‘Never complain, never explain’... but never again will Prince William use family mantra

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
The Duchess and Duke of Cambridge - Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
The Duchess and Duke of Cambridge - Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The Duke of Cambridge’s unprecedented statement about the future of the Commonwealth reflects his belief that the Royal family’s “never complain, never explain” mantra is outdated, aides have revealed.

The Duke acknowledged that he may not succeed the Queen and the Prince of Wales as head of the Commonwealth, vowing not to “tell people what to do” as he reacted to criticism about his eight-day Caribbean tour.

The Duke admitted that the tour of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas had “brought into even sharper focus” questions about the past and the future.

Sources said the Duke had done “a lot of thinking” about what kind of king he wanted to be, when the time comes, and how certain protocols and strategy would need to evolve.

While he understands that the Royal family’s long-held mantra of “never complain, never explain” had proved effective for decades, the world has changed and so the monarchy must change with it.

The Duke is also keen to have his own voice. Although he quoted his father in a speech acknowledging the atrocities of slavery in Jamaica last Wednesday, he was equally insistent that he included his own words, expressing his “profound sorrow”.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters

The Duke and Duchess’s Kensington Palace team sat down for a briefing on Thursday, in the Bahamas, to thrash out how to react to claims that the tour was “tone deaf” and “out of touch”.

It followed a slew of protests about slavery, demands for reparations and a personal apology from the pair.

Photographs of the couple greeting children in Trench Town, Jamaica, through a wire fence, and standing atop the Queen’s ceremonial Land Rover were widely criticised for their “colonial” overtones.

The Duke had always intended to address the issue of republicanism during the tour, but had been unsure how to do so, deciding to listen to what people were saying on the ground and gauge reaction before making a decision.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - Jane Barlow/PA Wire
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Although he does not monitor reaction on social media, he was broadly aware of the tone of the coverage.

Suggestions that he was angry about the way the tour was playing out are understood to be wide of the mark. However, the Duke was keen to change the narrative, to ensure people knew that he was aware of the issues and was thinking deeply about them.

He spent much of Friday, during which both he and the Duchess watched a traditional Junkanoo street parade in torrential rain and took part in a sailing regatta in Nassau, mulling over the form of words he would use that evening.

The last-minute change saw him acknowledge that relationships with Commonwealth countries would “evolve”, but that their strong ties would remain.

The Duchess and Duke of Cambridge - Jane Barlow/PA Wire
The Duchess and Duke of Cambridge - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

He said: “And with Jamaica celebrating 60 years of independence this year, and Belize celebrating 40 years of independence last year, I want to say this: we support with pride and respect your decisions about your future. Relationships evolve. Friendship endures.”

The Duke is keen to make clear he is there to “listen and learn” and is not afraid of confronting contentious issues when necessary.

He is acutely aware, one source close to him said, that the future of the Commonwealth will be something that he will be dealing with for decades to come.

The statement released on Saturday night, as well as the lines added to his speech, represent the first concession that the “family of nations”, of which the Queen is so proud, will not exist in its current form in the longer term.

The Queen is likely to have signed off on the statement, and she is expected to meet the Duke this week to discuss the trip.

He is thought likely to travel to Windsor Castle for a debrief with his grandmother, who has been paying careful attention to the tour.

Many of their visits were inspired by the monarch’s own, hugely successful, tours of the Caribbean and they are said to have discussed their itinerary with her before leaving.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh - UPI
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh - UPI

The Duke chats regularly with his grandmother about all issues concerning his royal duties and hopes for the future.

There will be further briefings next week as Kensington Palace courtiers sit down to assess the highs and lows of the tour.

The way the Cambridges decide to move forward will be pivotal, not least at a time when the Queen’s health is increasingly frail.

The Duke and Duchess will attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, which the Queen is hoping to attend.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are due to travel to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Rwanda in June, which is followed in July by the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.