Mid-August 2016, Anmer Hall. Early evening and Catherine (Kate), Duchess of Cambridge is searching her dressing table for the Queen’s diamond maple leaf brooch – a Royal heirloom the family share – ahead of her forthcoming Canada tour.
She is doing this rather absent-mindedly because she is also trying to decide if George and Charlotte should come. The invitation has been extended to all four Cambridges (not Lupo) but it’s a risk. What if George craps in the middle of the Yukon mountains? Charlotte vomits on one of the clean pavements? It’s making her so anxious, she has already spelt ‘Canada’ ‘candida’ a couple of times in a private email to her mother. (She’s just lucky this one didn’t leak).
William, Duke of Cambridge, is peeved, too. His father has bestowed upon him a specimen of a new breed of Canada goose from his Duchy estate, with which he hopes to impress the Canadian Prime Minister. He has entrusted his son with the task of delivering it safely. This initially provoked some fowl language from Will, until he thought, privately, that he might pluck it and save the feathers as the prices of goose duvets are truly shocking. (Also, Kate has been rumoured to enjoy foie gras but that’s better left to Morrissey). However, when he approached the bird with this in mind, something rather exciting happened. Seeing what the bird could do, he halted abruptly: the goose, he decided, is worth a bit more than a down payment on a 13 tog, no matter how luxurious.
Anyway, it’s fair to say, all things considered, the Royal couple are a bit effing stressed.
“Where is the sodding brooch?” sighs Kate, sipping her cognac and slimline tonic (a little indulgence she acquired a taste for in France on the family’s recent holiday) and rifling through a keychain. “I’m sure I put it back in jewellery box 567.”
“Have you checked George’s room?”
“Why?” Kate narrows her eyes.
At the same moment, George wanders in wearing a nappy on his head. From somewhere deep in the absorbent folds, something sparkles.
“I’ll have that.” Kate plucks the brooch from George’s headgear.
“I was pACTising!” he wails.
“Come on Georgie,” William hoists his son onto his shoulders. “Let’s go and see if Charlotte’s ready for a bedtime story about bears. They have those in Canada, you know.”
Kate shoots him a look. “We haven’t agreed we’re taking the children (not, obviously, Lupo) yet.”
Will rolls his eyes. “They’d lighten the atmosphere,” he calls as he walks out of the bedroom. “Canadians can be quite serious.”
Muttering under her breath about fit mounties being pretty unserious and the real issue being the Canadians thinking the Brits are boring as hell if you ask her, Kate holds the brooch up to herself in the mirror. Traditionally, the Queen, Camilla and she have worn it on their left breast but when Kate pins it on, it sags forlornly into the creases of her cashmere dressing gown. She tries the right side. Same. She frowns. It just doesn’t look very good unless it’s pinned somewhere pert. After two children, her boobs simply aren’t up to the task any more. Bugger it. She finishes her drink.
George runs in, closely followed by a toddling Charlotte. “Mummy! Daddy says there is a GOOSE in the kitchen!”
“I told you,” William says calmly. “Dad packed her up really well – she’s just sitting on some eggs downstairs in a little cage. She’s going to be a mother soon, you know. I think if we put her in the fourth bathroom on the plane, she’ll be fine.”
“Why can’t she bloody fly to Canada herself? She’s got wings, after all – don’t geese migrate?”
“She’s a special type of goose,” Will continues patiently. “Dad’s spent three years honing her – I only discovered it, er, the other day. She can… um, she can… sing.”
Kate puts the brooch down and turns round. “What?”
“Babe, you’re saying ‘what’ rather a lot. It’s not particularly attracti…” Will stops as he sees the colour rise in is wife’s cheeks. “She can sing,” he finishes. “Nursery rhymes, mainly.”
Kate sits down on the edge of the bed. “Why?”
“Because…” Will looks shifty, “when Camilla babysits Charlotte and George, she’s often a bit hoarse from all that children’s book reading she does. So Dad invented a goose that can sing nursery rhymes to save her voice.”
The couple are silent for a minute or two while they watch their offspring playing next to Will’s trouser press with the golden eggs sent to George by the Sultan of Brunei on his birthday.
“Well, that was nice of him,” Kate says finally. “But I’m feeling really shaky about this whole tour. I’m worried George and Charlotte will play up. I don’t want to wear the bastard maple leaf brooch because it shows up my saggy tits. And how are we going to convince the Canadians we’re actually quite fun?”
Will looks at her with hope. “I’ve got an idea. Come with me.”
Knowing his is utterly reliable and does mix a bloody good cognac and tonic, Kate follows him to the kitchen. The goose peers, Gollum-like, out from under the table through the bars of her cage. Will reaches a hand tentatively towards the door catch and opens it. The goose blinks, stretches out her neck and rubs her cheek against Will’s thumb.
Kate is entranced. “What can she sing?” she whispers.
“Any nursery rhyme you want,” he says, his eyes shining. “You just have to say the title clearly.”
Kate clears her throat. “Old King Cole,” she says, then holds her breath.
The goose opens her beak and a raspy, but in tune, rendition pours out. Kate looks doubtfully at Will.
“I know it’s a bit scratchy,” he soothes, “but I promise it works on the kids.”
On cue, the children arrive, breathless, next to them. “Mummy, was that Gracie I heard?”
“Yes,” says Will gently. “Gracie is coming with us to Canada. We’re all going (but not Lupo). And now,” he turns to Kate. “Do you feel a bit happier about everything?”
Looking at the brooch in her hand, Kate hesitates. “I think so,” she says finally. And although she is greatly relieved at the thought of the children being amused and the world falling in love with Gracie, she does fear that parading the goose around the Canadian territories might mean she needs a little extra sparkle so as not to be overshadowed by another lean bird.
“How about this?” she says, reaching behind her and pinning the maple leaf on her pert posterior.
“Let’s have a gander,” says Will, as Kate waggles her tail.
“Oh, I say,” he grins. “Honk, honk!”