As William and Kate and their highly photogenic children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were plastered all over the German news media this week following their highly successful tour of the country, it was slightly surreal to reflect that in 18 months’ time, according to current plans, Britain will leave the European Union.
Brexit is the biggest existential threat to the EU since its foundation, and unsurprisingly, Britain is not exactly flavor of the month in Europe right now as a result.
But a last minute decision to include Prince George and Princess Charlotte on the official trip appears to have swung popular opinion in Germany behind the young royal family.
Britain’s ruling Conservative party, weakened by a disastrous General Election, needs all the help they can get. They appear incapable of dealing effectively with European negotiators as they start divorce proceedings.
As in all such settlements, money is the big issue. The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, stood up in Parliament last week and said the EU could ‘go whistle’ if they thought the UK would pay a large fee to exit the union.
That went down badly, prompting the EU’s negotiator in chief to remark that while he couldn’t hear any whistling he could hear the ticking of a clock.
With diplomacy dying at the hands of the country's most senior diplomat, the political masters of Great Britain must have been delighted when a long-scheduled royal tour to Poland and – ta-da! – Germany, the powerhouse of the EU, by William and Kate appeared on the event horizon
And boy, have William and Kate pulled out all the stops on tour this week, with the royal couple even agreeing to sacrifice the hallowed privacy of their children by bringing Prince George and Princess Charlotte, the ultimate in soft diplomatic power, on the tour which took place this week.
This appears to have been a last minute decision as there had been no suggestion by the palace that the royal children would accompany their parents on the trip when it was first announced.
But since it has been clear that one of the main duties of the royal family over the next few years will be to make a Brexiting Britain look pretty on the international stage.
And while the tangible results of the royal love bomb may be minimal – even Kate is unlikely to secure an EU exit bill write down - most would agree that it is good that at least four English people are popular in Germany.
And no-one could accuse William and Kate of making anything less than their utmost efforts on this front.
William did the serious stuff, giving a strongly pro-EU speech about the shared values of Germany and the UK.
As reported in the Daily Express, he said: “I am confident we shall remain the firmest of friends," describing the ties between Britain and Germany as “political, historical and commercial.”
“The United Kingdom and Germany proudly share the same values, as open and democratic societies," William added.
“We have the same determination to champion those values and to defend them - not least through our very close defense and security partnerships.
“The relationship between the United Kingdom and Germany really matters, it is the product of many years of working closely together. It will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union. I am confident we shall remain the firmest of friends. Our visit will reflect, and I hop reinforce, our strong and wide-ranging ties between Britain and Germany."
Kate sought to charm Angela Merkel by apologizing to the German chancellor for her lack of German - and then wowed over her hosts by uttering, "My name is Catherine" in German.
Then Will and Kate competed in a boat race, each coxing (steering) different teams of oarsmen.
Kate even raised a Stein of beer for the cameras.
German media has gone wild for the modern display of young royalty. They have headlined reports of the visit “Die Charmeoffensive” and the Berliner Zeitung compared Kate cuddling children during a visit to a children's charity to Diana, calling Kate, "The New Princess of Hearts."
It’s a reasonable question, however, to ask what, ultimately, is the message that the Royals are bringing to Germany, and by extension, the EU.
Are William’s warm words about ‘all being in this together’ and ‘shared values’ merely hollow platitudes he is uttering on behalf of a government that cannot manage to get an audience?
Graham Smith, the CEO of the anti-Monarchy pressure group Republic, told the Daily Beast that he was unimpressed by the visit.
“There is no evidence that these trips do any good for the country,” he said. “They are good PR for the royals, which is why they do them. But in no way is it going to change relationships between Britain and Germany or the EU. Hard headed politicians make decisions on more serious criteria.”
Smith also argues that the descriptions of the welcome the royals have received is overstated.
“The rapturous welcome is overstated,”: he says. “A visit from Justin Bieber might attract similar crowds. I imagine most of Germany isn’t faintly interested.”
However Count Nikolai Tolstoy, chancellor of the Monarchist League, argued that the visit was a significant statement of Britain’s ongoing place in Europe in the run-up to Brexit: “(The visit) shows that the ridiculous claim that by leaving the EU we are leaving Europe is nonsense. It shows that we are part of Europe whether we are in the European Union or not.
“It is nonsense to suggest that it is only political power that counts. Psychological authority is intangible but it is considerable and very important, especially in Europe at this moment.
“They attract far more attention that Mrs May, and this is where the monarchy plays such a subtle and difficult-to-define, but nonetheless hugely important role.”
“Their going to Germany and Poland and being seen in Europe is a subtle reminder that there is not the slightest reason why such contacts and visits should not continue as before. The monarchy antedates the EU by several thousand years – and the very brief empire of the EU will disappear in my lifetime, hopefully.”
It is undoubtedly that crucial last-minute inclusion of the Cambridge children that really pushed the visit to the forefront of German news feeds.
The kids have been the star of the show, their images adorning all major German news outlets for several days now.
While William and Kate frequently complain about the invasion of their children's privacy by the media, it is not the first time that they have appeared willing to allow their kids to be used for international PR purposes.
When Prince George traveled to Australia and New Zealand with his parents three years ago, it was during a period of growing republicanism surrounding the monarchy - which was soon replaced by fawning copy and multiple photos of the children.
Can they repeat the trick in Europe, and warm the hearts of Britain’s old enemies as we face into an era-defining rupture?
Theresa May might be hoping so – but ultimately, achieving a Brexit that is anything less than disastrous for the UK is going to take more than a love bomb from the country’s most popular celebrities.