Let's play a game. If you were rich, you know, private jet-flying, go-anywhere-in-the-world wealthy, where would you go for a holiday?
A secret, invite-only island in the Caribbean known only to Elon Musk and Beyonce? A luxurious Seychelles resort with hot and cold running pina coladas and a private reef? A lazy cruise around the Greek islands on a yacht so big it comes with its own vaccination clinic?
The answer, if you happen to be a member of the British royal family is, none of the above. Why soak up sunshine, guzzle rum and let the nanny worry about getting sand out of Prince George's training sceptre when you can spend weeks on end in rural Scotland?
Right now, the royal family is enjoying (though I'm not sure that's the right adjective) their annual getaway to Balmoral, the Queen's 50,000-acre estate in Aberdeenshire. (The Queen arrived late last month and her various relatives will come and go during the 12-weeks she will spend there.)
On the agenda, long brisk walks across moors, picnics where a prince of the realm is left to man the BBQ and hours on end spent standing in frigid streams desperately trying to catch salmon.
St Barts, this ain't.
For William and Kate, the Earl and Countess of Strathearn (as they are known when they are north of the border), their yearly pilgrimage to spend time with Gan Gan is an immutable fixture on their calendar, like the Chelsea Flower Show or Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall's festive Bollinger'n'Bangers night. (Okay, I'm just hoping that the last one is real.)
Without fail, the family of five makes the 900km trek from Kensington Palace to the vast, vast property in the Royal Deeside to enjoy some quality family time and the chance to get out their casual tartan.
However, this year, Kate's Scottish break is shaping up to be a pretty rotten one.
While fending off the midges and Princess Anne bearing down on one with a Monopoly set might sound like living hell to some people, for the house of Windsor, their Balmoral vacations are a chance to truly get away from it all and to reconnect with one another the best way they know how: shooting small birds. (Well, at least after the Glorious 12th, the date which marks the start of the grouse hunting season.)
Nothing says quality bonding time like a brace of Purdey shotguns and hours of testosterone-fuelled, feathered-carnage. (Look away PETA supporters, right now!)
And for the Cambridges, their Scottish sabbaticals don't just mean grey skies and game after game of charades but fitting themselves into the smallest house they own.
One of the lesser known facts about William is that when the Queen Mother died in 2002, she left him her house on the Balmoral estate, a place called Tam-Na-Ghar. The place is comparatively teeny to their Kensington Palace apartment (four storeys; 20 rooms) and their Norfolk bolthole, Anmer Hall (three storeys, 10 bedrooms and a tennis court).
By contrast, looking at photos of Tam-Na-Ghar it bears more of a resemblance to the sort of Airbnb a Hobbit enthusiast would rave about rather than a future king's holiday house, but still, they seem to like it. (I know – they are an odd bunch.)
But this year's Scottish jaunt will be unlike any other William and Kate have taken before. Cue some sombre organ music and maybe some thunderclap sound effects.
For one thing, it will be the first time the Windsors have gathered at their beloved private estate since Prince Philip died in April, casting something of a pall over proceedings. It was at Balmoral where Philip and the Queen are widely understood to have been their happiest and most normal.
His absence, for the first time in nearly 75 years will be keenly felt.
The Queen, who arrived at Balmoral in late July, is reported to still be "grieving very deeply" and "she is also incredibly tired".
Making things even gloomier is that for the royal family, and Kate and William especially, this August represents only the briefest of reprieves after a tempestuous and bruising five months.
Since early March, when Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, launched their anti-palace media offensive, the monarchy has endured quite the barrage of disastrous PR. While in the UK at least, their popularity has remarkably improved this year, their ultimate triumph in this fight for survival is by no means a given.
The palace might have managed to make it to the other side of the Sussexes' blitzkrieg, just, but they have not emerged unscathed.
Polling done in May shows younger Brits are turning their backs on the monarchy. Only two years ago, in 2019, 46 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they thought the UK should have a monarchy. In 2021, that figure dropped to 31 per cent.
So too does it look like the past five months only constituted round one of the Sussex vs Windsor trans-Atlantic, internecine showdown.
Later this month, an updated version of the heavily sympathetic Sussex biography "Finding Freedom" will be released. (At the time of the book's original publication last year, Harry and Meghan put out a statement saying that they "were not interviewed and did not contribute" to the bestseller. In November, Meghan admitted via a statement to a London court as part of a lawsuit against the Daily Mail, that she had helped the authors by authorising a friend to speak on her behalf but only to correct details regarding her estranged father.)
The book's authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand have promised the new chapters will cover the bullying allegations made against Meghan (she has strenuously denied the claims), their Oprah interview and the death of Philip.
"The Oprah interview detonated a bomb under the royal family and most of them are still reeling in shock. The book will not help," a senior courtier recently told the Times.
If the original "Finding Freedom" is any indication, then the royal house could well be in for another walloping and faces the prospect of the drama of Megxit being stirred up again and even more revelations unleashed into the public sphere.
That is not the only forthcoming title which might be keeping courtiers, aides and the corgis up at night.
Next year, Harry will release his autobiography, saying in a statement that he was "excited for people to read a first-hand account of my life that's accurate and wholly truthful".
It seems highly unlikely his royal relatives share that same level of "excitement" at the prospect of the former Army captain turned royal defector putting his well-chewed Bic to paper and opening the floodgates.
After months and months of publicly criticising the royal family, it seems nigh on impossible he might change tack now and simply be planning on turning out several hundred pages detailing cheerful memories of playing charades with his father's patient valet and rugby anecdotes.
Ditto the fact the $27 million advance that publisher Penguin Random House is rumoured to have paid the sixth in line to the throne. That sort of figure, if indeed it is based on fact, would suggest they are confident he will be willing to air the royal family's dirty laundry for a gawping, paying public.
For William and Kate, ostensibly on holiday right now, the knowledge that another, potentially even "truth telling" onslaught is imminent would be enough to make even the hardiest of HRHs consider cracking out the Buckingham Palace-brand gin. (Seriously. You can check it out here.)
While things might have quieted down on the Montecito front right now, we are far – FAR – from being able to draw any sort of line under the chaotic chapter that has been Megxit. Neither Philip's funeral or Harry's brief return to the UK for the unveiling of the statue of Diana, Princess of Wales actually translated into any sort of bridge-building, rift-mending exercise. The wounds still appear to be too raw, on both sides, and the anger and hurts still all too fresh.
Given all of this, how can anyone, let alone a future Queen with three small children and an ever growing workload, truly relax or recharge?
(See, this is where all those pina coladas would come in handy.)
At least William, Kate and their brood have gotten the chance to enjoy one island getaway this year … sort of. As they also did in 2020, it has been revealed that in July they had a family holiday on Tresco Island, which is part of the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast. Boasting two sets of crumbling ruins, a cricket club and a museum devoted to bits salvaged from shipwrecks, the place has everything, if by "everything" you mean a lot of old rocks, wide open spaces and the ever present threat of windburn.
With the mercury topping a balmy 18C in Balmoral this weekend and the clock counting down to the new "Finding Freedom" release, we are a very long way from Mustique, right now. It's going to be a very, very long time until Kate, both literally and figuratively, gets to enjoy blue skies again.
• Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years' experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.