Why Kate Middleton and Prince William are sleeping in separate beds on their royal train tour

As news of a three-day trip Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, set out on on the evening of Dec. 6, 2020, began to circulate, many media outlets noted a startling lack of commentary on one detail: the fact that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be sleeping separately. As Harper’s Bazaar reported in anticipation for the 1,250-mile trip, the aim of the tour is to bring attention to the newly instituted Culture Recovery Fund, which was implemented in 2020 to financially assist small businesses and arts-and-culture-related organizations directly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“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,” a spokesperson from Kensington Palace announced, per Harper’s Bazaar, “and to sharing their gratitude on behalf of the nation for all those supporting their local communities ahead of the Christmas holidays.”

While representatives for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have focused primarily on the impetus for the three-day train trip, the fact that Prince William and Kate will be sleeping in separate quarters during the entirety of their goodwill tour has been unacknowledged. So does this mean that not all is well between the royal couple? Read on to find out.

Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal train sleeping arrangements are due to Queen Victoria

As publications like People and Town & Country noted, the reason Prince William and Kate Middleton will not be sharing a bed during the three-day sojourn by train is not so much a reflection on the state of their marriage, but for the sake of practicality. As Town & Country noted, the design of the train dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria, who ruled as England’s monarch at a time where innovations in train travel were at an all-time high, and who used it to help promote goodwill between her status as a ruler and her subjects. 

“[The royal train] was vitally important to Victoria’s reign,” said royal historian Kate Williams in the documentary Secrets of the Royal Train, which premiered on PBS in November 2020. “She saw traveling the country as her duty, whereas monarchs didn’t necessarily think that before. They were quite happy to sit in their palaces and not really go touring. Victoria has a completely different attitude, in which she feels very strongly that it’s her job to go traveling around as much of Britain as she can, so the royal train makes it easier for her.”

All well and good, but how does this factor into William and Kate’s sleeping arrangements?

The royal train was designed specifically with separate sleeping quarters in mind

According to a June 2017 overview of the history of sleeping habits in the UK published by Atlas Obscura, it was the Victorians — the descriptor for those who lived during the time of Queen Victoria’s rule from 1837 to 1901 — who put an end to the practice of shared sleeping places. Per Atlas Obscura, part of this had to do with an increasing emphasis on the concept of privacy during that time, but part of it was also heavily influenced by the idea that intimacy, or rather sexual intimacy through pleasure, was inherently immoral outside of the realm of procreation.

This new trend trickled down to how the royal train, which was built in 1869 for senior royals to use, was ultimately designed. At the time, the locomotive contained separate bedrooms (though by that time, Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, had been dead for eight years) and was updated with cutting-edge technology — namely electricity and an onboard toilet, per Town & Country. But just because the train was technically fit for a queen didn’t mean it was the epitome of lavish grandeur.

“Everyone presumes that the royal train is extremely luxurious, and it’s a bit like the Orient Express, but in practice it’s more functional than flamboyant,” historian David McClure said in a recent documentary on the subject, per Town & Country.

Prince William and Kate Middleton will still be in close quarters

So what does this all mean for how Prince William and Kate Middleton will make do with traveling by private train for 1,250 miles over the course of three days? While they might not be able to sleep in the same quarters throughout the journey, it doesn’t mean they’ll be completely isolated from one another. As People noted, the nine-carriage locomotive, which was modernized over the years and granted to Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, contains a number of areas for both William and Kate to work, eat, and live side by side, including a dining car that can seat up to 12 people, a private bathtub, and other communal spaces. 

Even if Prince William and Kate encounter the occasional bit of downtime during their royal tour, it’s likely that it will be sparse. Much like the last trip Prince William took after the first wave of COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the UK during the summer of 2020, the purpose of their mission is to speak to groups of first responders to offer their gratitude for their services, as well as teachers, students, and others for coping under extraordinary circumstances (per People). Considering the trip will mark the first time the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been on the train, here’s hoping the ride will be a smooth one.

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