The Daily Telegraph
The formidable Windsor women will be pivotal to the King’s successful reign
We have lost the matriarch, but Charles III is blessed to have fiercely devoted females in the Royal family
The Royal family has lost its matriarch but rediscovered the formidable strength of a matriarchy that will prove pivotal to the reign of Charles III.
The wives of Windsor may have been excluded from the walking aspects of yesterday’s state funeral procession but the events of the past 10 days have seen the Queen Consort, the Princess of Wales and the Countess of Wessex step up like never before.
Along with the Princess Royal, who reaffirmed her royal trouper status by once again accompanying Queen Elizabeth II’S coffin – this time on its “final great journey” from London to Windsor – this quartet has emerged as central to the future prosperity of the House of Windsor.
From Anne’s steely work ethic to Camilla’s role as the King’s rock and with Sophie and Kate both bringing a welcome dose of normality to this more than 1,000-year-old institution, the newly slimmed-down “firm” appears in safe hands.
Once the former Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were viewed as the “fab four”. However, with Harry and Meghan now off the scene – and the disgraced Duke of York relegated from senior royal life – the Crown is more dependent on girl power than ever before.
It might not quite be a case of “Charlie’s Angels” but it certainly comes close.
For as these leading royal ladies carried out their respective roles in the austere surroundings of Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, we were reminded that, even in the late Queen’s absence, the monarchy retains a woman’s touch. That’s important when we’ve not only lost the grandmother of the nation but also face the prospect of three male monarchs. Of course, there is nothing wrong with an overtly alpha line of succession – but history, from Nefertiti to Grace Kelly, suggests that it is princesses who maintain the fervent interest in the royals as well as making them seem relatable to the public.
As the wife and mother of a future king, Kate, 40, is now the Diana figure that we have been missing since the Princess of Wales title was set aside with her death 25 years ago: highly photogenic, deeply maternal and with a likeability that appeals to people from all walks of life. Unlike Diana, however, she has the self-assuredness that comes with a stable family background – and 10 years’ experience as a royal girlfriend before she even married William, 40.
Although she may be the youngest of the sorority, it would be wrong to consider Kate a newcomer; she first met the heir to the throne in 2001 so has 20 years of royal experience under her belt. With more now expected of the couple – and the Prince of Wales needing to act as his father’s “liege man of life and limb” – he will become increasingly reliant on the wise counsel of this level-headed and unflappable future Queen. As she grows into her more senior royal role, comparisons will inevitably be made not with Diana, but Queen Elizabeth who, like Kate, gained a reputation for never putting a foot wrong. The Princess of Wales shares the late monarch’s mild-mannered nature as well as her aversion to conflict. As we witnessed during the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, which reunited William and Harry just a month after that Oprah Winfrey interview, Kate is the Royal family’s most natural peacemaker.
Just as Kate has helped to mellow William, Camilla, 75, is undoubtedly a calming influence on a King who can become frustrated with the demands placed upon him. Those viewing the Queen Consort as a sort of jovial “plus one” misunderstand her influence not only on the monarch, 73, but also his court. It was Camilla, for instance, who insisted on the appointment of former newspaper executive Tobyn Andreae as the King’s new spokesman, a move that apparently even blindsided his long-serving private secretary Sir Clive Alderton.
As one royal insider explained: “I think there is a sense that behind the scenes, it’s largely the Queen Consort who is running the show. She makes a lot more decisions than people think, especially with (former aide) Michael Fawcett out of the picture. She’s a stabilising and reassuring presence for the King. She makes him laugh and they have a lot of shared history together. He adores her and truly believes that she is the only person on earth who truly understands him.”
After spending most of the week winning the hearts of well-wishers with her down-to-earth and tactile approach, Sophie, 57, once again endeared herself to the public at the funeral by tenderly putting an arm around Prince George, nine. Such gestures come naturally to the former public relations executive and only serve to make the Royal family look more human. Before she married Prince Edward in 1999, her father-inlaw Prince Philip suggested that his youngest son should inherit his Duke of Edinburgh title.
What better way to keep Queen Elizabeth’s legacy alive than for the King to allow her favourite daughterin-law to be known as the Duchess of Edinburgh? It would also elevate the Wessexes to the superior standing deserving of a pair who have spent nearly 25 years carrying out public duties with hardly any fanfare.
As the royal who regularly carries out more engagements than any other, bar the King, Anne, 72, will continue to supply invaluable sibling support as well as continuing her late mother’s historic relationship with the racing world. Devoted to duty and regarded as a no-nonsense grafter, the seafaring princess provides some much-needed ballast for a royal ship sailing in choppy waters.
Elizabeth I famously spoke of having the heart and stomach of a king – but it was her self-description as a “rock that bends to no wind” that appeared to characterise the strength required of females operating in a man’s world.
The women of the second Elizabethan age are fast proving that they don’t just bring femininity to the monarchy, but a similar degree of fortitude.
‘I think there is a sense that behind the scenes, it’s largely the Queen Consort who is running the show’