The ingredients are perfect and the ancient recipe for projecting majesty has been followed to the letter, but the week-long visit to India of the Duke and Duchess of York tastes rather plain, in a restrained, British manner. Something like cheese baps, or vinegar crisps. On the menu are the mandatory charity balls and cricket matches, both filmi and businesslike, and what was, by all accounts, a scrumptiously stylish lunch at Delhi’s Hyderabad House. At a demotic level, there was a dosa cooking and tasting session. Assam offers an encounter with the weapons grade chilly bhut jolokia, and with the embattled rhinos of Kaziranga, who spend their days running like farmyard chickens from hordes of elephant-borne tourists and will not notice two more, even if they are from the House of Windsor. The itinerary is sweeping and grand, but something is missing.
Kate Middleton has come to India with a fully loaded wardrobe which has invited admiration, comment and even deconstruction. But if the high point was a weather incident which partly looked like someone trying to set their hair alight in the Eternal Flame, something is missing. Has India lost the romance of royalty? We were fairly gaga about our own maharajas in the 20th century, but have developed grown-up interests since then. Besides, perhaps British royalty is a little too accessible in the age of intrusive photographers.
But let us wait until the decisive moment. For the best visitors from overseas, it’s usually a photo-op at the Taj Mahal. In 1992, Diana moved hearts and minds there. Perhaps the next generation, too, will rise to the challenge against that dramatic backdrop, and strike a pose that’s worth writing home about.