Mid-morning at Anmer Hall, on the last Bank Holiday Monday in May. Princess Charlotte’s cries float through the windows of her bedroom to the garden below, where William, Duke of Cambridge, is putting the final touches to pork balls he probably won’t barbecue because rain is forecast. Kate is gathering her gardening forks, wondering what to wear to the forthcoming SportsAid dinner whilst sipping a slimline Smirnoff and lime and worrying about Charlotte’s lack of sleep. George is making spells with Lupo with something that looks suspiciously like Gan-Gan’s sceptre. It is time for Charlotte’s nap but, despite nanny Maria something-or-other’s best attempts, the one-year-old’s sleep is troubled by teething and the constant wailing is starting to bite.
it goes without saying that, as far as I know, this story is fictional.
On the garden table in front of her, Kate glances warily at the cutting of the gorgeous green-edged chrysanthemum named after Charlotte. She was given it by the Dutch floral company after the Chelsea Flower Show last week and is determined to plant it herself and watch it bloom. The problem is, even though she has successfully and impressively raised two young, healthy saplings from seed and looked lovely in her emerald coat at the CFS, she’s not terribly green fingered.
“Gosh,” says William distractedly, as he covers his balls with cling film. “What’s that?”
“They’re both Princess Charlotte, babe,” says Kate patiently, not sure whether he’s referring to the cries or the chrys. “Oh dear, listen to Shouty. I do wish there was something we could do.”
They both pause, heads on one side , to listen to their daughter’s plaintive wails.
“Should we move her to a spare room?” asks William, hopefully. “It’s really quite distracting. I’m trying to rest my balls.”
“Well, Maria’s doing her utmost to get Charlotte to do the same,” says Kate a little tetchily. “And putting her in a spare room is rather insensitive, don’t you think? We vowed we’d never use that word around her.”
“Fine,” says William. “Has Maria tried Calpol?”
“I think so.”
“My father’s agricultural speech recordings?”
Kate looks at him hard and sighs. “She’s tried nearly everything but she said she might have a little trick left up her sleeve,” she says, blowing her own Whistles silk cuff as a little spider edges towards her elbow.
Maria appears round the corner looking serious. “She just won’t sleep,” she announces. “The teeth … they hurt too much. But,” she says, looking down at the spider, now crawling across the table in front of Kate, “if you can help me, I may just be able to nip this in the bud.”
Maria proceeds to tell the couple about a secret family skill she has, so far, not needed to employ with the Cambridges. It transpires that this talent was the icing on the cake that led to a previous employment by Mary Berry.
“My grandmother made blankets from spider silk,” she confides. “And the spiders only come from the finest roses and chrysanthemums. Just like these,” she points delightedly at the bloom Kate is holding which, Kate can see, has five tiny arachnids moving across its petals.
George comes over for a look. “Spidery spiders!” he says, before bonking Lupo on the nose.
“Don’t hurt Lupo,” warns William. “His bite’s worse than your shark.”
George glances over towards his personal swimming pool, where he has been permitted to keep a baby Great White, and looks down at the marble patio. “Sorry, Daddy.”
Maria breaks the tension by sweeping some spiders into Kate’s gardening clutch bag, on top of Lupo’s gravy bones. She shows the contents proudly to her audience.
“Can you catch some more for me?” she asks Kate. “I will get on the phone to my mother now to see if she can email the instructions for making the spider silk blanket. I’m sure I can whip one up tonight if we get enough. Five or six hundred should do it. Then tomorrow, the princess should sleep much better.”
George cheers up. He is not sure how they will go about extracting whatever it is you need from spiders to make silk but he’s pretty sure he will enjoy it.
Above them, Charlotte’s cries grow stronger.
“Of course,” says Kate hastily, peeling chrysanthemum petals back with care. “Anything to help. Cries-and-the-mum, hey? Amazing how mothers seem to be willing to do anything if it helps their baby sleep.”
She looks weakly at William for appreciation of wit in this time of cry-sis, but he has turned his attention back to his balls so, studiously, she starts searching for spiders to help make Charlotte’s web.