The PMO’s ill-advised invitation for Prince William and Kate

The government appears to have broken protocol in making the invitation public before it had been accepted. What if the royal couple doesn’t come?

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The Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge arrive to take part in Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, July 1, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Prince William; Kate

The public revelation that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invited Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, to visit Canada came days after the start of a year-long countdown to the nation’s 150th anniversary on July 1, 2017. The possibility of two extremely photogenic families, both with young children, at public events must have PR officials across the country salivating. Trudeau and his wife, Sophie, have three children, while William and Kate, who were last here in 2011, shortly after their wedding, have two.

The Globe and Mail got the scoop directly from Kate Purchase, the PM’s director of communications, who said, “The Prime Minister certainly has invited William and Kate and family to come to Canada whenever they are available on their schedule.”

Yet no one is ordering bunting, at least not yet. “It is a possibility, but again, we don’t have any confirmation,” she told the Globe. Though the Canadian government is awaiting a response to the official letter sent to Kensington Palace, home of the duke and duchess of Cambridge’s household, Purchase says a visit could happen within months, perhaps as early as this autumn. “From the Prime Minister’s perspective, we invited them whenever their schedules permitted it,” she said.

That a government official would comment on an invitation sent to members of the royal family requesting a visit is unusual, to say the least. Until dates are carved into stone, there is usually radio silence, as everyone is aware that anything can happen between the time of the invitation and acceptance or rejection. If William and Kate don’t come to Canada but instead travel elsewhere, that could be seen as a royal “diss” to Canada. One former insider familiar with the mechanics of royal visits in Canada calls the decision to go public without a confirmation “odd and ill-advised,” adding that, from a protocol point of view, it’s “not really good form to set up public expectations without advanced negotiations.”

Reportedly there has long been a plan for William and Kate to visit Canada in 2016, to help build excitement for the 2017 celebrations. But it was waiting for the new Liberal government to sign off on it. They aren’t expected to be here for the big party on July 1. That’s apparently pencilled into the diary of the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, who have visited three times since 2009.

If William and Kate do come to Canada, don’t get hopes up for a bonding experience between the royal children and their Trudeau counterparts. For one, Prince George is in nursery school, and they are hardly going to end their ultra-protective attitude toward their children by dragging a three-year-old on a high-profile visit, to say nothing of toddler Charlotte, who has only been seen in public three times (her birth, her christening and this year’s balcony appearance after Trooping the Colour.)

Indeed, the conservative couple is likely to play down any celebrity angle of the trip. The political fortunes of a charismatic PM can fall as quickly as they rise, and no royal wants to be too tightly linked to one politician, even Justin Trudeau.