What Goes Into Planning a Royal Tour?

Marcia Moody
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From Town & Country

On July 17th the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will head off on an official visit to Poland and Germany for five days with their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, but what does it take to pull off a tour of this scale? Here's how it all breaks down:

Planning a royal tour

Royal tours can take up to a year to plan, and are either instigated by the UK government, or by an invitation from the host country. The itinerary is put together based on whatever matters of national importance the host government would like to draw attention to, while also incorporating some of the visiting royal's personal interests. So on Kate and William's forthcoming tour, one of their engagements in Berlin will be centered on mental health issues, which is an area of significant importance to them.

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Once the itinerary is agreed upon, members of the royal party's team travel out to the destination to figure out exactly how everything will work - from travel time to dress codes, camera angles, and the best place for the royal cavalcade to pull up.

A list will be compiled of all the people the royal party will meet, and matters of cultural requirements and etiquette discussed. Venue plans are drawn up to illustrate where everyone will stand, sit, enter and exit. All of the information is distilled down into a "tour bible" as thick and glossy as a magazine.

Meanwhile an advance team of Royal Protection Service officers - a special division of London's Metropolitan Police Service - will visit to figure out all security matters and liaise with their local counterpoints.

Back in the UK, the royals go through the itinerary with their team so they fully understand what is happening at each engagement and why. Wardrobe is of the utmost importance. Adhering to dress codes means that for some countries hemlines, sleeve-lengths, and necklines need to be considered. On a practical level, temperatures are key. How much walking is there, and what kind of terrain?

Men may need tie pins, medals, sashes, and handkerchiefs. Women often pay respect to the country with a national flower or symbol incorporated into their clothing. Symbolic colors are chosen, significant jewelry decided upon. There will also be spare outfits lined up in case anything is damaged or lost. Many, many pairs of nude hosiery will be packed.

Last minute briefings are given on the plane, and the royals will change out of traveling clothes into their outfits at the last minute to avoid wrinkling or spills.

Who travels with them?

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When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Canada with their children last year, they took a team of 12: William's private secretary Miguel Head and assistant private secretary Laura Baker, Kate's private secretary Rebecca Deacon, stylist Natasha Archer and hairdresser Amanda Cook-Tucker, tour secretary Kate Mager, an operations manager who helped with logistics such as loading luggage, and nanny Maria Borrallo. There was also their Press Secretary Jason Knauf, and three other press officers who ensure smooth communications with the hundreds of home and foreign press on the ground, and also handle the social media accounts.

Who pays?

The UK government usually covers the cost of the international flights that the royal party and their team require in getting to and from the country they're visiting, but the host nation covers the majority of costs. The theory goes that they have invited the royal party to visit, and the resulting publicity will showcase their country as a tourist destination and draw positive attention to causes and initiatives.

This is why colorful, photogenic activities will always be favored, because the pictures will be more likely to be used in news outlets around the world. Case in point: Prince Harry racing against Usain Bolt on his Caribbean tour.

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What the royal party do in their downtime?

They actually don't really get much free time to themselves. Royal tours used to span months, but these days it's more economical to cover more engagements in less time, so the royals will never be away longer than two weeks, and customarily they attend around four engagements a day.

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Usually there will be a few car trips involved each day, and sometimes there will be a flight between one country and another - on rare occasions there might even be more than one flight. Starts can be early, so they can get on the road, and in the evenings there are gala receptions. On tours of longer than a week, there will usually be one morning or afternoon where the royal party can catch their breath, but the week-long ones are a whirlwind from start to finish.

What happens to all the gifts and flowers?

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The gifts are received in an official capacity, so they are all carefully logged and packed. A list of gifts that each member of the family has received on overseas tours is released publicly every year.

Last year showed that16-month-old Princess Charlotte received a clutch of items in Canada, including a miniature hockey stick and a guitar. Some of the gifts will be stored, and others will be used in royal homes. A pair of crane birds made from recycled car parts that were received by Prince Charles on one African visit stand pride of place by a lake in his grounds at Highgrove.

Flowers are perishable, and so some are used to decorate the royal quarters where they are staying, and the rest are gifted to local hospitals.

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