kate’s first Christmas as a member of the royal family. For one, she had to pack a lot of luggage while staying at the Queen’s huge private estate in Norfolk. Katie Nicholl of the Mail on Sunday said the duchess of Cambridge “will need a casual outfit for breakfast, a smart outfit and a hat for the morning church service, a dress for lunch, a cocktail dress for early evening drinks and a full-length dress for the evening meal.” Then there was the debate on whether or not she’d take part in the annual shooting parties that are prominent, must-attend features on the royal holiday schedule. (The jury’s still out on whether she handled a gun or not.) Apparently her sister Pippa—who’s very sporty when she’s not wearing derrière enhancing bridesmaids dresses—was invited to keep Kate from getting too homesick for her family’s usual Christmas traditions.
Yet, in the end, the pressure on the newest royal was lifted in part due to the oldest member of the family: Prince Philip. When he was rushed to hospital on Dec. 23 with a blocked coronary artery, the media immediately swung its focus to the ailing 90-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Peter Sissons, the former BBC anchorman, told the Telegraph that the news sent the network into a tizzy, dusting off obits and black mourning outfits as “those who were working over this year’s holiday period lived in fear that the Duke might pop off on their shift.” Sissons should know. He was lambasted for not wearing a black tie when he announced the Queen Mother’s death in 2002.
As for Philip, the irascible consort put up with four nights in a hospital bed before being allowed back to Sandringham and the familiar routines of royal life. And if Kate got a break from all the attention, she also got a lesson in one inescapable fact of being a member of the house of Windsor: They never retire, but just keep going–and going and going.