A version of this story appeared in the April 30 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what’s happening behind palace walls. Sign up here.
London (CNN) – It was an image that got lost on the day of Prince Philip’s funeral but was powerful enough to go viral in the days that followed – the Duchess of Cambridge captured by a photographer peering through a black veil in the back of a limousine on the way to the service. It is as regal as it is human and speaks to the royal she has become.
It’s a very different image compared to those from more than a decade earlier. The then Kate Middleton was hounded by paparazzi everywhere she went when her relationship with William was first revealed in 2004. Royal sources say it got so bad she was forced to leave London for a while.
The newspapers were obsessed with what they saw as a story of social ascent – the middle-class girl who landed her prince while at university on the rugged east coast of Scotland. She was reportedly ridiculed by William’s friends, who were said to whisper “doors to manual” behind her back – a reference to her mother’s former job as a flight attendant. It was also a jibe that glossed over Carole Middleton’s journey as an entrepreneur, someone who established a very successful business and put all her children through one of the country’s top private (and most expensive) schools. Meanwhile in the tabloid media, Catherine faced numerous cruel monikers such as “Waity Katie” due to the length of their courtship.
The coverage became less sniffy after she walked down the aisle at that blockbuster wedding 10 years ago this week.
In the years since, we’ve seen first-hand how she has adapted to performing on the global stage, most recently when she undertook a royal tour of Pakistan with William in 2019. The duchess spoke with us while visiting a home for orphaned children in Lahore. It was during that conversation, with her husband by her side, where we saw a glimpse of the confidence Kate has developed. It was her first news interview, and while she appeared nervous to begin with, she found her stride and has done several others since. She further demonstrated her poise later in the trip, checking in on some nervous members of the traveling press pool with her husband following a particularly turbulent flight.
The duchess’s media coverage has become more positive across the board and in recent months has become almost fawning. It’s often in stark contrast to how they portray her sister-in-law the Duchess of Sussex. Something media commentators have noted.
Kate is set to be the next Princess of Wales before she becomes Queen, and preparation for the roles has not been easy. She has endured forensic scrutiny and egregious invasions of her privacy, like when topless paparazzi shots of her on vacation were splashed across European tabloid magazines.
Her work – first with William and Harry to start a national conversation about mental health and later on issues around early childhood – has illustrated how she intends to use her profile as a frontline royal. When she is engaged on these topics you get a hint of her ambition for long-lasting, meaningful change and of her sometimes introverted but always passionate character.
Only when you see her off-camera and relaxed do you realize how uncomfortable she can be in the spotlight, but she’s learned she has to get out there to remain relevant. William offers advice having grown up in the spotlight but lockdown has also provided her with an opportunity to shine. She has appeared much more at ease during video calls from the comfort of her own home and without all the paraphernalia that comes with television crews.
Over the years, the couple have found something of a parity in their public relationship. Yes, William is an heir to the British throne but Catherine balances him out and has often carried the same weight of responsibilities. She also gets a similar amount of air time.
They understand the media is central in disseminating their work and, in partnership, have devised a strategy that offers a controlled view of their young family – and of Kate as a maternal figure appropriate for a future Queen – while maintaining some boundaries.
They are without doubt hands-on parents, involved in every aspect of their children’s upbringing – something we get glimpses of through their curated social media accounts. The couple are trying to balance having a private family life with an increasing royal workload to support the 95-year-old monarch. They don’t want us to see everything that goes on in their lives, but they do want to give us enough to know they are on track and will be ready to handle the top jobs when the time comes.
PHOTOS OF THE WEEK
Looking as close as the day they tied the knot, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released new photographs to mark a decade of marriage. Many will remember watching the pair exchange their vows in an extravagant event at Westminster Abbey back in 2011.
The two new portraits were taken by British photographer Chris Floyd, who said it was “a thrill to spend some time with them” this week in the grounds of Kensington Palace, the family’s London residence.
While it’s not known how the pair celebrated their marital milestone – traditionally celebrated in the UK with gifts of tin – they did manage a little time away from the kids. On Tuesday, they got hands-on at a sustainable farm near Darlington, northern England, getting behind the wheel of a high-tech tractor and joining a discussion with local farmers on how the industry is adapting to improve its environmental impact.
The pair then headed over to The Cheesy Waffles Project, a charity that helps people with learning disabilities in the area. The project receives support from The Key – one of 26 charities chosen by the Cambridges to benefit from donations made to their Royal Wedding Charitable Gift Fund.
The couple took to Twitter on Thursday, their actual anniversary, to thank well-wishers “for the kind messages.” The tweet was accompanied with a sweet home video of the family enjoying a day out at the beach. In another shot, Princess Charlotte is seen gleefully running away from dad as Prince George walks hand-in-hand with mom. It offered a rare glimpse of the Cambridges – who are famously private about what they share of their young children – enjoying some family time.
See more photos of William and Kate over the years here.
FROM THE ROYAL VAULT
For the first time in 25 years, Princess Diana’s famous wedding dress is going on display.
Her sons, William and Harry, have given their blessing for the dress, complete with its dramatic, 25-foot, intricately sequined train, to go on show at Kensington Palace in London from June.
Its inclusion is part of a larger temporary exhibition called “Royal Style in the Making,” which documents the relationship between fashion ateliers and royals throughout the decades.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
The Queen logs back in
The 95-year-old monarch was all smiles as she returned to her official duties this week. Elizabeth conducted a series of video engagements this week – her first since the funeral of her husband, Philip. Over the course of the week, the sovereign conducted virtual audiences via video link from Windsor Castle with the new ambassadors from Latvia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania and Slovenia, in addition to telephone calls with the prime minister and other appointments.
Rock out with Harry and Meghan
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are joining a host of famous faces for a star-studded fundraising concert next Saturday. Hosted by pop star Selena Gomez, the Vax Live event – which is calling on governments to commit to vaccine equity – will feature appearances from US President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other world leaders, as well as musical performances from Jennifer Lopez, John Legend and the Foo Fighters. The couple on Tuesday announced that they are “campaign chairs,” a role that has seen them encouraging the private sector to contribute funds to the WHO’s COVAX vaccine scheme. “Over the past year, our world has experienced pain, loss, and struggle – together. Now we need to recover and heal – together. We can’t leave anybody behind. We will all benefit, we will all be safer, when everyone, everywhere has equal access to the vaccine,” they said in a statement.
Andrew’s former patronage reassigned to Charles
The Prince of Wales was named as the new patron of Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a post previously held by his brother, the Duke of York. The orchestra’s managing director, James Williams, hailed Charles as “a longstanding champion of the Arts” and said his appointment alongside that of new music director Vasily Petrenko has positioned the orchestra “to lead the resurgence and spread the joy of orchestral music in a post-COVID world.” While Andrew resurfaced recently in the wake of his father’s death, the move signals that the Duke of York is unlikely to be resuming official royal duties any time soon. Andrew was forced to relinquish many of his patronages and associations upon stepping back from public duties in 2019, following a disastrous interview with the BBC over his ties to disgraced financier and prominent sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
It’s a big week ahead for two members of the royal family. First up, Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the fourth in line to the throne, turns six on Sunday. Then her cousin Archie, son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, turns two just a few days later.
Ahead of their special days, we thought we’d sharing a few adorable snaps of the littlest royals.
Check out more cute photos of the youngest royals here.
Prince Charles sent a message to the people of India this week and urged the public to support the country. He added that the British Asian Trust, which he helped found in 2007, has launched an emergency appeal to raise funds for oxygen concentrators – medical devices that compress oxygen from the air – for local hospitals.
India is experiencing one of the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks, with its death toll and daily cases rising continuously. As the nation breaking records for highest single-day increases in cases globally, crematoriums are overwhelmed and hospitals are running low on essential supplies. Read more on why India’s crisis could have global repercussions here.