Kate steps up:

the mak­ing of a mod­ern Queen

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Kens­ing­ton Palace, a 300-year-old bas­tion of wealth and splen­dour in the heart of London, cur­rently shud­ders to the sound of work crews and the clat­ter of well-shod courtiers hur­ry­ing to strat­egy meet­ings. There is much to do and only so much time, for soon the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge will make the palace their main home, and in ef­fect re-launch them­selves as the real royal thing.

Their re­laxed – too re­laxed, ac­cord­ing to their crit­ics – so­journ in the English coun­try­side is com­ing to an end. From it, prom­ise their team, will emerge a new-look Wil­liam and Kate, ded­i­cated to duty and de­ter­mined to si­lence their doubters.

The brief, of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of the move merely stated that: “Their Royal High­nesses are keen to in­crease their of­fi­cial work on be­half of the Queen and the char­i­ties and causes they sup­port, which will re­quire greater time spent in London.” But be­hind it lies an ac­knowl­edge­ment that their dream of creat­ing a dif­fer­ent kind of royal life has not gone en­tirely to plan.

So – with some re­grets – the Cam­bridges are re­vert­ing to a more tra­di­tional model. Wil­liam, raised in the royal way, will ad­just fairly smoothly. For Kate, it will not be so easy.

The Duchess, who turned 35 in Jan­uary, has made lit­tle se­cret of her pref­er­ence for stay­ing out of the pub­lic eye with the cou­ple’s two small chil­dren – Prince Ge­orge, three, and one-year-old Princess Char­lotte – at An­mer Hall, their se­cluded Nor­folk man­sion. Never en­tirely com­fort­able with the con­straints and for­mal­i­ties of the royal grind, Kate has poured her en­er­gies into creat­ing a ru­ral idyll.

Yet the Duchess’ ef­forts to pro­vide a happy haven for her fam­ily have come at a cost. The com­bi­na­tion of her priv­i­leged life­style and rel­a­tively rare pub­lic ap­pear­ances has pro­voked crit­i­cism that she isn’t “pay­ing her way”. Last year Kate man­aged only 115 of­fi­cial en­gage­ments, com­pared to more than 300 by the re­doubtable Queen, and al­most as many by the 95-year-old Duke of Ed­in­burgh, who, on med­i­cal ad­vice, has been eas­ing up.

Head­lines ask­ing “Where is Kate?” and so­cial media jibes about “Cather­ine of Ar­ro­gance” – a sar­cas­tic ref­er­ence to Henry VIII’s ill-fated first wife, Cather­ine of Aragon – clearly stung the

royal es­tab­lish­ment, which now takes a much more busi­nesslike ap­proach to run­ning its af­fairs.

“I’m sure there would be a lot of sym­pa­thy for her as the mother of a young fam­ily,” says Dickie Ar­biter, a for­mer Buck­ing­ham Palace press sec­re­tary. “We’d all like to raise our chil­dren as best we can, but if the feel­ing arose that she and Wil­liam weren’t jus­ti­fy­ing their po­si­tions it would be a prob­lem.”

How­ever, an in­trigu­ing glimpse of what Kate is ca­pa­ble of came with a re­mark­able flurry of ac­tiv­ity in Fe­bru­ary. Dressed in a daz­zling, off-the-shoul­der Alexan­der McQueen gown, she first stole the show at Bri­tain’s film awards cer­e­mony, the BAFTAS, where Wil­liam pre­sented a spe­cial award to vet­eran movie co­me­dian Mel Brooks.

The next day a London photo agency was tipped off that Kate would be mak­ing a film ap­pear­ance of her own at a west London sports ground. She duly turned up, wear­ing a bright red quilted ski jacket, black pants and train­ers, ac­com­pa­nied by her hus­band and his brother, Prince Harry. The royal trio were tak­ing part in film­ing a doc­u­men­tary on be­half of a men­tal health char­ity, for which they ran laps of a track.

Hav­ing barely caught her breath, the Duchess turned up 24 hours later to meet RAF cadets at an air base in Cam­bridgeshire, this time dressed in a stylish, plum-coloured, mil­i­tary-style tu­nic. And on the same day it was an­nounced that she and Wil­liam were to pay a two-day of­fi­cial visit to Paris – one packed with en­gage­ments, and which also com­mem­o­rated the death of Wil­liam’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in the city 20 years ago.

This is the kind of en­er­getic, en­chant­ing, star-pow­ered Kate her fans love to see. “She’s re­ally very good in pub­lic, puts real ef­fort in, and makes it look nat­u­ral, even if it isn’t,” says bi­og­ra­pher Mar­cia Moody. So po­tent is Kate’s glam­orous pres­ence it can ac­tu­ally cause com­pli­ca­tions. In the run-up to her BAFTA ap­pear­ance, a story emerged that some se­nior fig­ures in the awards body op­posed her in­vi­ta­tion, fearing that she would over­shadow other big-name fe­male celebrities.

The ac­count was of­fi­cially de­nied, yet it was no­tice­able that Kate and Wil­liam ar­rived at the last pos­si­ble minute, to be ush­ered in­side well af­ter such stars as Emma Stone, Ni­cole Kid­man and Pene­lope Cruz had walked the red car­pet.

It is the sense that Kate is both too pop­u­lar and too lit­tle seen that has in­di­rectly brought about the move to London. Her ap­pear­ances will still be ra­tioned, and she will still spend time in Nor­folk, but the im­pres­sion of her and Wil­liam be­ing “on site”, as one courtier puts it, should help counter the sug­ges­tion that they are dodg­ing their du­ties.

The cou­ple will make their home in Kens­ing­ton Palace’s mis­lead­ingly-named Apart­ment 1a – which is in re­al­ity a mag­nif­i­cent four-storey town­house with views over for­mal gardens and Hyde Park. It was pre­vi­ously the home of the Queen’s sis­ter, Princess Mar­garet, and has been ex­pen­sively ren­o­vated since the Cam­bridges took it over as their base in the city.

Adorned with fine paint­ings from the Queen’s pri­vate col­lec­tion, silk rugs and valu­able an­tiques, the apart­ment has a staff floor, two kitchens, two nurs­eries and an ex­quis­ite walled gar­den. “It makes to­tal sense for them as a home,” says royal au­thor In­grid Se­ward. “There’s re­ally nowhere bet­ter they could be.”

Yet for all its grandeur, the palace will have some painful mem­o­ries for Wil­liam, who grew up here at Kens­ing­ton in Apart­ment 8, with his par­ents, Diana and Charles, the Prince of Wales. Af­ter the cou­ple’s sep­a­ra­tion, when Wil­liam was 10, he and Harry re­mained with Diana, un­til her death.

The more im­me­di­ate prob­lem with the palace is main­tain­ing pri­vacy. This is a ma­jor pre­oc­cu­pa­tion for the Cam­bridges, who have gone to ex­treme lengths to avoid un­wanted at­ten­tion at An­mer. Two years ago, they se­cured a “no-fly” zone over the prop­erty, ban­ning any air­craft from com­ing within 2km, and have is­sued dras­tic le­gal

warn­ings to pa­parazzi, who they have ac­cused of stalk­ing them.

So it was no sur­prise when the jog­gers and dog-walk­ers who pass by the palace each day no­ticed a vast screen of fast­grow­ing conifers be­ing planted in the grounds. The trees have been strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned to block out any view of Wil­liam and Kate’s new quar­ters.

For Wil­liam, at least, the road ahead is now clear-cut. He has aban­doned his job as an Air Am­bu­lance he­li­copter pi­lot, and will de­vote him­self full-time to royal du­ties. This was bound to hap­pen at some stage, but the fact that it has come around sooner than he had hoped only com­pli­cates Kate’s po­si­tion.

She has lit­tle love of London. Raised in the quiet Berk­shire vil­lage of Buck­le­bury (pop­u­la­tion 2000), she went to a gen­teel board­ing school at Marl­bor­ough, snug­gled among vel­vety hills and mead­ows, and met Wil­liam at St An­drews Univer­sity in Scot­land – the most re­mote and iso­lated place of learn­ing in Bri­tain. Af­ter their mar­riage, the cou­ple lived on the storm-bat­tered Isle of An­gle­sey, off the coast of north Wales, where Wil­liam was sta­tioned with the RAF. The con­tent­ment she has found in Nor­folk, has, by most ac­counts, only con­firmed her sense that she isn’t cut out for city life.

There is a fur­ther com­pli­ca­tion. Be­hind the reg­u­lar, ex­citable – and so far un­true – claims of Kate ex­pect­ing an­other child, lies the as­sump­tion that she would like a larger fam­ily. And hav­ing just hit 35, an age at which a woman’s fer­til­ity be­gins to de­cline rapidly, there is added pres­sure. If and when a third baby comes along, there is lit­tle doubt that Kate would pre­fer to give the new ar­rival the kind of start in the coun­try­side that her other chil­dren have en­joyed.

For now, though, her days are full with Ge­orge and Char­lotte. The Cam­bridges’ much-pub­li­cised pledge to give their chil­dren a “nor­mal” up­bring­ing has proved to be more than just a sound­bite. Apart from their Spanish nanny, Maria Bor­rello, and Kate’s in­de­fati­ga­ble mother, Ca­role, the cou­ple do al­most all the child­care them­selves.

By royal stan­dards, this is rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Gen­er­a­tions of lit­tle Bri­tish princes and princesses have been raised by stern-faced gov­ernesses and tu­tors in draughty palace nurs­eries, of­ten hav­ing only min­i­mal con­tact with their par­ents or other chil­dren their age. Wil­liam’s fa­ther, Charles, has spo­ken in har­row­ing terms of feel­ing lost and ne­glected in his early years. His par­ents were away for his first three birthdays, and there is poignant news­reel footage of the Queen re­turn­ing to London in 1952 af­ter a four-month tour of the Com­mon­wealth to be greeted by as­sorted min­is­ters, dig­ni­taries, mem­bers of the Buck­ing­ham Palace staff and, fi­nally, her three-year-old son, who receives a po­lite hand­shake.

“It wasn’t that these kings and queens didn’t love their chil­dren,” says David Co­hen, a London psy­chol­o­gist and au­thor of a book about royal up­bring­ings. “They ab­so­lutely be­lieved they were do­ing the right thing, in pre­par­ing them for the life ahead. But it wasn’t easy for the chil­dren.”

In Kate’s mind, An­mer, an easy stroll from the Queen’s es­tate at San­dring­ham, pro­vides an echo of her own happy child­hood. She does her own shop­ping at the local stores, serves ready-meals straight to the table and reads Ge­orge his favourite bed­time story, The Gruf­falo. The fam­ily’s cocker spaniel, Lupo, has re­cently been joined by a ham­ster called Marvin, and the house is of­ten busy with com­pany. A num­ber of Kate’s clos­est friends live around An­mer, in­clud­ing ex-model Rose Han­bury, the 33-year-old Mar­chioness of Chol­mond­ley, and So­phie Carter, daugh­ter of a Nor­folk con­struc­tion ty­coon.

Her mother and sis­ter, Pippa, are reg­u­larly in res­i­dence. Their pres­ence is no prob­lem for Wil­liam, who, as the prod­uct of an in­fa­mously bad mar­riage, ad­mires the cheery in­for­mal­ity and close­ness of the mid­dle-class Mid­dle­tons. “He ac­tu­ally adores be­ing around them,” says royal au­thor An­gela Levin. “He sees them as a gen­uine, lov­ing, nor­mal fam­ily of the kind he’d like to have.”

The close­ness was high­lighted by the Cam­bridges’ de­ci­sion to skip the Queen’s tra­di­tional Christ­mas lunch last year to spend the day with the

Mid­dle­tons. Pippa, in a mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle, gave some idea of what goes on. “My fa­ther has de­vel­oped this funny tra­di­tion of sur­pris­ing us at some point by ap­pear­ing in fancy dress,” she wrote. “He buys a new cos­tume each year and typ­i­cally gets a bit car­ried away – a cou­ple of Christ­mases ago he ap­peared in an in­flat­able sumo out­fit.”

You don’t get that at San­dring­ham.

For the past year, Ge­orge has been at a Montes­sori school near An­mer, with around 30 other chil­dren, mostly from local farm­ing fam­i­lies. By all ac­counts he is a typ­i­cally bois­ter­ous lit­tle boy, who, Wil­liam claims, re­minds him of Prince Harry. Char­lotte is de­scribed as “rather la­dy­like” and some­thing of a puz­zle to her fa­ther. “Bear­ing in mind that I’ve never had a sis­ter,” Wil­liam ex­plained, “hav­ing a daugh­ter is a very dif­fer­ent dy­namic. So I’m hav­ing to learn about hav­ing a girl in the fam­ily.”

Fol­low­ing the move to London, Ge­orge will at­tend Wetherby School, an exclusive, NZ$10,000-a-term, all-boys pre-prep, close to the palace. Past pupils in­clude both Wil­liam and Harry, com­poser An­drew Lloyd Web­ber, ac­tor Hugh Grant, Down­ton Abbey cre­ator Ju­lian Fel­lowes and Brook­lyn Beck­ham, son of foot­baller David and fash­ion-de­signer Vic­to­ria.

For­tu­nately for the Cam­bridges, the Queen has been broadly sup­port­ive of the cou­ple’s de­sire to live a low-key life on the fringes of the royal fray. As has their most trusted aide and “ideas man”, the Amer­i­can-born, New Zealand-ed­u­cated Ja­son Knauf, who be­lieves the process of mod­ernising the monar­chy must in­clude al­low­ing mem­bers to ex­pe­ri­ence a sem­blance of nor­mal life.

A sign that Kate re­mains in the Queen’s favour, is the like­li­hood that she will re­ceive a royal hon­our later this year.

Cur­rently, the Duchess is the only se­nior mem­ber of the fam­ily with­out ei­ther the Royal Vic­to­rian Or­der or the Fam­ily Or­der – both given per­son­ally by the sov­er­eign for ser­vice to the royal fam­ily. It is ex­pected that Kate will be hon­oured dur­ing fu­ture cel­e­bra­tions for the Queen’s Sap­phire year, mark­ing 65 years on the throne.

Yet the same process of mod­erni­sa­tion holds that roy­als must be seen to be earn­ing their priv­i­leges, and – as the huge pop­u­lar­ity of Prince Harry shows – the harder you work, the bet­ter the pub­lic likes you.

Twenty years on from Diana’s tragic death in a Paris un­der­pass, the monar­chy is a much smarter, slicker and more im­age-con­scious in­sti­tu­tion than be­fore. In a sense it was the out­raged pub­lic re­ac­tion to the loss of Diana that made it pos­si­ble for a girl like

Kate Mid­dle­ton – the daugh­ter of a small busi­ness­man and an ex-airline host­ess – to be­come the fu­ture Queen of Eng­land.

No longer could the an­cient rules of pro­to­col and pedi­gree de­mand that a prince marry a fel­low no­ble with an un­blem­ished past. No longer could love and com­pat­i­bil­ity be seen as side is­sues. The sub­se­quent rise of the com­mon­ers has been the great re­ju­ve­na­tor of the royal line, and Kate is fully aware of how much she owes Diana.

Amid the cur­rent buzz and bus­tle sur­round­ing Kens­ing­ton Palace, two things il­lus­trate how im­por­tant the mem­ory of the Princess re­mains to Wil­liam and his wife. A block­buster ex­hi­bi­tion, telling the story of Diana’s life through her most fa­mous out­fits, will run through­out this year at the palace. And a new statue of Diana will be sited in the palace grounds. Wil­liam and Kate, with Prince Harry, have been closely in­volved in both projects.

Kate today is only a year younger than Diana was at the time of her death. Com­par­isons are mis­lead­ing, for they are very dif­fer­ent women, liv­ing in very dif­fer­ent eras. Some things, how­ever, never change, and one is that there’s usu­ally a new con­tender com­ing up in the glam­our stakes.

Meghan Markle, a 35-year-old, di­vorced Amer­i­can TV star, who is cur­rently shar­ing Prince Harry’s life (see our story on page 32), is seen as the sternest test yet of the court’s re­vised “ac­cept­abil­ity” test. Harry ap­pears be­sot­ted with the Hol­ly­wood-based brunette, although it is fair to say the prospect of a mar­riage be­tween them is rat­tling nerves within the royal es­tab­lish­ment.

Kate, at least, is mak­ing Meghan wel­come. In Jan­uary she made a spe­cial visit to London to meet the ac­tress – tak­ing Char­lotte with her – and the two re­port­edly got on well.

Kate is par­tic­u­larly fond of Harry, and keen to see him set­tle down. And with a new life beck­on­ing and the many chal­lenges that lie ahead, she may need all the friends and al­lies she can find.

Kate is fully aware of how much she owes Diana.

ABOVE: Kate and Prince Wil­liam at­tend­ing a Bri­tish Em­bassy din­ner in Paris dur­ing their of­fi­cial visit to France in March.

TOP: An­mer Hall, Kate and Wil­liam’s coun­try home in Nor­folk. ABOVE: Kens­ing­ton Palace in London will soon be their main home. RIGHT: The Duchess in the Alexan­der McQueen gown she wore to this year’s BAFTAs.

TOP: The young roy­als at­tend­ing church on Christ­mas Day, 2016, which they spent in Berk­shire with Kate’s fam­ily in­stead of join­ing the other roy­als at San­dring­ham. ABOVE: Kate, seen here with her one-year-old daugh­ter Char­lotte, is de­ter­mined to be a hands-on mum.

ABOVE: In the pub­lic’s perception, Kate’s pop­u­lar­ity is closely aligned to her com­mit­ment to duty.

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