The Prince and Princess of Wales will travel to France this weekend to watch the Rugby World Cup – after William was embroiled in a row over his decision to snub the Lionesses’ World Cup final last month.
Kate Middleton, 41, will attend a group stage match between England and Argentina at the Stade de Marseille in her role as patron of the Rugby Football Union on Saturday.
Meanwhile Prince William, 41, who is patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, will watch Wales play Fiji at the Stade de Bordeaux on Sunday.
It comes weeks after the Prince, who is president of the Football Association and therefore responsible for promoting the game nationally and internationally, chose not to attend the World Cup final which saw England play Spain in Australia.
The cost of the trip and carbon footprint were cited as reasons for the prince not to go.
Palace sources said it might be considered tactless for William to return for the first time in almost a decade to publicly cheer England on in the finals they put Australia out of the tournament to get there.
A source told the Mail: ‘It was a finely balanced decision. The Prince of Wales hasn’t visited since 2014 so he would wish his next trip to Australia to be a substantial visit.
‘He met them [the Lionesses] in St George’s Park before they flew out and he has been supporting them throughout the tournament by sending private good luck messages to the manager and team.’
But critics rounded on the prince, as the government frantically scrambled Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to Sydney to support Sarina Wiegman’s side.
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, told MailOnline: ‘It’s utterly ridiculous that England wasn’t and still isn’t prepared to celebrate the women’s World Cup final.
‘The President of the Football Association, Prince William isn’t bothering to attend, licensing laws haven’t been relaxed, there won’t be a screen at Trafalgar Square, and there’s been no word of any kind of large celebration should they win.
‘This last minute scramble to show support for the Lionesses by our leaders isn’t just embarrassing, it reveals how little they think of women’s sport.
‘You can guarantee that there’s no way the men’s football team would be treated with such disregard and disrespect.’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was also absent, due to ‘existing Government business commitments’, but will be ‘cheering the Lionesses on from Yorkshire’, a source said.
Labour MP Kate Osborne told Times Radio: ‘We all know that if this was the men’s final, Sunak, and the FA president, Prince William, would be in attendance no matter how long the flight to Australia is.’
Gerry Sutcliffe, who served as sports minister under Gordon Brown between 2007 and 2010, told the Telegraph: ‘I think the Prince of Wales should be there.
‘I know it’s a long way and I’m sure he has family commitments but this is a unique moment, it’s the World Cup final.’
Neither William nor Mr Sunak attended any of the England men’s World Cup games in Qatar last winter.
However, the row was intensified when the Royal Spanish Football Federation confirmed that Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter, Infanta Sofia, would be in Sydney, ‘to show, once again, the royal household’s support for national football’.
The pair sat in the presidential box at the Accor Stadium, but weren’t joined by King Felipe, who is busy with other official duties.
Letizia visited the Spanish team in Madrid before they travelled to the tournament, watching them train and being presented with a personalised jersey.
She ended the visit with ‘a motivational speech that resonated deeply with the players and coaching staff’, the federation said.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said that bosses had always known William would not be attending, but that he had been a ‘brilliant supporter of the team throughout’.
Before the final, in a video posted on the Prince and Princess of Wales’ social media account, Prince William wished the Lionesses luck alongside his daughter Princess Charlotte, who held a football.
William said: ‘Lionesses, I want to send you a huge good luck for tomorrow.
‘We’re sorry we can’t be there in person but we’re so proud of everything you have achieved and the millions you’ve inspired here and around the world. So go out there tomorrow and really enjoy yourselves.’
A beaming Charlotte, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, added: ‘Good luck Lionesses!’
The decision for the couple to attend the matches in France comes after they enjoyed a summer break in Balmoral with the royal family.
They joined other family members at church as the Royal Family had their first summer break at the estate since the Queen’s death there a year ago.
Sitting beside Prince William on their way to church on Sunday, Prince Andrew appeared to be well and truly back in the royal fold. The disgraced duke, 63, was driven to church by the future king, whose wife Catherine sat in the back seat.
Experts said Prince Andrew’s appearance in a car with William and Kate as the family travelled to church in Balmoral was a ‘public statement of togetherness’ but there is ‘no possibility’ of him returning to royal duties.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told MailOnline the photographs of Prince Andrew travelling to church with the Waleses were ‘clearly intended to send a message of family unity’.
But he insisted it was not a sign Andrew could return to public duties in any form.
‘This is a sad time for the royal family on their customary break at Balmoral. They and the nation will shortly be commemorating a year since the death of the Queen,’ Mr Fitzwilliams said.
‘We know how close Andrew was to the late Queen, his appearance at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Memorial Service in March 2022, where he supported her physically whilst she was giving him emotional and financial support caused much controversy.
‘It has been reported that his allowance has been cut. It was rumoured that his tenure at Royal Lodge in Windsor, which is his home, was in danger.
‘He is also reportedly attempting to regain the police protection he lost when he stepped down from royal duties.’
But Mr Fitzwilliams added: ‘It is important to stress that there is no possibility, as King Charles and Prince William have always realised, of him returning to public duties in any form.
‘A glance at his non-existent popularity ratings in the polls make the public mood very clear on this issue.
‘However what is being emphasised is harmony on a personal level and clearly he and his immediate family, who are also at Balmoral, will appreciate this a great deal, especially as the photographs we see today are such a very public statement of togetherness.’