The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will embark tomorrow on a tour of southern Africa, needing to put baby son Archie at the front and centre if they wish the British public to ‘refall’ in love with them.
The couple have seen much of the goodwill generated by their glamorous wedding a little over a year ago dissipated as a result of criticism of their spending habits; travel arrangements; and tales of a falling out between the Sussexes and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The trip begins in Cape Town with a visit to a “female empowerment training” workshop in a local township and ends 10 days later with an audience in Johannesburg with South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife Dr Tshepo Motsepe.
In the middle part of the tour, the Duchess will stay in Cape Town with five-month-old Archie while the Duke will embark on an intrepid series of flights to Botswana, Angola and Malawi to highlight animal conservation and the remarkable campaign led by his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in outlawing and clearing landmines.
But Ingrid Seward, the doyenne of royal reporters and editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, said it was critical that the Duke and Duchess deploy Archie on the tour to win the public relations battle.
Until now, the baby has been seen in only a handful of photographs. Royal insiders are being coy about when the baby will be seen on tour. There will be no ceremonial greeting for the Sussex family as they disembark their commercial flight in Cape Town on Monday and no events factored in where Archie will be guaranteed to appear.
Ms Seward, however, explained the child was key. “From a public relations point of view the Duke and Duchess really do need to show the people Archie. He is the best ticket they have got for getting people to refall in love with them,” said Ms Seward.
“People are very susceptible to images of children. I don’t see the point of hauling him all the way there only to keep him under wraps.”
This is the opportunity for the Duke and Duchess to alter the public perception that has dogged them in recent months. The refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, their home on the Windsor estate, at a cost to the taxpayer of £2.4 million, has drawn gasps. Then there is the recent outcry and allegations of hypocrisy over their insistence that they wished to protect the planet while at the same time taking a series of private jet flights to and from the south of France and Ibiza.
The tour of southern Africa will show the Duke and Duchess getting serious. They have chosen to avoid the obvious tourist attractions in Cape Town that includes Table Mountain, while Robben Island - susceptible to cancellation due to adverse weather - is also off the list.
Nor are there glamorous parties or dinners, often a staple of a Royal tour, and it is noteworthy that their first engagement after they arrive is in a township.
Although the Duke will attend several receptions at British High Commissions to celebrate the UK's ties with the countries he is visiting, with the Duchess joining him in South Africa, there are few evening events in a programme designed in part to take into account the needs of Archie.
The decision will mean that royal-watchers will not see the Duchess in a tiara or other major pieces of jewellery borrowed from the Queen.
A source said the schedule reflected the couple's preference to " roll up their sleeves and do work in the community", adding: "The balance of the programme reflects their style of hands-on work."