On the morning of April 29, 2011, Kate Middleton walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey as a private citizen, and an hour later returned as Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn and Baroness Carrickfergus, a granddaughter. of Queen Elizabeth II.
Now celebrating her eleventh wedding anniversary and after two decades of royal apprenticeship, Kate has been called a ‘saviour of the royal family’ and a ‘shrewd dynastic strategist’, unreservedly carrying out the monarchy’s ‘mission of duty’.
Despite this, widespread popularity was not always easily won by Kate.
The Duchess enjoys a 60% popularity rating according to YouGov, behind only Queen Elizabeth II with 75% in 2022.
The secret to Kate’s increased appeal over the past decade, according to royal commentators, is that she has “played a long game” in mastering the art of becoming the perfect princess.
Prince William and Kate met at university in 2001 and when they started dating a chain of events was set in motion that started a decade-long road to the altar and, for Kate, a lessons on how to adjust to life as a member of the royal family.
The biggest challenge that comes with royal life, while necessary, is the relentless press attention. For Kate, the first foreigner to marry a future king since Diana, the pressure was enormous.
In his new book, Palace papersauthor and former editor of vanity lounge Tina Brown writes that the secret to Kate’s success in this area is her policy of not telling reporters. When it comes to photographers, she doesn’t evade them but simply treats them as if they don’t exist.
“She’s become a mute icon of proper style,” Brown believes.
A 2014 survey by YouGov to Newsweek showed that 47% of respondents said they “never want to be” Kate and 32% said they “wouldn’t even want to know her”.
This speaks to the pressure she is under as the partner of an heir.
Addressing the Washington Post, Brown admitted that throughout William and Kate’s courtship, the future Duchess “was on a plateau of snakes and ladders for 10 years and could have stepped on a snake at any time and gone straight to the bottom. It required discretion absolute.”
While strength and silence may have kept Kate from embarrassing slip-ups in the early years, it didn’t completely save her from press scrutiny.
After five years of dating William, the press and public have begun to weary in anticipation of an exciting and glamorous royal wedding. Kate seemed ready to wait indefinitely for a tiara to be presented to her.
The nickname “Waity Katie” was given by the press and soon there was pressure on the relationship which was identified by royal experts as a factor in the couple’s decision to split in 2007.
It was William who dealt the final blow according to Brown, in a “horrible ‘let’s get it over with’ phone call in April to Kate while she was at Jigsaw’s office, he dropped the breakup bomb.”
It was a decision the author says he soon regretted and the pair reunited a few months later and by the end of the year had Diana’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring firmly on his finger.
THE NEW DUCHESS AND THESE TOPLESS PHOTOS
Kate’s wedding day went off without a hitch.
The audience was in adoration, the bride was composed and majestically wrapped in an Alexander McQueen dress topped with a diamond tiara on loan from the Queen.
In a display of her sense of humour, the future Duchess’ only instruction to her hairstylist Richard Ward for the day was that “by the time she gets to the end of the altar, her husband must recognize her”.
After the wedding, the couple, especially Kate, experienced a golden haze of adoration from the public and the press. That was abruptly cut short, however, when a scandal that has plagued nearly every royal bride since Diana came knocking at Kensington Palace’s door.
In 2012, it was revealed that a paparazzi photographer had taken photos of Kate sunbathing topless on a private holiday in the south of France, which were published by French magazine Closer.
It wasn’t the first topless scandal to hit the royal household. Diana, Sarah Ferguson and Sophie, Countess of Wessex all had similar issues. For William, however, it was a crude invasion and given how his mother was treated at the hands of the paparazzi, he got into a full legal battle.
The case was not resolved until five years later, when the courts ordered Closer to pay more than 100,000 euros in damages to the Cambridges.
It was an important lesson for Kate in the early years of her marriage and a “victory for global decency”, said royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams. Newsweek.
WHO MADE WHO CRY?
Although the years between 2012 and 2019 were not without minor problems, for Brown it has been called a “golden age” for the 21st century monarchy.
The Cambridges have welcomed three healthy and happy children. Kate has developed her royal passions, including a major early years initiative and the co-creation of the royal foundation.
She also received one of the highest honors one can receive from the Queen, the GCVO (Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order), a special Royal Seal of Approval.
However, some felt cracks in Kate’s slowly developing facade began to show as her sister-in-law Meghan Markle exposed some of the realities of royal life. After a painful period of prolonged family separation, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who married in The Firm in 2018, stepped down as full-time working members of the Royal Family and left Britain to a new life in California in 2020.
It was during their explosive 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey that a critical spotlight would be shone on Kate, who, until now, had been largely left out of the reported palace infighting, save for a few whispers of frostbite. on his part towards Meghan.
Discussing reports after her wedding that Meghan made Kate cry during a bridesmaids fitting, Winfrey asked, “Did you make Kate cry?”
“No. The reverse happened,” was Meghan’s response. “She was upset about something. She owned it and bought me flowers.”
The record interview was criticized for putting the royal family, whose usual motto “never complain, never explain” is well known, in a position where they could not directly rebuke the claims made.
Kate, writes Brown, came to understand that “the power of a royal silence is the ultimate mystique of the monarchy”.
This, however, cannot facilitate the process.
ONLINE LIFE AT THE THRONE
As Kate enters her 11th year of marriage after weathering the storms of the past decade, royal experts say we only see Kate for who she is or who she wants to be, a testament to her “long game”. ” way of seeing the royal life.
“Her slow evolution is truly a testament to the long game the Duchess of Cambridge is playing,” royal expert Christine Ross said. Newsweek.
“She’s not looking for instant gratification, she knows it’s a lifetime commitment and she really takes her time to get there.”
“When she first got married, those early years, a lot of people said, ‘She’s shy at work’, ‘She doesn’t do enough’, ‘We haven’t seen her much’ , and now it’s only 11 years after her marriage and in her role, we find that she plays a long game.
“She’s been working on her projects for years. She’s been building her personality and her role in the royal family for a decade because she’s not the most popular today, she’s the one who’s going to be. on the throne for the next fifty years.”
Long-term thinking is also an aspect of Kate’s makeup that Brown says will stand her in good stead as a future queen, writing: “She has studied and mastered the monarch’s art of keeping her thoughts and feelings real, allowing people to project whatever emotion they want onto him.”
“She has become a shrewd dynastic strategist who wholeheartedly subscribes to both the monarchy’s mission of duty and its priority of survival.”
Despite all this, Kate is not immune to criticism or royal gaffes. During a disastrous tour of the Caribbean, the Duchess participated in a series of public relations gaffes that included ill-chosen photo opportunities in Jamaica.
The old pattern of royal behavior learned from the Queen does not apply universally to the modern socio-political climate, as the Caribbean tour proved.
Despite these factors, Kate is seen by many as a pair of sure hands guiding the monarchy to a stable future following her two decades of quiet and diligent royal studies.
Former editor of Marie Claire Joanna Coles summed up a discussion about the Duchess with Brown saying, “You feel like, actually, if the future of the monarchy is in her hands, it’ll be fine.”