02/01/2012

While Will's away, Kate's at work and Harry's at play

Royal trio
Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry leave the VIP marquee during a a military awards ceremony in London in December. They have their work cut out for them as they take up new challenges in 2012. (Reuters)

The next generation of royals has its work cut for them over the next few months.

Being William, Kate or Harry has it glamour moments to be sure, but their mettle will be put under some harsh heat, literally and figuratively.

First, the case of Prince William, whose deployment to the Falkland Islands -- he arrived on the islands Thursday morning -- would be treated almost as a routine under normal circumstances.

But these are far from normal circumstances, and the war drums have been beating incessantly between Britian and Argentina for months. The Duke of Cambridge is no longer another RAF helicopter pilot putting in his six weeks on the military base there in search-and-rescue operations.

He is, as Argentina’s foreign ministry said, a “conquistador.”

The Prince will be part of two crews on call 24 hours a day for missions flying out of the large British military base outside Stanley, the Islands' capital.

Thirty years ago, the Falkland Islands was a war zone after Argentina invaded the territory that had been under British sovereignty since 1833. The Brits struck quickly to repel the raiders, who have long laid claim to the islands off their South Atlantic coast.

William helicopterThe angry words have continued over the years, never moreso than now. With Brits drilling for oil in the sea around the islands, and an heir to the British throne joining the military presence, and one of the Royal Navy’s most advanced battleships about to head into the neighbourhood … well, the Argentinians don’t like it much.

While Britian claims everything is business as usual, Argentina sees every move as “bullying.” Having Prince William added to the military presence is “a provocative act.”

"(He) will arrive on our soil in the uniform of a conquistador, and not with the wisdom of a statesman who works for peace and dialogue between nations,” said the country’s foreign ministry.

While William tries to keep his head down, the Duchess of Cambridge will be back home in the UK with some new duties of her own, flying solo on royal engagements as she gets her charity and patronage work underway.

One of her first stops will be the National Portrait Gallery, which begins an exhibition of Lucian Freud portraits next week.

“While the Duke is away, she is fully intending to use those six weeks to do nothing but work,” a royal aide told the Telegraph, “and will be using that time to visit her patronages, both publicly and privately, and undertake a number of engagements in support of the Royal Family.”

To date, she has done only one royal engagement alone -- filling in for Prince Charles at a reception -- and has yet to make any public speeches.

There is also, of course, the task of raising the couple’s newest arrival, a cocker spaniel puppy.

Another rookie for solo events is Prince Harry. He probably has the potentially most enjoyable chore, but it is not without its perils.

He will be first off the mark with royal tours this year designed to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. His destinations are the Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica and Brazil. Not too shabby, especially when you can avoid lousy March weather in the UK.

"Prince Harry is really bouncing about this tour, that's the first thing to say,” said the prince’s private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton. “He's hugely, hugely looking forward to it.”

Nevertheless, there is a cloud on the horizon. Last month, Jamaica’s new prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, announced her intention to push aside the Queen as head of state and have the country declared a republic.

Hardly welcoming words. But Harry has plenty of fun packed into this journey as well, including some beach volleyball in Rio and a polo match. There’s also a meeting with Jamaica’s prized sprinter, Usain Bolt, that’s a possibility. There’s some speculation there could even be a friendly race between the two.

Maybe there could be a wager … winner gets Jamaica. Any takers?

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