Who’s who in Kate and Meghan’s inner circles
With their public profiles now rivalling those of Princes William and Harry, Camilla Tominey asks who the Duchesses turn to for ideas and inspiration
They are two of the most watched and potentially powerful women in Britain, with a global clout that extends well beyond their royal remit.
Far from merely being “plus ones”, Kate and Meghan are fast eclipsing their princely husbands as major influencers on the world stage, taking on “First Lady” status, with their own offices and staff to help shape their public profiles. Yet, while the Princes have grown up with their own royal “court”, the Duchesses have had to create their own circles of trust in a bid to shape their ideas and communicate their own unique messages.
So, who exactly is in each sphere of influence and what do the people behind the women tell us about those who will one day rule the House of Windsor?
Inside the Kate-ocracy Carole and the Middletons
Aside from Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge’s closest adviser is undoubtedly her mother Carole Middleton, with whom she is described as being “incredibly close” and in “almost daily contact”. As well as asking Carole for advice about the children, and hirings and firings at Kensington Palace, Kate also relies on the former air hostess turned multimillionaire Party Pieces entrepreneur for guidance on her charitable work and for moral support before she has to give speeches, which she finds nerveracking.
More introverted than her younger and more independent sister Pippa, Kate loves nothing better than retreating to the countryside comfort of her parents’ mansion in Bucklebury, Berkshire, where she also seeks the counsel of her mild-mannered father Michael, to whom she is most similar in temperament. “Mike is quite passive, so a perfect foil to Carole, who tends to be quite frank,” said someone who has observed the couple at close quarters. “The Middleton family as a whole is a very tight unit. You’ll often find it’s not only Catherine back in Bucklebury for the weekend but also Pippa and their brother
James. Catherine really hasn’t changed much since she married William, and that’s largely down to her family being so grounded.” INFLUENCE FACTOR 5/5
The daughter of Norfolk construction tycoon Robert Carter, the Middleton family has known Durham University graduate Sophie since she went to Marlborough College with Kate, who was then nicknamed “Miss Middlebum” and “Princess in Waiting”. The two women are so tight that Sophie is godmother to Princess Charlotte, who along with Prince George acted as bridesmaid and pageboy at her wedding to Robert Snuggs in September. Sophie used to date one of William’s closest friends, Thomas van Straubenzee, so has long been a member of the Cambridge’s fiercely loyal and discreet “circle of trust”. Her brother Robert also married one of Kate’s school friends, Hannah Gillingham. Described as “a hoot”, Sophie is the friend to whom Kate turns when she needs to discuss private and sensitive matters in total confidence. In a world where few can be trusted, ultra discreet Sophie is Kate’s go-to girl in times of crisis, keeping her close to her roots, and offering advice without any of the sycophantic pandering of royal aides. INFLUENCE FACTOR 3/5
Part of the so-called “Glosse Posse” that socialised with a teenage William, Marlborough College classmate Emilia is another of Kate’s best friends, having known the Duchess since they were 13, before they both went to study at St Andrews University together.
One of Prince George’s seven
godparents, Emilia is married to banking heir David Jardine-paterson – one of William’s Eton contemporaries
– who is the brother of JJ Jardinepaterson, an ex-boyfriend of Pippa Middleton. When Kate and William split up briefly in 2007, it was Emilia who jetted Kate off to Ibiza to cheer her up. As one half of the upmarket d’erlanger and Sloan interior design company, Emilia acts as Kate’s style guru, helping her to decorate both her homes at Kensington Palace and Anmer Hall, in Norfolk. Known as Kate’s “secret stylist” in royal circles, “godmother of good taste” Emilia has also advised the Duchess on her royal wardrobe, apparently helping to choose the cream Alexander Mcqueen suit she wore to George’s christening, as well as encouraging her to start experimenting with colour. INFLUENCE FACTOR 4/5
Not so much a “Girl Friday” as an experienced “gatekeeper”, Catherine has been in her role as private secretary for over a year now, after taking over from her much-loved predecessor, Rebecca Priestley. Having worked as the chief operating officer and associate dean for administration at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, Catherine acts as Kate’s “business brain”, boasting an MBA as well as degrees from US and UK universities. Helping to shape Kate’s role as a future Queen, heavyweight Quinn is working on increasing the Duchess’s stature, as she takes on more solo engagements following highly successful trips to The Hague and Rotterdam last year. The appointment of the Lancashire-born divorcee, who has a grown-up son, is a sign of the “professionalisation” of Kate’s team. INFLUENCE FACTOR 4/5
Meghan’s power crew Jessica Mulroney
Only a fool would underestimate the influence of this Canada-based fashion stylist, who was introduced to Meghan by the wife of Canada’s prime minister, Sophie Grégoiretrudeau, in 2010. Mulroney has been best friends with the former
Suits actress ever since. All three of Mulroney’s children, Brian, John and Ivy, were in the bridal party for the royal wedding in May, with the twin boys responsible for holding Meghan’s veil.
Jessica, who is married to Canadian television host Ben Mulroney, is such an influence that she popped up during the Sussexes’ recent tour of Australia for moral support. INFLUENCE FACTOR 5/5
Friends since they were first introduced in Miami, fashion designer Misha once said of Meghan: “I love her to death. She is the coolest girl in the world.” Nonoo has helped to shape Meghan’s edgy look, providing her with the now iconic “husband shirt” she wore to her first official engagement with Harry at last year’s Invictus Games in Canada. Friends with Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, London-born but New York-based Nonoo was married to Alexander Gilkes, co-founder of art auction house Paddle8, and is a close friend of William and Harry. Once rumoured to have introduced Harry and Meghan, she is the one most likely to smooth out any bumps in the young royal circle. INFLUENCE FACTOR 3/5
That said, so is Markus Anderson, global membership director at Soho House, the trendy chain of private members clubs, who was named one of Toronto Life’s 50 Most Influential in 2014. Known as Meghan’s “little black book”, Markus is the ultimate high-society convener and has been instrumental in the former American actress’s scaling of aristocratic heights. Known to associate with the
likes of designers such as Christopher Kane, and the late Alexander Mcqueen, model Alexa Chung and actor Jamie Dornan, last summer he accompanied Meghan and Nonoo to Madrid where, as in most major cities, he has all the right connections. INFLUENCE FACTOR 3/5
Friends since they first met at the 2010 Superbowl in Miami, tennis champion Serena knows how to handle pressure, and has been on hand to advise the Duchess on life in the spotlight. Only this week, she described how the pair had spoken on the phone about Meghan’s pregnancy. Williams, who gave birth to her own daughter Alexis last year, revealed how she had told her “sweet” friend to “stop being so nice”, saying: “I’m like, ‘Meghan, stop being so nice … you’re the pregnant one, aren’t you supposed to have hormones, why are you so sweet?’ But that’s always been her.” Having experienced her fair share of negative headlines, straight-talking Serena has been advising Meghan on handling the media while projecting a pro-feminist agenda. She is also likely to influence her parenting style, advising her not to force things. “It will come,” she said this week. Earlier this week it was
reported that Meghan might even ditch the Lindo Wing in favour of a “more natural” home birth with her mother Doria acting as “doula”. INFLUENCE FACTOR 4/5
With her husband’s bromance with Harry in full flourish since they first met in Washington in 2013, it was no surprise that Michelle Obama agreed to meet Meghan backstage after she gave a speech in London on Monday night. The pair have a mutual friend in Oprah Winfrey and Meghan was keen to discuss their shared causes, including women’s education.
In trying to carve out a first lady-like role there could be no better adviser to Meghan than Michelle, who is well placed to give guidance on how to balance the pressures of public and private life – especially when coming from a different background to the “establishment”. Indeed, Mrs Obama has already issued her first piece of motherly advice to the royal newbie – Doria is based in Los Angeles – urging her to “take some time and don’t be in a hurry to do anything”. Recalling how she personally had to spend “the first few months” after moving into the White House adjusting to her new life, she advised Meghan to concentrate on family first before embarking on anything too “ambitious”. INFLUENCE FACTOR 5/5
Mum’s the word: the Duchess of Sussex with Doria, who has an influential role