Kate Middleton and Prince William do a lot of normal things, like cook dinner and drive their kids to school and walk the family dog. They've been trying to give their three young children as much of a quote-unquote normal life as possible.
But be normal themselves?
Not that they aren't regular, pants-on-one-leg-at-a-time kind of people, but as a unit, William and Kate—the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge—can't be just like everybody else.
Which is important to remember in case you ever again witness Kate giving her husband of almost nine years the apparent brush-off, as she seemed to do during A Berry Royal Christmas with former Great British Baking Show judge Mary Berry last month.
Because just like an oven that isn't warm enough, the couple not being all that touchy-feely proves nothing.
Of course there was instant speculation that something was amiss when Kate appeared to wriggle her shoulder out from under William's touch as they huddled around the table next to a cozy fire on the BBC Christmas special, which aired Dec. 16.
It's a blinked-and-you-missed-it moment (it took literally one second for William's hand to go from Kate's shoulder to back in his lap), but of course so was first lady Melania Trump seemingly swatting away President Trump's hand that time (or the other time), and that certainly had legs for months, if it's not still jogging somewhere on Twitter this second.
Kate and William are certainly the less gossiped about couple these days between them and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who spent Christmas away from the fold and hunkered down (expansively, in a 10,000-square-foot waterfront private residence) in western Canada to ride out the end of a momentous, but also tumultuous, 2019.
But that doesn't mean the hoi polloi isn't eager to pounce at the first hint of something awry between the Cambridges, who have been a couple off and on, but mostly on, for about 17 years.
Two days after A Berry Royal Christmas aired, they arrived at the queen's annual Yuletide lunch at Buckingham Palace separately... but then left and drove off together, with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all buckled into the back seat.
You know... sometimes that happens.
Despite the negative interpretations, benign explanations also abound to explain Kate's sudden twist to her left. It's even possible that Kate didn't even consciously do anything, and it was just an arbitrary movement that looked suspicious at a certain angle. (Not to mention, Luke Evans had just crooned "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to the party, so maybe more than a few people in the room were enjoyably agitated.)
But as far as those nonplussed takes, the main one is that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was simply trying to keep the moment from getting too cozy, because of both royal protocol and, perhaps, her educated guess that if William got too close, the only thing anyone would take away from the whole broadcast was the couple's PDA.
Which is a fair enough assumption because (kind of adorably, no?) every time they hold hands, every time William's hand rests on the small of her back, every time a kiss of any kind occurs—it's news.
Actually, when was the last time you saw them kiss?
Alas, Kate and William's kiss on the mouth in front of thousands of well-wishers and millions watching on TV at home on their wedding day was the hottest stuff you'll see from the future king and queen of the United Kingdom, the young hope of Britain's royal family to stay relevant in the 21st century.
"Aside from William opening a door or gently guiding Kate with a hand on the back you never see them holding hands at engagements," a source told Entertainment Tonight after the shoulder kerfuffle. "Very, very rarely you might see Kate putting her hand on William's knee or a fun hug after competing against each other sailing or rowing while laughing."
In fact, his hand on her back and her hand on his knee both occurred on Princess Eugenie's wedding day in October 2018, so they were really throwing caution to the wind. They must have been caught up in the romance of it all...
Regardless, their PDA is always news, yes, because they're very famous royalty, but also because it serves as a rare glimpse into their personal dynamic, which despite the multiple books written about their courtship remains much more of a mystery since they've been married as two of the most private of public figures. Sure, we see a lot of them, but every appearance, remark and social media post is so carefully orchestrated, it leaves people scrambling to analyze anything that carries a hint of spontaneity.
Now, we're not exactly sure in this day and age why an occasional peck on the lips between a long-married husband and wife with three kids might make them seem any less Royal, but that's just the way it is.
Even walking side by side is an upgrade over the spouse who married into royalty traditionally walking a step behind the other—something William's mother, Princess Diana, refused to do when she married Prince Charles, saving Kate the trouble of having to pioneer that move herself. The Princess of Wales also excised the promise to "obey" from their wedding vows, and neither Kate nor Meghan was inclined to have it reinserted.
Harry, sixth in line to the throne, and his wife have a bit more leeway to be their affectionate selves, but Kate and William—who are discouraged from any public display of how they're really feeling if how the're feeling is anything less than fine—are more or less expected to effortlessly modulate their behavior wherever they go. (Really, Harry and Meghan are too, hence the recent hullabaloo over the spilling of their feelings on TV. Meghan's regression into being merely human will be forgiven, but it would be considered downright bizarre if Kate acknowledged how nice it was for someone to ask if she was OK for a change.)
"There is no actual etiquette or royal protocol that says the couple must refrain from PDA," royal etiquette expert Myka Meier told People back in 2018. Overall, "it is rare to see royal couples holding hands on official outings." As for going about their unofficial business or while enjoying a more relaxed, albeit still public, outing, like a sporting event or movie premiere, Meier added, "Different types of occasions call for different types of behavior."
Let's also not forget where the preferred mode of doing things comes from: Her Majesty the Queen, who appreciates the seeming ease with which Kate goes about her public life.
"Kate is unflappable," a source told Vanity Fair's royal correspondent, Katie Nicholl in November. "Her mantra is very like the queen's 'keep calm and carry on' approach in life, and she has the added benefit of making the royal family seem almost normal and in touch."
You caught the "almost," right?
Added biographer Claudia Joseph, "It feels very much like this has been Kate's year. She looks happy, in control and there's a new confidence about her."
Once again, Kate silently directing William to take his hand off her shoulder was "a conscious effort by the couple to be respectful of their role," ET's source also said. "Harry and Meghan have much more latitude to be tactile. It's not frowned upon. It's just a decision about the way they conduct themselves. Kate's mindful that she was being recorded by multiple cameras and just wanted to remain professional."
The insider added, "The couple is happy, in a good place and devoted to their family."
And can't we focus on the positive, which is that William's natural instinct was to affectionately rest his hand on his wife's shoulder, cameras be darned? That's lovely!
Also, during A Berry Royal Christmas, Kate told Mary that William does sometimes cook for her. "He's very good at breakfast," she shared. "University days, he used to cook all sorts of meals—I think that was when he was trying to impress me, Mary," Kate added with a laugh.
And ultimately—spoiler alert—this saga had a happy ending. William and Kate and their kids were once again the toast of Christmas at Sandringham, which this year included George and Charlotte's first-ever public walk to church with the grown-ups on Christmas morning.
"They really are a pigeon couple," Mary Berry—who had VIP access to the duke and duchess while making the TV special—told the Mail on Sunday's You magazine last month. "When they are together, he's constantly touching her arm and looking over at her smiling and she's the same with him. So natural."