Prince William, Kate Middleton Ignored Calls to Postpone Tour Amid COVID

Prince William and Kate Middleton ignored warnings their royal train tour of Britain might breach COVID rules, according to Scottish government emails.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled across England, Scotland and Wales to say thank you to front line workers amid the coronavirus pandemic in December.

However, the trip required them to cross the U.K.'s internal borders at a time when restrictions warned against all but essential travel.

The tour was criticized by politicians in both Wales and Scotland at the time, with claims the royal couple were undermining public health advice.

Now a Freedom of Information request from Scottish newspaper The National has revealed officials warned of the "major impact" the rules would have ahead of the tour.

Prince William and Kate Middleton's Train Tour
Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive at Bath Spa train station ahead of a visit to a care home to pay tribute to the efforts of care home staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic on December 08, 2020 in Bath, England. The visit was part of the same tour that saw them criticized for crossing the Scottish and Welsh borders despite coronavirus restricitons. Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty

In a November 19 email, James Hynd, head of cabinet, parliament and governance, told the palace: "The Scottish Government is likely to bring forward statutory restrictions on non-essential travel both within Scotland and also into and out of Scotland.

"These rules will come into force from 6pm tomorrow (Friday, November 20). They will have no set termination point but will be reviewed regularly.

"This is obviously likely to have a major impact on the plans you are working on I am afraid."

The message came a week after John Somers, principal private secretary to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, raised similar concerns with the palace in a November 12 email published by The National.

He wrote: "You'll know that we are currently asking people living in Scotland to avoid unnecessary travel from local authority to local authority and to keep journeys within the area they live to an absolute minimum.

"We review our guidance regularly though as the First Minister regularly says in her daily briefings it not possible to offer a definite position ahead of time given the variables and unknowns presented by the pandemic.

"From a personal point of view I think the [Royal train tour] is one which would mean a lot to many people living throughout the country.

"My anxiety though is the practical aspects of it and how presentationally it may be difficult if travel restrictions are in place."

He added: "I think my view is that at the moment the chances of the tour having to be postponed are potentially quite high."

The COVID restrictions mentioned in the emails were still in place at the time of the royal train tour but William and Kate went ahead with their visit anyway.

At the time of the visit, Sturgeon told journalists: "The Scottish Government was advised about the intention to visit, and we made sure that the Royal Household were aware, as you would expect, of the restrictions in place in Scotland so that could inform both the decision and the planning of the visit.

"Any more questions on that should be directed to the Royal household."

Quoted in The National, Deidre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, said: "People are having to stay in their houses, we can't meet family or friends, we can't pay proper respects at funerals, we can't even hug our loved ones when they're going through hard times.

"I would have hoped that the Royal Family would have had enough empathy to respect what people are going through rather than looking for publicity.

"The Scottish Government pointed out the travel ban twice and the Welsh Government made clear it wasn't happy.

"This 'work trip' wasn't essential work, it wasn't for any of the exemptions laid out in the rules and the guidance."

#RoyalTrainTour day 2, first stop: Cardiff

— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) December 8, 2020

Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard told The National: "It's quite clear that the Scottish Government did everything it could to try and dissuade the palace from making this trip.

"On the face of it their decision to ignore this advice and to engage in the public event anyway seems highly irresponsible".

At the time, a royal source told Newsweek: "Travelling across the border is permitted for work purposes.

"The duke and duchess have visited both Scotland and Wales to thank frontline workers and meet people.

"The whole visit has been meeting people and thanking them for their work throughout the pandemic and the visits were planned in consultation with the U.K., Scottish and Welsh governments."

The Scottish Government's travel rules at the time stated: "Travel for work or an activity associated with seeking employment, or to provide voluntary or charitable services, but only where that cannot be done from your home."

Newsweek has approached Kensington Palace for comment.