William and Kate set for royal train tour to thank key workers

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent
·3 min read

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will travel across the country by royal train to thank communities, outstanding individuals and key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

William and Kate will board the service on Sunday and travel 1,250 miles over the three-day tour, meeting care home staff, teachers, schoolchildren and volunteers to learn about the challenges they faced and their inspiring stories.

It is thought the tour will be the duchess’s first official journey by the royal train despite having been a member of the monarchy for almost a decade, while the duke has used it a number of times.

A spokeswoman for Kensington Palace said: “The duke and duchess are very much looking forward to shining a spotlight on the incredible work that has been done across the country throughout this difficult year and to sharing their gratitude on behalf of the nation for all those supporting their local communities ahead of the Christmas holidays.”

Kate chats to children onboard the Belmond British Pullman train during a Charities Forum event. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Kate chats to children on board the Belmond British Pullman train during a Charities Forum event (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The planned train trip has already been immortalised in a stylised drawing by schoolboy artist Joe Whale, better known as the Doodle Boy, who has found worldwide fame with his creative efforts.

The youngster, who was approached by the Cambridges’ office to create the artwork, launched a YouTube channel during the coronavirus pandemic to teach others how to doodle.

Queen Victoria was the first monarch to travel by train, leaving at midday on June 13 1842 from Slough and travelling to London’s Paddington Station.

Victoria had been persuaded on board by Prince Albert, a veteran of rail travel who was fascinated by the new technology.

Queen and the Duchess of Sussex arrive by Royal Train at Runcorn Station to carry out engagements in Cheshire. Peter Byrne/PA Wire
The Queen and the Duchess of Sussex arrive by royal train at Runcorn Station to carry out engagements in Cheshire (Peter Byrne/PA)

And since the Victorian era, the royal family have enjoyed their own dedicated train, with the present royal carriages coming into service for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The Queen and the Prince of Wales have their own private carriages, with the head of state’s featuring a bedroom with a single bed, sitting room, desk for working on the go, dining quarters – and a bathroom complete with a full-sized bath.

William has travelled on the service a number of times, notably on the day of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales’ funeral in 1997, when he joined his father, brother and the Spencer family on the journey to the princess’s ancestral home Althorp for her burial.

In 2003, he journeyed overnight on the train to Bangor with the Prince of Wales to carry out a day of engagements in North Wales ahead of his 21st birthday.

It is not known if the Cambridges will travel with their entourage of private secretaries, press team and other members of their household.

The Prince of Wales helps the Duchess of Cornwall board a train during a visit to Llandovery Railway Station to mark the 150th anniversary of the Heart of Wales railway line. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales helps the Duchess of Cornwall board a train during a visit to Llandovery Railway Station to mark the 150th anniversary of the Heart of Wales railway line (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Kensington Palace said the three-day tour, which ends on Tuesday, will make stops in England, Scotland and Wales in line with Government coronavirus guidance.

During the official visits, the duke and duchess will pass on the nation’s gratitude to the groups they meet for their efforts keeping people safe, or the country going.

Many of the official events will celebrate community spirit and the impact of the public’s generosity by showcasing organisations and initiatives supported by community relief funds, including NHS Charities Together.

The UK’s arts, heritage and live performance sector, which has been supported by the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, will also by highlighted.

There will be a number of festive performances across the three days by local artists, celebrating the inspiring work of organisations and projects the duke and duchess will visit.