Once Britain has emerged from the Covid crisis, accounts will be totted up of who has, or has not, had a good pandemic.

Those on the frontline of the National Health Service (if not those managing its non-Covid waiting lists) have been deified.

The Government must await the outcome of a public inquiry, and some ministers have cause to be nervous.

For the Royal family, by contrast, examining their role during the crisis is the good old Court of Public Opinion; and, so far, the verdict is largely positive.


The Queen, as usual, has been impeccable. Aged 94, and holed up in isolation at Windsor, Her Majesty's address to the nation in April resonated profoundly. Like millions of her subjects, she learned the art of the video call, having had in June her first public virtual meeting with four carers looking after vulnerable people.

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Princess Anne, showing her typical brand of resilience and determination that sends even the worst viruses hurrying in the other direction, joined her.

The Duchess of Cambridge, too, has been highly visible. Last weekend she celebrated the 72nd anniversary of the NHS at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn. The week before, she helped with the gardening at a children's hospice. Throughout the crisis there had been multiple video chats with carers and the vulnerable: all done with the Duchess' natural lack of self-regard that has come to be her trademark, and won her considerable popularity.

She shares these attractive traits with someone else who, just six years before her, married into the Royal family, and brought with her a cheerful and positive approach to the job that proves equally successful with the public: her stepmother-in-law, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Camilla's guest edit of a programme on Radio 5 Live last week confirmed the ease with which she connects with the public, while never losing the dignity expected of the wife to the heir to the Throne. She talked frankly about her support for legislation to help ensure justice in domestic violence cases, and her patronage of the charity SafeLives, which helps victims of abuse.

She described her husband's brush with Covid-19, only to downplay it and to emphasise his fitness – "like a mountain goat" – for a man almost as old as the NHS. And, like tens of thousands of other grandmothers, she lamented her separation from her five grandchildren.

She also showed her talent for self-deprecation, commenting that an elderly lady of 90 looked younger than her (she is 73 on Friday).

She admitted the crisis had made her see the point of the internet, something she will have had in common with others of her generation.


Throughout lockdown Camilla was on video calls, doing her best to cheer up those in less splendid isolation, and sharing her own hopes and concerns with the public. And it is this medium that has brought the real Duchess into the lives of countless people.

She shared recipes and book recommendations, gamely joined in a web-reading of James and the Giant Peach, as royal patron of Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity, and showed herself as entirely comprehending of people's troubles.

The Duchess smiles during a visit to the Asda Distribution Centre, where she thanked staff who maintained food supplies during the coronavirus lockdown. AP Photo / Arthur Edwards, pool
The Duchess smiles during a visit to the Asda Distribution Centre, where she thanked staff who maintained food supplies during the coronavirus lockdown. AP Photo / Arthur Edwards, pool

Last week, she and the Prince of Wales went to a shirt factory in Gloucester to congratulate its workforce on switching production to medical-grade scrubs for the NHS, and then on to an Asda distribution centre in Bristol to thank 700 workers who have been getting essential supplies of food to those forced to stay indoors.

Asda has been working with the Prince's Business in the Community initiative, and many former workers came out of retirement to help. One who did so said the Duchess praised him for his actions, adding that neither she nor her husband had any intention of retiring, either. It is not an act; it is how she is.

And the non-act has played well in the aforementioned court of public opinion.

The tabloid press, who for decades had a strong influence in shaping what so-called "ordinary" people thought they thought about the Royal family – and which, not least, was responsible for a mob-like vilification of the Prince of Wales after the death of his first wife, that would have destroyed a lesser man – have at last ruled in favour of the Duchess of Cornwall. One said last week that, thanks to her conduct in the crisis, she had moved from being supposedly the "most hated" member of the Royal family to being one of the public's favourites.


And, perhaps even more validating than the tabloids, Twitter and other social media have had tributes to her piling up in the weeks since she and the Prince were allowed out of house arrest to undertake official duties.

Her warmth, her lack of "side", her ability to relate to people, come as no surprise to those who know her. It is sad that it has taken a national crisis of these proportions to make Britons see her unquestionable quality; but then it is in such a crisis that the public, long disillusioned by their political representatives, turn to the Royal family to provide, if not leadership, then at least some compassion – which the Duchess has done in shiploads.

It is not, of course, a competition: but the contrast with her stepson, the Duke of Sussex, and his wife could not be more stark. While the Duchess and the Prince of Wales, like the Cambridges and other members of the family, were identifying themselves with the difficulties endured by the British people, the Sussexes in their sumptuous Californian self-exile were not even attempting to seem relevant.

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall welcome French president Emmanuel Macron, left, to Clarence House in London on June 18. AP Photo / Jonathan Brady, Pool
Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall welcome French president Emmanuel Macron, left, to Clarence House in London on June 18. AP Photo / Jonathan Brady, Pool

Instead, showing an ignorance of history perhaps not unsurprising in one with the Duke's record of academic attainment, they have preferred to broadcast a righteous lecture on the Commonwealth's supposed record of racism and part in the iniquities of slavery. In the process, they insulted the Sovereign, the Duke's grandmother, whose record of supporting the multi-racial, multi-cultural nature of the Commonwealth is unimpeachable.

It was a regrettable reminder that, once all the problems of Covid-19 are solved, the question of containing this increasingly public aspect of the Royal family's private troubles remains to be resolved. The same is true of the Duke of York, whose embarrassing private life was at least kept out of public view by the Covid crisis – proving that it is indeed an ill-wind that blows no good – until the last few weeks.

To extend the weather metaphor, there may be another silver lining to the Covid cloud. If the Duchess of Cornwall's striking personal qualities have at last been recognised by the people over whom the Prince of Wales will one day reign, what justification can there possibly be for her not enjoying the same status as her husband, as the consorts of every Prince of Wales and King in history have?


The morganatic marriage – where a woman does not bear the same rank as her husband – is technically unknown in English law. That the Duchess still faces the prospect of being not Queen, but Duchess of Lancaster, becomes steadily a more outrageous insult to a woman who gives consistently superb service to her country and to the Crown.

There will be many legacies, good and bad, of the Covid crisis: one of the former should be an end to this nonsense that the Duchess of Cornwall is somehow unfit to be our Queen. She has proved beyond doubt that Britain is lucky to have her.