El­iz­a­beth, Kate & Meghan: Windsor’s for­mi­da­ble women

At the heart of the Bri­tish royal fam­ily are three pow­er­house women: a stal­wart monarch and two very dif­fer­ent duchesses

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - COM­PILED BY KIRSTIN BUICK

THERE may be men aplenty in the hal­lowed halls and pris­tine par­lours of The Firm’s many palaces but there’s no doubt about it: women dom­i­nate the House of Windsor. Or rather, three women in par­tic­u­lar. In the cen­tre is Queen El­iz­a­beth, tiny in stature and vast of years but as stead­fast as the cen­turies-old bricks shoring up Buck­ing­ham Palace.

On one side is the Duchess of Cam­bridge, de­mure, du­ti­ful, and un­con­tro­ver­sial – the per­fect queen-in-wait­ing.

On her other side is the Duchess of Sus­sex, bold and out­spo­ken, in­de­pen­dent and, if re­cent re­ports are to be be­lieved, dif­fi­cult enough to raise the ghosts cool­ing their heels in the cor­ri­dors of the cas­tles.

As the new year be­gins in earnest, more drama is in­evitable as Meghan pre­pares to wel­come her first baby and Kate gets stuck into more royal roles.

And pre­sid­ing over them all is a monarch for life who still has the abil­ity to wel­come or wither with a sin­gle glance of those fa­mous blue eyes.

We take a closer look at these three re­mark­able women, who couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent if they tried but are bound by royal rules.

THE MATRIARCH

Through­out her long reign the queen (92) has per­formed a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act be­tween kin and crown – and it can’t have been easy, royal bi­og­ra­pher Robert Lacey says.

“Her life has been a con­stant com­pro­mise be­tween keep­ing her pri­vate life pri­vate and let­ting bits out to main­tain the pop­u­lar­ity of the crown,” Lacey says.

And this was ev­i­dent once again dur­ing her an­nual Christ­mas mes­sage.

Al­though she de­voted a chunk of the speech to the 100th an­niver­sary of World War 1, she vis­i­bly soft­ened when she turned her at­ten­tion to her fam­ily.

“It’s been a busy year, with two wed-

dings and two ba­bies,” she said. She was, of course, re­fer­ring to the wed­dings of grand­son Harry and Meghan and of grand­daugh­ter Princess Eu­ge­nie. The ba­bies were Wil­liam and Kate’s son, Prince Louis, and her grand­daugh­ter Zara’s sec­ond child, Lena.

“Through the many changes I’ve seen over the years, faith, fam­ily and friend­ship have been not only a con­stant for me but a source of per­sonal com­fort and re­as­sur­ance,” she added.

“Even with the most deeply held dif­fer­ences, treat­ing the other per­son with re­spect and as a fel­low hu­man be­ing is al­ways a good first step to­wards a greater un­der­stand­ing.”

In re­cent years it’s been clear the queen has not only made an at­tempt to be softer and more ap­proach­able, she’s clearly en­joy­ing it too.

She cher­ishes fam­ily time, royal in­sid­ers say, and it’s a far cry from her days as a young mother when she was of­ten crit­i­cised for putting crown and coun­try first.

Her re­la­tion­ship with her el­dest, Prince Charles, in par­tic­u­lar raised many an eye­brow.

“For Charles it was his mis­for­tune to need his mother’s af­fec­tions at the time where her job was also de­mand­ing that she give her­self to her peo­ple,” Lacey says. “Every­body in those early years

(From pre­vi­ous page) re­marked on how stilted and for­mal the queen was.”

But she’s a great-grand­mother now and in­sid­ers say she de­lights in see­ing the youngest mem­bers of the royal fam­ily. She still has a full work­ing day, an aide says, but she has long since proved her­self as queen.

Now she gets to en­joy her ever-grow­ing fam­ily.

DUCHESS OF DUTY

De­spite be­ing the first mid­dle-class woman to marry into the royal fam­ily in more than 350 years, Kate (37) is one of the most pop­u­lar mem­bers of the world’s most fa­mous clan.

Af­ter meet­ing Prince Wil­liam at St An­drews Univer­sity, she was his du­ti­ful girl­friend for years, earn­ing her­self the nick­name Waity-Katie as Wills de­layed pop­ping the ques­tion. But when he did, all those years in the wings had paid off: Kate was a nat­u­ral in her royal role from the start.

A lit­tle spit and pol­ish was still nec­es­sary

“Noth­ing too dras­tic,” royal writer Ge­of­frey Levy says. “Just length­en­ing her hem­lines a touch here and there and en­cour­ag­ing her to be a lit­tle less showy and not to play to the cam­eras.

“In short, the queen didn’t want Kate to be­come an­other Diana.”

The per­fect mod­ern royal And the queen cer­tainly got her way – soft-spo­ken, bythe-book Kate has rarely put a nude court shoe out of line. She takes her role as the wife of the fu­ture king se­ri­ously and would never dream of up­stag­ing her hus­band.

Kate is poised, kind, du­ti­ful – a de­voted wife to Wil­liam and dot­ing mom to Ge­orge (5), Char­lotte (3) and Louis (al­most nine months).

Keep­ing mum The duchess keeps her opin­ions on cur­rent af­fairs to her­self, as be­fits a se­nior royal, and sticks to speak­ing out about causes close to her heart.

She’s an avid cam­paigner for the Heads To­gether men­tal-health drive, even pen­ning a pas­sion­ate blog post on the mat­ter. “Wil­liam and I wouldn’t hes­i­tate to seek help for our chil­dren if they needed it,” she said in a head­line-mak­ing ar­ti­cle.

Kate the great “Kate isn’t some­body who pushes her­self for­ward, but she’s very con­fi­dent in her views,” said Lor­raine Heggessey, CEO of the Royal Foun­da­tion.

“She of­ten spots the nub of the is­sue or a crit­i­cal thing that needs deal­ing with. I’ve found her in­cred­i­bly wise.”

DUCHESS OF DEFIANCE

She may have joined The Firm less than a year ago but Meghan (37) has al­ready bro­ken plenty of rules – that in­fa­mous tuxedo dress, wear­ing black, speak­ing out about abor­tion and shun­ning fru­gal­ity in favour of ex­pen­sive de­signer duds.

Early on, it seemed Meghan was stick­ing to the rules. Much was made of her “beige-ifi­ca­tion” when she stepped out in num­bers de­cried for be­ing too bland and too bor­ing. It didn’t last long, though.

Back to ba­sics The Duchess of Sus­sex seems to have given up cram­ming her­self into the royal mould. “I’m not sure if the palace called her and said, ‘Okay, this isn’t work­ing,’ or if they planned for Meghan to wear some­thing more con­ser­va­tive for her first few events,” Amanda Dishaw of the Mir­ror writes.

“Ei­ther way, [her old friend and stylist] Jes­sica Mul­roney is back in the pic­ture.” And what a dif­fer­ence it’s made.

Sleek and chic Meghan grad­u­ally aban­doned the staid stock­ings and frumpy

frocks and plenty of her choices – such as the lauded green Bran­don Maxwell mi­didress on her Aus­tralian tour and the olive Ralph Lau­ren frock to Prince Louis’ chris­ten­ing – have gar­nered ap­plause for her.

But you can’t keep all the peo­ple happy all the time.

Court­ing con­tro­versy The sky-high cost of her cou­ture has ruf­fled more than a few feath­ers. Fash­ion blog UFO es­ti­mates Meghan spent £406 915 (R7,3 mil­lion) on clothes in 2018 – six times more than Kate’s £68 334 (R1,2 mil­lion).

Her more dar­ing en­sem­bles have raised eye­brows too. The su­per-short tuxedo dress by Mon­treal brand Ju­dith & Charles she wore to a per­for­mance of the stage show Hamil­ton nearly broke the in­ter­net. And the trouser suits she’s opted for more than once have had con­ser­va­tive royal watch­ers in a tizzy.

The Meghan mark Since she’s been or­dered to keep her so-called “trendy-lefty” be­liefs to her­self, she’s had to find other ways to show sol­i­dar­ity with is­sues she be­lieves in.

“With the pantsuits, Meghan was say­ing, ‘ Women don’t have to wear ball­go­wns if we don’t feel like it’,” Dishaw says.

“We don’t of­ten hear Meghan speak at events, but by wear­ing clothes from a brand that sup­ports women’s rights or be­lieves in sus­tain­abil­ity, she’s able to pro­mote the causes she wants to.”

SAME BUT DIF­FER­ENT

Much has been made of the is­sues be­tween Kate and Meghan but the truth is they’re very dif­fer­ent peo­ple “and to ex­pect them to be­come best friends just be­cause their hus­bands are broth­ers was un­re­al­is­tic”, one palace in­sider says. Meghan has huge am­bi­tions, an­other source says. “The most dif­fi­cult job in the royal fam­ily is to work with those am­bi­tions and make them re­al­is­able. “Ev­ery­thing in the palace is ‘no, no, no’. You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” Meghan has a “com­mand­ing style”, an­other in­sider told Peo­ple, which is a re­flec­tion of her Amer­i­can roots. “Veteran royal aides may not be used to her ‘say-it-as-you-see-it’ men­tal­ity.” Kate, the source adds, has “ma­noeu­vred her­self in a dif­fer­ent way but she’s still strong and bril­liant at her job”. Both are strong, ca­pa­ble women and they’ll do the best they can to fos­ter re­la­tion­ships go­ing for­ward – for their hus­bands’ sake as well as their own. One palace in­sider puts it per­fectly: “An or­di­nary woman was never go­ing to be­come a duchess.”

LEFT: Meghan, Duchess of Sus­sex, Queen El­iz­a­beth and Kate, Duchess of Cam­bridge. BELOW: The queen at her coro­na­tion on 2 June 1953. BOT­TOM: The then Princess El­iz­a­beth and two-year-old Prince Charles watch a pro­ces­sion from Clarence House in 1950.

ABOVE: Kate and the queen watch a fash­ion show at De Mont­fort Univer­sity in Le­ices­ter in 2012. BELOW: Meghan and the queen visit Cheshire in June 2018. This was the first time the duchess had at­tended an event with the queen with­out her hus­band, Prince Harry.

FAR LEFT: Wil­liam and Kate at Princess Eu­ge­nie’s wed­ding in Oc­to­ber 2018. LEFT: The Cam­bridges at The Tusk Con­ser­va­tion Awards in Novem­ber 2018. BELOW: A 22-year-old Kate at the Game Fair at Blen­heim Palace in 2004.

Wil­liam, Kate, Prince Ge­orge and Princess Char­lotte at Prince Louis’ chris­ten­ing in 2018. Meghan and Prince Harry, then new­ly­weds, fol­low close be­hind.

ABOVE: Meghan donned Ralph Lau­ren for Prince Louis’ chris­ten­ing. BELOW: She caused a stir with her “tuxedo dress” at a per­for­mance of the mu­si­cal Hamil­ton last year. Meghan is a fan of tai­lored trouser suits, such as this one she wore to the Wel­lChild Awards in London last year.

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