At the annual Royal Variety Performance event, members of the British royal family typically let their hair down a bit. They’re often seen laughing uproariously at the comedy acts just like the rest of the audience, for example. In fact, sometimes royals are even the butt of the joke – they don’t seem to mind, either! And for the 2017 performance, Prince William certainly seemed quite eager to join in the fun and games.
The Royal Variety Performance itself, however, is actually a tradition that dates back over a century. Indeed, the first event – then known as the Royal Command Performance – took place in 1912 for King George V and Queen Mary; all the profits from the proceedings went to charity, just as they do now. Another performance would take place in 1919; two years later, meanwhile, it was decided that the event should become an annual one.
Then, in 1960, the Royal Variety Performance was first televised; it has remained a staple of British TV to this day. And in the intervening years, many members of the royal family have turned up to watch popular musicians, singers, actors and entertainers showing off their talents on the stage. Among them are Prince William and Kate Middleton, who appeared at the event for the first time in 2014 and were treated to a performance by One Direction.
Furthermore, the money raised by the yearly extravaganza goes to the Royal Variety Charity, which funds a care home for former entertainers. Queen Elizabeth II herself is life patron of the charity, as her ancestors have been before her. However, with the Queen now advancing in years, these days the younger royals are more likely to appear at the shows in her place.
And, indeed, the November 2017 performance saw Prince William and Kate Middleton – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – appear as the guests of honor once again. That’s despite the fact that they almost didn’t make it, after an incident near the venue in London saw armed police called to the scene. The ensuing chaos tied up all the traffic in the area, making the royal party an hour late. Happily, though, the couple got there in the end.
The host of the event, meanwhile, was Miranda Hart, the popular British actor and comedian. Hart shot to fame in 2009 with her self-titled sitcom Miranda and has been a popular figure on the U.K. comedy scene ever since. She’s also got a few popular trademarks, including the catchphrase “Such fun!” and a slapstick “gallop” that she likes to enact.
And for her opening skit of the Royal Variety Performance, Hart performed a rendition of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” before welcoming the audience. “Life can be tough,” she told everyone, “so I expect some galloping in here tonight. If you don’t know why, it’s because I’m on a lifelong mission to get adults to reclaim the gallop from toddlers.”
“I offer it up to the young royals as a way to liven up a formal event,” Hart added, gesturing to the royal box where William and Kate sat. She then led the entire audience – both the Duke and Duchess and “the peasants up there” – in a mass shout of “the hallowed posh phrase, ‘such fun.’” Prince William delivered the final shout, to applause from the crowds.
However, Hart and her fellow performers weren’t finished with the royals just yet. Later on in the production, the child cast of the London production of Annie joined the comedian on stage to sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” And, afterwards, Hart held the mic out to one of the children. “Now before you gallop back off,” the host said, “is there someone you wanted to ask to gallop?”
So, the seven-year-old girl turned to the royal box and cutely asked Prince William, “Please sir, will you gallop with us?” And, hilariously, it turned out that the future king was more than happy to oblige. As a result, he got up for a couple of seconds and, as Kate Middleton looked on in delight, performed Hart’s trademark silly gallop. The crowd applauded wildly in reaction; the little girl herself, meanwhile, looked awestruck.
After that, however, observant royal box watchers may have noticed Kate putting a hand on William’s shoulder once he had sat down. And while smiling, she then said something to her husband. Of course, it’s very difficult to know what that something was, but it was almost certainly of a complimentary nature. Perhaps she was happy to see him being so great at accommodating a child’s request; the couple are parents themselves, after all.
What’s more, it appears that many people watching the show on TV were every bit as happy to see William goof around as Kate had seemingly been. “Prince William doing a gallop on TV has made my night! What a guy!” one Twitter user posted. “Prince William had been a pretty good sport so far. Never seen any other royals galloping on TV,” another said. Indeed, you’re not likely to get that from the Queen.
And who knows, perhaps Kate would have galloped too had she not been pregnant. After all, William’s wife is definitely not adverse to a bit of silliness. In 2013, for instance, she even took part in a “wizarding duel” with William when the pair visited the Harry Potter studios. Indeed, endearing moments like these may just explain why the royal couple are so popular.
After the show, meanwhile, Hart was full of praise for the Duke of Cambridge. “I did apologize to him at the end, and he said he’d practice his galloping,” she said. “I thought he was wonderful in joining in.” Then, making a reference to William’s rumored cameo in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, she added, “I forgot to get him to knight me with a lightsaber, but maybe another time.”
And if William had needed any persuading, perhaps Hart could have played the family card. That’s because, believe it or not, the comedy star is actually distantly related to the future king. Specifically, she’s a fourth cousin, twice removed, to Prince William’s mother Princess Diana. Not only that, but she also went to the same school as Kate Middleton – a coincidence that apparently made the comedian wistful in 2011. “It could have been me,” she joked about the royal wedding that year. “I suppose I will have to go after Prince Harry now.”
Of course, Prince Harry is now engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, and the pair of them seem to be perfectly happy being silly in public, too. In fact, behind-the-scenes footage of the couple’s official engagement interview showed them teasing each other and giggling. In addition, whenever the pair go out in public, they’re often photographed smiling at each other.
And although that might seem like a normal thing, it still suggests that the royal family is starting to modernize. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that the Queen, as head of the royal family, would mask her personal feelings. It was also rare at one time for her to show affection to a loved one in public. And it would be highly unlikely for her to perform a gallop at the request of a little girl!
Plus, Prince William was still willing to dance a little when he visited Coventry University with Kate in January 2018. There, the two of them joined in with a group dedicated to teaching communication skills. In particular, the party performed a “wiggle dance” designed to help people with learning difficulties – and William and Kate certainly got their wiggle on.
Indeed, although Kate didn’t join in with William’s moves at the Royal Variety Performance, she did here – and enthusiastically, too. What’s more, the Duchess of Cambridge displayed some of her maternal skills during the visit. When a small boy at the school she was visiting said that he felt sick, for example, Kate spent some time checking to see if he was okay.
Of course, this is all good practice for Kate and William for when their third child is born and the other two get a little older. The new royal sibling is expected in April 2018, one month before the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And while the baby’s gender and name are not yet known, one thing is for certain: it’ll be born to a pair of dedicated and fun-loving parents.