Royals

Middletons in Mustique

While you are reading this, the Duchess of Cambridge and her family – possibly accompanied by Prince William – are sunning themselves on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique, swapping a cold winter in the UK for a cold drink in the tropics.

It would have been a secret if photographer Chandni Tanna hadn’t spotted them boarding a plane at London’s Gatwick Airport. He put the sighting up on his blog, prompting a rush of interest from international media – exactly what the family wanted to avoid.

“The trip had been planned for months,” says a family friend. “Carole and Michael wanted a family holiday, largely to give their other children, Pippa and James, a few days out the limelight. The only way they could do that and have Kate along was to be completely hush hush.”

The secrecy is part of the Middletons’ getting to grips with their new status, says the Queen’s former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter. “A couple of years ago, they were just a regular family. Then Kate met a prince, Pippa wore that dress and the Middletons – all of them – are now neo-royalty.”

“Carole and Michael had not expected Pippa and James to suffer so much intrusion – to the extent Pippa is contemplating getting a banning order on the paparazzi,” adds the friend. “They worry they’re paying a high price for having the future Queen as a sister.”

They might have got away with it but for one thing – security. The family hired Aurora villa, which usually costs $29,000 a week. They know it well, as they often holiday on the island. The villa is entirely private and they could have stayed there for the 10-day break without being spotted.

But the zealousness of royal bodyguards, who recced the island before the trip, and the Mustique Company, which owns the island, put paid to that. Not content with the firm’s standard ban on paparazzi, security insisted on a lockdown, which hasn’t gone down well with locals or other tourists

“We have been told if we want to eat at an island hotel, we have to travel in the hotel’s car. Mules [a fleet of golf carts – the normal way of getting around] have been banned,” says one visitor. “Friends of mine have even been questioned on the beach.”

“This isn’t exactly the way one expects to be treated when you pay to visit the most exclusive island in the Caribbean,” adds a local millionaire.

The Mustique Company is footing the bill for the extra security, but the British taxpayer is coughing up for Kate’s two bodyguards and the royal security’s cost has created an itch many Brits are aching to scratch.

By coincidence, Princess Eugenie is also enjoying Mustique, along with boyfriend Jack Brooksbank and a royal protection officer – prompting an outraged headline in Britain’s biggest tabloid.

Dai Davies, the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s royal protection squad, speaks for many when he says, “This is likely to cost many, many hundreds a day. You have to question if it’s a sensible use of taxpayers’ money.”

Prince Charles has queried the need for this protection.

“He wants to see a slimmed-down royal family, with no role for Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. That means no bodyguards,” says a courtier. But Prince Andrew put his foot down and his children retain their protection, at an estimated cost of $965,000 a year.

How long that will continue is another matter. Last year, protection for the Wessexes was withdrawn and Princess Anne’s children, Zara and Peter Phillips, have never had it.

“In the long run, Charles will win. There will be a smaller royal family, so Eugenie and Beatrice will be on their own. The gripes about paying for protection will fade,” says one royal watcher.

“But they could be replaced by a renewed focus on royal spending. A lot was made of Wills and Kate not having a skiing holiday this year because of the economic climate, but Kate’s now at one of the most expensive holiday destinations in the world and earlier this month Wills and Harry were off hunting in Spain. That jars.”

Critics can comfort themselves with two facts. First, the Duchess of York is unlikely to leave the UK after Turkey issued an arrest warrant for her over illicit filming in an orphanage. Second, when William leaves tropical Mustique, he goes to the Falklands, where the temperature drops to just 6°C at this time of year.

Tony Powell

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