LIKE monarchs down a long line of history, Prince William has proved himself strongest as his country faces its darkest hours.
Grabbing the baton for the Royal Family, William, wife Kate and their joyful young family have led by example, with their knack of instinctively understanding the mood of the nation.
This was perhaps seen best on Thursday when William, 37, poked fun at himself in a Blackadder sketch for the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal before heading outside with Kate and children George, six, Charlotte, four, and two-year-old Louis, to clap for carers.
It was sure to have warmed all but the coldest of republican hearts.
William is also finding the right words at the right time to inspire the country.
“I think Britain is at its best, weirdly, when we’re all in a crisis,” he recently told a Yorkshire food bank charity event.
“That community spirit and community feel comes rushing back.”
With Prince Charles having been hit by coronavirus and the Queen turning 94 this week, there is even more pressure on William to shine.
He has risen to the challenge like the future king he is.
His success has revitalised a family reeling from the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal claims surrounding Prince Andrew, which William’s uncle denies.
And from the decision by younger brother Harry to throw off the royal yoke for a new life in the Californian sunshine.
While Harry and Meghan were busy issuing their bulletin on which media they would and would not talk to, William and Kate, 38, were just getting on with talking to everyone.
Their down-to-earth attitude has been reflected by other royals, too.
On Monday, Prince Philip — who turns 99 in June — came out of retirement to make a rare statement, in which he praised the key workers tackling the pandemic and ensuring the “infrastructure of our life continues” during the crisis.
On Thursday Prince Charles joined wife Camilla to clap for the NHS from his Birkhall home in Scotland.
It was a poignant moment as it was the first time the couple have taken part in the applause publicly together as Charles has been self-isolating until he recovered from the virus.
It has meant a lonely time for Camilla.
As a patron of the Silver Line helpline for older people, she told one caller: “I really miss my grandchildren.
“That’s the really strange thing about it — not being able to see your grandchildren and giving them a hug.”
William and Kate have been quick to make NHS staff the “top priority” of their campaigning.
They have launched a crisis line for frontline workers, opened a Nightingale Hospital and used Skype and Zoom online to chat with charity workers and schoolchildren.
Then there were the delightful birthday snaps of Prince Louis, taken by mum Kate, as he showed off his rainbow-painted hands in support of the NHS.
The calming message was the Cambridges just getting on with things in their own humble way.
Not showy, no heavy-handed sloganeering, just a quiet — and very British — show of support.
It could have come over as trite and dull, but we have seen a far from po-faced Duke of Cambridge as this crisis has unfolded.
The prince, as ever, takes his lead in his sense of duty from his grandmother, the Queen.
During World War Two, Elizabeth and her sister Margaret made a radio broadcast to their fellow children in Britain and its then colonies.
She later joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, which gave her recent rallying cry of “We will meet again” added emotion.
William called on the pressures of his service as an Air Ambulance pilot to highlight the traumas faced by care staff today.
SENSE OF DUTY FROM THE QUEEN
Last week he officially opened an NHS Nightingale hospital on the outskirts of Birmingham via video link.
And he said it was a “wonderful example” of the “pulling together” going on up and down the UK.
This week the Cambridges have launched their new Our Frontline charity, a round-the-clock mental health helpline for those working to fight coronavirus.
A source said: “William is in it for the long haul and knows it is the most important mission he has ever been involved in.”
Like parents across the nation, the Cambridges are also getting on with home-schooling — and trying to entertain — their brood while isolating, albeit at Anmer Hall country house in Norfolk.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast the couple told of the strain of keeping George, Charlotte and Louis entertained.
Speaking to host Tina Daheley, Kate said: “The children have got such stamina, I don’t know how.
“Honestly, you get to the end of the day and you write down the list of all the things that you’ve done in that day.
“So you pitch a tent, take the tent down again, cook, bake.
“You get to the end of the day — they have had a lovely time — but it is amazing how much you can cram into one day, that’s for sure.”
ABILITY TO LAUGH AT HIMSELF
A natural in front of the camera, Kate has an easy charm and quick wit.
William, like his father, has shown himself to have a ready sense of humour, including the crucial ability to laugh at himself.
During Thursday’s Big Night In TV appeal he starred alongside Stephen Fry in a Blackadder-themed sketch.
The duke played himself while Stephen was in character as the pompous Lord Melchett.
Prince William asked: “Have you seen anything good on TV? It’s hell without EastEnders.”
Melchett replied: “They told me Tiger King is rather good.”
The duke retorted: “Yes, I tend to avoid shows about royalty.”
Then when Melchett warned him the time for the clap for carers was not far off, William said: “On my way, let me just see if I can just find my socks and my shoes.”
Looking down, a deadpan William added: “And my trousers.”
One social media user wrote: “Did not expect that! What a good sport.”
Then the family marched outside Anmer Hall to applaud the NHS.
A beaming Princess Charlotte was seen clapping as soon as she left the door.
It was one grand British institution paying its respects to another.
William’s status was gifted to him as an accident of birth, and his wife chose hers for love.
Yet, in these troubled times, they are proving more inspiring than many of the leaders who rely on our votes for their position.
Prince Louis’ rainbow wave
What a photographer Catherine is. Her pictures of Louis with rainbow paint on his hands are amazing.
I always say the mark of a great child portrait is if it makes you smile. And this one, released to mark the Prince’s second birthday earlier this week, does that in spades.
Charles opens the nightingale
Having suffered from coronavirus, Charles knows just how important the NHS is to us all.
Every Thursday he and Camilla put their hands together to celebrate our wonderful carers. He would have considered opening the Nightingale Hospital a great honour.
The Royal broadcast
The Queen does not address the nation often, so it is of vital importance. I was hanging on every word when she spoke on April 5.
When she finished with the phrase “We will meet again” there were many tears shed across the nation. She always has the right words for the right moment.
Leading the Thursday clap
It is the moment that sees the whole country coming together to show our thanks for the wonderful NHS.
And Princes George and Louis and sister Charlotte could barely conceal their joy as they joined Wills and Kate outside their home in Anmer Hall, Norfolk, to add their welcome support.
Video call to schoolkids
Both William and Catherine have a natural rapport with ordinary people and put them at ease.
Their natural chemistry – seen in this video call to kids of key workers two weeks ago – is a lovely thing to see. They are incredible as a team and it is obvious they love each other very much.
Charles and Camilla are reunited
The heir to the throne and his wife always look great together and are completely comfortable in each other’s company.
Camilla didn’t get the virus and is pictured alone at their Birkhall home.
For this couple to self-isolate apart must have been such a wrench.
The picture of them back together, below, really warms my heart.
Meanwhile, Prince Philip never ceases to amaze me.
You don’t hear from him for months on end then he comes out with a statement, featured in HOAR, that captures the way people are feeling.
His praised those in food production, postal workers and those collecting our rubbish.
It was timely and thoughtful from a man who’s seen it all.
Meanwhile in LA
While the other senior royals have all helped to rally the nation, Prince Harry and Meghan have resorted to posting “motivational messages” online.
This week they stepped out, suitably masked, to deliver food parcels for a Los Angeles charity.