The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge received a rock and roll send-off for their country-wide tour by royal train when Shakin’ Stevens performed.
Before William and Kate boarded the service, the singer, known for a string of hits in the 1980s, sang his festive smash-hit single Merry Christmas Everyone for the couple and a group of transport workers.
The track topped the charts during Christmas 1985 and was picked by the royal couple as the song they wanted to hear and during the performance the duchess tapped her foot and swayed to the music.
The duke and duchess, who wore face masks, set off on Sunday evening from London’s Euston station on a 1,250-mile, three-day, tour, which will see them thank communities, outstanding individuals and key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
During the event, William told Orson Parris, a network traffic controller for Transport for London: “Fingers crossed 2021 gets things back to normal.”
William and Kate are expected to meet the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at their final stop.
The first stop for the duke and duchess – who wore an Alexander McQueen coat and tartan scarf – has not been disclosed, but Stevens, whose real name is Michael Barratt, said his performance had been his first for royalty.
The 72-year-old performer said: “I’m loving it, it was lovely to be invited.”
He added that the couple were “certainly fans” of his festive hit, adding: “They picked it!”
Asked how he felt when he got the call asking him to perform, he said: “Absolutely hanging from the moon.”
Commenting on William and Kate’s decision to travel around the country thanking those who have made sacrifices this year, the singer said: “It’s lovely to give back isn’t it? It’s nice to give back and they are leading the way.
“It needs something to cheer us up doesn’t it? Because what we’ve got, we don’t know how long it’s going to go on for, so you have got to keep your pecker up.”
It is believed the trip is Kate’s first official journey by royal train, despite having been a member of the monarchy for almost a decade, while the duke has used it a number of times.
William travelled on the train on the day of the funeral of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, when he joined his father, brother and the Spencer family on the journey to the princess’s ancestral home Althorp for her burial.
In 2003, he journeyed overnight on the train to Bangor with the Prince of Wales to carry out a day of engagements in North Wales ahead of his 21st birthday.
Before climbing on board the service, the duke and duchess spent time chatting to staff from Transport for London (TfL), Network Rail and train operating companies about their experiences of working throughout the pandemic.
On behalf of the nation, they passed on their thanks for everything they have done to keep trains in London running and the measures taken to ensure passengers could travel safely with confidence.
William told Alero Abbey, TfL area manager for Green Park and Euston: “It’s moments like this when people really appreciate what you do every day. Suddenly we all know what you do and that you do a really good job.”
The couple appeared shocked to hear from London Overground driver Glyn Smith about how he had managed to avoid hitting a young child on the line in June.
“You saved his life?” the duke asked. “How fast were you going at the time?”
Mr Smith told them he was driving at around 20mph, adding: “It could have been so much worse.”
“Well done,” the duke said. “Very impressive.”
Network Rail staff altered the departure boards for the occasion, changing Wolverhampton to Warmerhampton, Coventry to Coventry Carol and Northampton to Northpolehamton.
Along the way, William and Kate will highlight the impact of extraordinary public generosity during the coronavirus pandemic, showcasing charities such as NHS Together and meeting frontline workers, teachers, mental health professionals, care workers and schoolchildren.
They will also celebrate examples of community spirit by showcasing the arts, heritage and the live performance sector.