The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been accused of inadvertently flouting the ‘rule of six’ after meeting Prince Edward and his family at Sandringham.
William and Kate, along with their children Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five, and Prince Louis, two, are said to have ‘mingled’ with the prince’s uncle, his wife Sophie, and their children Lady Louise Windsor, 17, and 13-year-old James Viscount Severn at a public attraction.
The two groups were visiting Luminate, a Christmas-themed woodland walk at the Queen’s Norfolk residence, along with members of the public on Sunday evening.
Both arrived separately, with royal sources stressing there was no intention of meeting up as a party of nine.
But as they made their way around the mile-long, one-way illuminated trail, the two families were seen and photographed mixing and chatting on several occasions, albeit sticking to social distancing.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been accused of inadvertently flouting the ‘rule of six’ after meeting Prince Edward and his family at Sandringham. Pictured from left: Sophie Wessex, Viscount Severn, Lady Louise, Princess Charlotte, Prince William, Prince George
The Queen’s Norfolk residence is covered by Tier Two rules meaning that only six people – including children – can meet up outdoors if they are not from the same household or support bubble.
The regulations clearly state: ‘You can see friends and family you do not live with (or do not have a support bubble with) outdoors, in a group of no more than six. This limit of six includes children of any age.’
They also say that police can take action against those who meet in larger groups – a fixed penalty notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for each further offence up to £6,400.
One astonished member of the public, who snapped the families on their phone, told the Mail they had seen the families ‘mingling’ several times. One of those photographs clearly shows the party of nine, followed by bodyguards, walking in a group together.
The two groups were visiting Luminate, a Christmas-themed woodland walk at the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk. Pictured from left: Prince George next to Princess Charlotte, with Princes William and Louis just ahead. Behind them are Kate, Sophie Wessex and Viscount Severn. Bringing up the rear are Lady Louise and Prince Edward
William is at at the front carrying Louis on his shoulders with George at his side, Kate is with Charlotte and Sophie, who has James following behind her, with the Earl of Wessex and his daughter Louise bringing up the rear.
Another picture shows William, holding hands with George and Charlotte, walking alongside Sophie, James and Louise.
A visitor who saw the group said: ‘They were clearly breaking Covid rules, in my opinion, because there were nine of them from two separate households. They were obviously all having a fun evening out. You could tell that the royal youngsters were having a great time.
‘But I couldn’t help thinking that it was one rule for them and another for the rest of us. It was really quite blatant.’
Last night, royal sources suggested that any contact was inadvertent.
They said: ‘The two families were given separate consecutive slots to visit the trail just before it opened to the general public. They arrived and departed in their own family groups.
‘As anyone with young children will know, there were moments on the 90-minute walk where it was difficult to keep the two family groups apart, particularly at bottlenecks on the trail.’
Both arrived separately, with royal sources stressing there was no intention of meeting up as a party of nine. Pictured: Prince William wears a flat cap on the illuminated one-mile walk
William and Kate, both 38, have been staying with their children at Anmer Hall on the Sandringham estate for the last ten days.
They had hoped to spend the festive season with Kate’s family in Berkshire but were forced to scrap their plans due to the pandemic.
They travelled to Anmer before Tier Three and Tier Four rules were introduced preventing non-essential travel from London, where they live at Kensington Palace.
Edward and his family travelled to Norfolk from their home at Bagshot Park in Surrey.
Family tickets for the Luminate experience cost £52. The two groups were given a starting slot of between 4.15pm and 4.30pm.
The trail is illuminated by displays set to music with trees lit up in different colours, and flickering fairies in cages. Several signs remind walkers of the need for social distancing.
What are the rules?
Did the royals break the rule of six?
According to the Tier Two rules, you can see friends and family you do not live with – or do not have a support bubble with – in a private garden or outdoor space.
But the rules state it should be only in a group of no more than six. They expressly say this limit of six includes children of any age. But many families have told of their confusion, believing that children of primary school age do not count.
Should they have travelled to Norfolk?
The rules here are less clear. According to the Government ‘you should stay local and avoid travelling outside of your local area, meaning your village or town, or part of a city, where possible’. But there is no law or system of fines expressly forbidding this.
When both couples left their homes each was in Tier Two, travelling to another Tier Two area. Last night, the Mail was still awaiting Government confirmation, but it did not appear that there was any requirement for either of the families to return home despite the new Tier Four regulations in London and Surrey.
One member of staff at the attraction said they had joked with George and Charlotte that there were tigers in the woods as they walked past.
At another stage the families were seen at a refreshment area, gathering around fire pits where they toasted marshmallows bought from a stall.
George, wearing a flat cap and green wellies, was also seen running through a maze.
He was watched by Kate who was wearing jeans, ankle boots, a short jacket and a brimmed hat.
William, who was also wearing a flat cap and wellington boots with a pink scarf over his jacket, was photographed entering into the fun by poking his head above the maze.
He was followed by Sophie and Louise clutching takeaway drinks, and Edward.
Detectives who were following, ordered members of the public not to take pictures, saying that the royals were ‘on a private visit’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the rule of six means families should not stop to chat to other families if they bump into them in the street.
‘The rule of six is about making sure that people are being conscientious and not putting other people’s health at risk,’ she added, when asked if a family-of-four, speaking to another family-of-four, would be breaking the rules.
But lawyers have argued that the interpretation is ‘wrong’ as the ban applies to gatherings ‘operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body’.
There is also a lot of confusion over whether the rule of six includes young children, which it does in Tier Two.