Throughout the four years of Brexit negotiations, which has felt like a century, Ireland’s delicate and oft described "special relationship" with the UK was an unwavering sticking point.
Over the years, Prince Charles has visited dozens of times and spoke of his commitment to visiting all 32 counties during his lifetime; a goal he seems well on his way towards achieving with annual visits for the last number of years. Queen Elizabeth’s historic 2011 visit was a resounding success, described as a "watershed moment" by outgoing Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
As such, Ireland is now somewhat of an ‘easy’ place for royals to earn some positive PR, as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry demonstrated in May 2018 when they chose Dublin as their ‘mini-moon’ spot, and their first destination of choice to get their diplomatic feet wet.
It was - in the same as all royal international visits are - “at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”. Usually these types of visits have one of two purposes: to bolster diplomatic relations or to help boost tourism. Seeing as the royals are forbidden from engaging in any political activity, their diplomacy is as soft as it gets, including meet and greets with select individuals and using their profile to highlight specific causes; all with a perfect bouncy blow-dry and practical LK Bennett heels.
Ireland’s tourism industry is at an all-time high: when Meghan and Harry visited in 2018, Ireland was experiencing record visitor numbers which would total 11.2 million by year’s end. To describe the visit as anything other than a real-life practice run in earning positive publicity as newlyweds would be facetious.
Their visit did not draw thousands of supporters, but instead modest numbers when members of the public were welcomed at Trinity College and at the IFSC. But their Sussex Royal website describes the two-day trip as being one of their most successful, which would likely give Kate and William a sense of confidence before arriving here next month.
Kensington Palace confirmed on Tuesday that the Cambridges would be embarking on their first trip to Ireland from March 3 to 5, which is believed to include a trip to Dublin and somewhere outside the capital; a strategy employed by Prince Charles on his many visits here over the years.
Now that Brexit is in effect, Kate Middleton and Prince William have been recruited for their first official trip here. At 93, Queen Elizabeth no longer carries out overseas visits and Prince Philip retired in 2017; Meghan and Harry have moved to Canada, and Prince Andrew quit public life after his disastrous BBC interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein. And the less senior royals don't quite bring the same pizazz needed for such a visit.
This means that post-Brexit diplomacy falls squarely on the shoulders of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; the latter of whom has become the most effective weapon in the royal family's arsenal.
Both have visited privately - Kate, most famously during her 2007 break-up with William and fled to our shores with our mother Carole Middleton for some respite - but the question remains: What has taken them so long?
The long-standing relations between the two countries are well documented: 700,000 Irish people live in the UK and tens of thousands travel between the two countries every week (according to a report by OAG Aviation, the London-Dublin air route at Heathrow Airport is the second busiest in the world).
After nine years of marriage, during which they have embarked on several international tours in Europe and beyond, their decision to only visit their “most important neighbour” in 2020 is cause for scepticism.
With tourism still at an all-time high, Ireland - though far from perfect - is on solid economic ground and considered a smaller heavy-hitter on the international stage; playing a crucial role in the European Union. As Donald Tusk put it last year: "Ireland first".
The purpose of this trip is likely an opportunity to put forward a sense of cooperation between the UK and Ireland, an Ireland that will look quite different at Government level than when their visit was first planned months ago.
The trip, which comes in the direct aftermath of General Election 2020, with the Government of the 33rd Dáil may still be in flux. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is currently frontrunner to form a working coalition and potentially become the next Taoiseach.
This momentous change will overshadow the light-hearted itinerary which will likely involve Kate Middleton meeting schoolchildren and later enjoying a photo-op with President Michael D. Higgins’ dogs Síoda and Bród at Áras an Uachtaráin, standard protocol for all visiting dignitaries.
Details of their itinerary are still unclear and usually aren’t made public until 24 hours before for security purposes. But there will be, of course, ample opportunity for fashion watching and a chance for Kate to showcase Irish designers and secure an easy win for her devoted fans here.
What they are hoping to achieve during this trip is still unclear. Unlike their proposed visit to Australia to paint the bushfire-ravaged regions as still being 'open for business' on the global stage, which is a welcome visit for Australians, who are part of the Commonwealth. Ireland, on the other hand, is economically thriving.
At this stage, hosting a visit for two beloved people representing an institution undergoing a conveyor belt of crisis is simply the neighbourly thing to do.
It seems like only yesterday we were fawning over the royal engagement interview, praising her as the feminist who would shake up the too-traditional British royal family; but instead, there are endless reports of tears, tantrums and lots of headwear-led drama.