The Secret Details of Prince William and Kate Middleton's Train Tour

The couple's itinerary is being kept under wraps to avoid crowds gathering and ­spreading COVID-19.

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On Sunday, Prince William and Kate Middleton boarded the royal train for a surprise 48-hour royal tour dubbed "The Christmas Express," to personally thank doctors, nurses, and essential workers in the U.K. for their "heroic" work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The duke and duchess, who wore face masks as they boarded the train, have been the most visible and engaged members of the royal family during the coronavirus outbreak. As they canvas 1,250 miles with nine stops in England, Scotland, and Wales, they'll be visiting communities, key workers, and individuals to honor their efforts, all while practicing the proper social distancing protocols. Read on for more about their trip, and for more on the royals and the pandemic, find out Why Prince William's COVID Diagnosis Could Spell Disaster For the Royals.

William and Kate's destinations on the train tour are being kept secret until they arrive at each location to avoid the risk of crowds ­gathering and spreading the virus. "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," Kensington Palace said in a statement.

It's no surprise William and Kate would want to reach out to the public as a morale booster just before the holidays. "William and Catherine have been very moved by the stories of love, sacrifice, and duty they have heard from people all over Britain during the pandemic," a royal insider told Best Life. "The experience has given them a chance to reach out to people in a way they hadn't done before. The Duke of Cambridge himself suffered with the virus, so he feels great empathy with others who have also suffered or lost a loved one to the virus. This is a very personal mission."

For the secret details of William and Kate's tour, and the royal train and its history, read on. And for more on a recent loss the Cambridges suffered, check out Kate and William Mourn Their Dog in a Heartbreaking Instagram Post.

Read the original article on Best Life.

William and Kate picked one song in particular to start their royal train tour.

merry christmas everyone by shakin' stevens
Epic via YouTube

The duke and duchess got a special send-off with a performance by Shakin' Stevens. Before William and Kate boarded the train at Euston Station in London, Stevens, whose real name is Michael Barratt, serenaded the couple and transit workers with his popular holiday song "Merry Christmas Everyone."

The '80s pop star said he was "over the moon" about being asked to perform. According to The Daily Express, the tune was selected by the royal couple as the track they wanted to hear as they set off on their journey. Barratt told the outlet this was his first performance in front of British royals.

They also selected a full soundtrack for the three-day tour.

william and kate walk next to the royal train for dec. 2020 tour
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge / Twitter

William and Kate also intend to highlight the arts in Britain, which have been supported by the government's £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund during the pandemic. There will be a number of seasonal performance over the three-day tour by regional ­artists to celebrate the inspirational work of various organizations and their pandemic-related projects.

The tour will end with a special reunion for the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain March 9, 2020.
Phil Harris/Pool via REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

According to the Daily Mail, Kate and William will visit Queen Elizabeth at the end of their trip. Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will reportedly also be present for the meeting. The six senior royals will mark the occasion by posing for their first official photograph together this year.

William and Kate had to get permission to use the train.

closeup of plaque on the royal train
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge / Twitter

Riding the royal train is considered a prestigious honor. Only the Queen has the power to permit people to use the service. William and Kate are entitled to use the train, as are Charles and Camilla, but William and Catherine have never sought Her Majesty's permission to use the train for any previous tour. They decided to request it for this tour—and were promptly given the go-ahead.

"The Queen is quite pleased at the role William and Catherine have taken on in establishing an on-going dialogue with essential workers, families, and their carers since the start of the pandemic so their request was granted," a source told me. "This is something of a landmark tour for the duke and duchess." And for more on the Cambridges' years together, check out William and Kate's Most Adorable Couples Moments Through the Years.

This is Kate's first trip aboard the train.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sit as stories are read to children at the MacBride Museum of Yukon History in Whitehorse on the fifth day of the Royal Tour to Canada
PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Although Kate has been a senior member of the royal family for over a decade, this trip is believed to be her first time traveling via the royal train. William has been onboard several times before, without the duchess, accompanying his father on official tours.

In 2018, just months after her wedding to Prince Harry, Meghan Markle was invited to travel with the Queen for her first solo engagement with Her Majesty on the royal train to Chester. And for more on what these former royals are up to, check out Prince Harry and Meghan Markle May Soon Visit the White House.

The royal train holds a sad significance for William.

the procession at the funeral of princess diana, surprising prince william facts
Shutterstock

As children, William and Harry sometimes traveled on the train to visit family at the Balmoral Estate in Scotland. But perhaps William's most memorable trip aboard came on the day of Princess Diana's funeral in 1997 when he and members of the royal family journeyed from London to the Spencer's ancestral home in North Hamptonshire for her private burial. And for more on William's relationship with his mom, check out The Sweet Ways Prince William Has Taught His Children About Princess Diana.

It also has a rich history.

Victoria, Albert, and the Royal Family gathering around the Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle in 1848
Alamy

According the BBC, Queen Victoria was the first monarch to use the royal train when she traveled from Slough to Paddington station in 1842. It was her husband, Prince Albert, who first encouraged her to travel by train. The 23-year-old queen described the 25-minute journey in her diary as "delightful and so quick."

The current train was first used for Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee.

Queen Elizabeth II 1976 Christmas - Buckingham Palace
Alamy

The current train went into service for the first time in 1977 for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. It has nine carriages and includes private compartments for Her Majesty and Prince Charles. Prior to his retirement in 2017, Prince Philip used to accompany the Queen on many of her official engagements, so he also has his own quarters on the train. And for more on the Queen and Philip's relationship, check out The Secret Nickname Prince Philip Has for Queen Elizabeth.

But it hasn't been used much over the past year.

queen elizabeth takes a train to her country home
Alamy

Only three trips were taken on the royal train in between 2019 and 2020 thus far—twice by Charles and only once by the Queen, but those journeys came with a hefty price tag, totaling more than £63,000 (or nearly $85,000).

When the Queen toured the U.K. on the train for her Golden Jubilee in 2002, the cost of the trip was an eye-watering £872,000 (or $1.17 million). That's in addition to the estimated £900,000 ($1.2 million) it costs to maintain and store the train for the rest of the year. And for more on how Her Majesty travels, here's The One Thing Queen Elizabeth Never Leaves Home Without.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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