Let’s be honest. It has been a torrid year for the royals. It began with Prince Philip ploughing his Range Rover into another vehicle near the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
It ended with drip-dry Prince Andrew assuring the nation that he did not have sex with a 17-year-old girl, whom others alleged had been trafficked across an ocean for that very purpose.
In between we had Harry and Meghan getting on everyone’s nerves, tainting the House of Windsor with their misplaced A-list imperiousness.
Scandal followed calamity followed mishap. And collectively these things can chip away at a nation’s relationship with its Royal Family – quenching the flame of devotion in even the most ardent monarchist’s heart.
Oh, if only there were a fairytale royal couple to save us from this ruinous stink! A do-gooding Prince Charming and his impeccable Cinderella to sprinkle some fairy dust, or icing sugar at least, on the soiled royal franchise.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wafted through last night’s A Very Berry Christmas (BBC1) like smart-casual seraphim
Step forward the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who wafted through last night’s A Very Berry Christmas (BBC1) like smart-casual seraphim, beamed down from on high to spread cheer amongst those less fortunate, which is just about everyone.
If there is a weirder television programme featuring the participation of senior royals, then readers, I have yet to see it.
The 60-minute special was part-cooking show, part-hagiography, featuring former Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry accompanying the royal couple as they visited various pet charities.
The finale was a Christmas party hosted by William and Kate for charity workers, with a menu prepared by Mary. It featured cheesy fig tarts, beef stew and fruity roulades. What? I know.
The 60-minute special was part-cooking show, part-hagiography, featuring former Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry accompanying the royal couple as they visited various pet charities
Never mind the eats, the real main dish was William and Kate who remained discreet and correct at all times but still provided a few lukewarm titbits for the gossip banquet.
What did we learn? Primarily that these days Kate sounds almost posher than the Queen and speaks in a breathy torrent of low-grade cocktail chatter – how perfect.
And while it is not the fault of the royals that their plainest deeds and most unremarkable conversations are often greeted with unwarranted enthralment, it can make for comic moments.
‘Louis absolutely loves beetroots,’ the duchess told Mary Berry at one point. ‘REALLY?!’ cried Mary, as if the little prince had declared a fondness for quantum physics.
‘And Charlotte obviously loves Charlotte potatoes.’ Obviously.
The duchess came across as a gentle person possessed of excellent manners – a woman who radiates dimpled kindness, just like a duchess should.
She confessed to once making spinach soup and forgetting to put the lid on the blender. ‘And there was spinach soup all over the ceiling,’ she said. Oh dear.
The duchess came across as a gentle person possessed of excellent manners – a woman who radiates dimpled kindness, just like a duchess should
She did a ‘bit of waitressing’ in her university days, back when William tried to impress her with his spaghetti sauce.
Anything else? Yes. Wills will be making mince pies with the children this Christmas, Prince George supports Chelsea and it is Mum who makes all the birthday cakes at home.
More from Jan Moir for the Daily Mail…
‘I stay up until midnight with ridiculous amounts of cake mix,’ breathed Kate, rather like a Nigella-by-appointment with the Sloaney habit of exaggerating everything.
Prince William was harder to read. When visiting the homeless charity The Passage, he talked about trying to educate his children about homelessness.
‘I know this sounds a little bit trite,’ he began, ‘but on the school run whenever we see anyone who is sleeping rough on the streets, we talk about it. I point it out and explain why.’
He was right. It did sound trite. Chatting about les pauvres as they swept past in a motorcade on the commute from palace to private school.
On another occasion, the prince mansplained alcoholism to an alcoholic woman who had ended up in the gutter with major organ failure. ‘You get trapped in a cycle. A lot of people don’t understand what addiction is,’ he said earnestly.
In one scene, while making tea with Mary Berry, he talked of the charitable works performed by his parents and grandparents (‘the epitome of public service’) then went into a kind of hand-wringing existential soliloquy about doing good works.
The finale was a Christmas party hosted by William and Kate for charity workers, with a menu prepared by Mary
It was Mary who seemed the most royal, bobbing along with her magnificent hairdo, a Taj Mahal of lacquered blonde
‘I just wish on these days I could wave a magic wand and sort out everyone’s problems in this room,’ he said.
Mary wasn’t having it. ‘What about this tea?’ she chided him, and he dutifully shut up and pushed the trolley into the room.
Indeed, sometimes it was Mary who seemed the most royal, bobbing along with her magnificent hairdo, a Taj Mahal of lacquered blonde that outdid Kate’s heiressy blow-dry.
William and Kate sometimes seemed in awe of the television cook, even as she hastened to bake Prince Louis a beetroot and chocolate cake ‘because he loves it so much’.
In the end, this was a programme that put the royal couple in the spotlight rather than their charities. It feverishly, slavishly showed them in the very best of lights.
But, to be fair, they did come across as a decent royal couple who are trying to do their best – and right at this very minute we could all do with a helping of that.
Final question goes to Kate. ‘From your experience, Mary, is Christmas time a really poignant time?’
‘Yes,’ she replied, the queen of cakes, and went off to dust her tarts with paprika and make a batch of festive biscuits. What on Earth was that all about?