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British Royal Family

The Kate Factor: How the Duchess’s quiet dignity, devotion and duty is cutting through the noise and turning heads

Kate’s ability to become a royal has been quite remarkable.

By Juliet Rieden
A day is a very long time in the current news cycle surrounding the royal family, and since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved their family to the US, the constantly analysed narrative of brothers at war and of the monarchy exposed feels almost overwhelming.
There's no denying these are landmark times.
The Queen is 95 and despite showing an infectious passion for her public role, the passing of Prince Philip, the patriarchal head of the House of Windsor and a calm source of experience, advice and reason, is significant.
If we've learned one thing from the current slew of revelations from Prince Harry and Meghan, it is that being a royal isn't as enviable as it may appear.
The Duchess of Cambridge has spent the last 10 years adapting to royal life. (Getty)
Behind the palaces and privilege is a predestined work life carried out in an often-painful spotlight.
While the monarchy does evolve, ancient ways do change and modernise – so much about royalty is tied up in history and that is a weighty mantle to carry.
The Duchess of Cambridge didn't come from a regal or aristocratic background, but her ability to become a royal has been quite remarkable and is turning heads.
Kate has successfully risen above the noise of current royal media storms with a quiet dignity, devotion and sense of duty that feels cut from the same cloth of Her Majesty herself.
It's also something the Duchess of Cornwall has in spades.
Camilla and Catherine both faced media onslaughts when they joined the family but their 'head down, do the work' reaction is traditionally how the royals have coped under fire, even if it is a path not favoured by the Sussexes.
The Duchess of Cambridge turns 40 in January, and her rise to royal stardom has been almost plodding – which is as it should be.
Ironically, that cruel epithet of "Waity Katie", which dogged her dating years as Prince William refused to be pushed to rush into marriage, now seems like an important rite of passage.
Kate – or Catherine as William prefers to call his wife – is in this for the long haul.
She has proved it, and it's just as well because in truth she has to be, to secure the monarchy's future. Kate will be queen consort one day.
Her children will likely form the steely backbone of the House of Windsor in coming decades as important supports – first to their grandfather and then their father when they reign. It's a lot.
"I think we've seen Kate grow in confidence," notes British royal correspondent Emily Andrews.
"It has taken some time for her to hit her stride, she was accused of being lazy, of not doing enough, of going too slowly.
"But actually, as time has shown, taking things slowly in a centuries-old institution like the monarchy is probably quite a good idea.
"You don't want to frighten the horses, you want to do things your way but almost effect change imperceptibly.
"Kate is much more confident now in public speaking, in her charitable direction – making children's early years her priority – and I do think her best is yet to come."
Taking things slowly has worked to the Duchess' advantage. (Getty)
The strength of character that has made Kate perfect for this unique day job could well be the result of her happy middle-class childhood.
"Kate had the advantage of a stable and supportive family to help her cope, which Diana and Fergie never had," notes royal biographer Penny Junor.
But also a key part of being the Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess of Wales-in-waiting and ultimately queen, is that Catherine knew what she was getting into and wanted it.
She not only fell in love with Prince William, she relished the royal work that came with that union.
"I think Kate saw herself as William's wife. She really wanted to be with him," The Sun's veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards tells me.
"I can't fault this woman – she's just a class act."
Duchess Catherine has been called a "class act" by royal photographer Arthur Edwards. (Getty)
In the current royal maelstrom that calm reliability is more crucial than ever.
Catherine and Prince Harry have always shared a strong friendship and it's worth noting that back in 2017 Harry said in an interview that it was William who "saved me" by encouraging him to seek therapy for his mental health.
But that friendship is now under the spotlight and whatever his current intentions – and actually I think they are as simple as wanting to put the media record straight – Prince Harry is creating a salvo of damaging spot fires.
His latest is the announcement of "an intimate and heartfelt memoir" which he promises will be "a firsthand account of my life that's accurate and wholly truthful".
Now, if the Duke's TV outings with Oprah Winfrey plus that podcast with US actor Dax Shepard are anything to go by, Harry feels he has a lot to share.
He is clearly exasperated by what he sees as media lies and also wants to open up the inner workings of his former workplace – the House of Windsor – to scrutiny.
And I suspect we will be in for yet more airing of private family business.
In short, Harry wants to set the record straight and won't rest until his truth – from his point of view... all of it... is out there.
Is this concerning for the monarchy? Probably, which is why Kate and William and the stability of the Cambridge family is paramount.
The book, we are told, will be released in late 2022, which places it a few months behind the monumental celebrations planned for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, marking a ground-breaking 70 years on the throne.
This four-day carnival celebration in June in the UK will be a post-COVID explosion of joy with more than 5000 participants from all over the Commonwealth, street parties and an extraordinary pageant involving military pomp, giant puppets and even a pack of misbehaving corgis!
It will also be a time to anchor support for the monarchy to focus on history, legacy and the genuine outpouring of emotion for Her Majesty that is felt around the world.
The Queen's Platinum Jubilee is approaching, with many senior royals expected to attend the festivities. (Getty)
"We're not just telling the story of an incredible life ... it is the story of the second Elizabethan age, a time of rapid change and unparalleled progress," explains the pageant's co-chair Sir Michael Lockett.
A different rewriting of the royal legacy in 2022 will be told in a new season of The Crown, the fictional dramatisation of the House of Windsor which continues to win awards for TV streaming giant Netflix (also the company with which Harry and Meghan have signed a lucrative deal).
This season will be a turbulent one and will take us into the 1990s and delve into the turmoil of Prince Charles and Diana's marriage, resulting in what the tabloids called 'the war of the Waleses'.
Seeing their lives fictionalised cannot be easy for the royal family and especially William and Harry.
And as we go to press, US-made animated satirical comedy The Prince is stepping into uncomfortable territory with its cruel portrayal of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
It's from a writer for the animated sitcom Family Guy and features Harry's new neighbour in California, actor Orlando Bloom, as the voice for Prince Harry.
Prince George and his siblings are the subject of a cruel new animated satirical comedy. (HBO Max)
Prince George is portrayed as an entitled tyrant who spits out his tea and Louis as a thug.
While the royals are used to being lampooned, this is the first time the royal children are in the firing line and William and Kate will need to draw on all their parental resources to protect their children.
This is something on which the brothers are united, and despite the increased demands of their royal work, for the Cambridges I suspect parenthood is one area that trumps duty.
"It has enhanced both of their lives immeasurably," says Katie Nicholl, royal writer for Vanity Fair magazine and author of The Making of A Royal Romance.
"You can see from the way they are with their children that they love being parents and that they are hands-on and very involved with their children's lives.
"William has said becoming a father has made him more emotional and I think we do see a more sensitive and nostalgic side to him.
"He's let his guard down in recent years since becoming a father and opened up on a number of subjects.
"Kate clearly revels in motherhood and she looks better with every year that goes by. She has found her stride in life and the most important thing to her is being a good mother.
"A friend of hers once told me that being a mother makes her happier than anything else, and I think that's very true."
Shielding their children from the media spotlight they endured is a hot topic for both Dukes. For William it involved negotiating with the media in a bid for privacy.
He asked that unauthorised paparazzi photos of his children are not purchased by media outlets in return for handout shots usually taken by the Duchess.
It is a deal that has worked well, with the latest stunning photo of Prince George to mark his eighth birthday hitting front pages around the world.
Prince George grins in a photo released to mark his eighth birthday. (Instagram/Kensington Palace)
Prince Harry is less giving; very few photos of two-year-old Archie have been released and to date none of Lilibet, who was born back in June.
As for the future, a new report in The Sunday Times newspaper suggests that Catherine is soon to take over Prince Harry's former patronages of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL).
Catherine is sports mad so these patronages make sense, especially with women now rising stars in the sport.
She's also a rugby fan, watching with her family as a child, and of course Prince William is patron of the Welsh Rugby Union.
Kate has other sporting patronages – the Wimbledon tennis club, SportsAid and The 1851 Trust, which sets out to inspire and educate young people through various sporting endeavours.
But the appointments are a telling move by the Queen.
Duchess Catherine stood with Prince William and Prince George at the Euro Championship finals. (Getty)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were both stripped of their royal patronages when they stepped back from royal life and this act marks the start of the reallocation of their workload.
In short, the Sussexes will not be back as working royals.
They may, however, be back to join the Queen for the Platinum Jubilee milestone and bring Archie and Lilibet with them.
Catherine has already said that she hopes to meet Lilibet soon and reporting suggests that behind the scenes she is reaching out to her brother- and sister-in-law.
While we can never know what really goes on between the brothers, standing together to support Her Majesty would be an important display of family unity and for the Queen, a sense of harmony I am sure she longs for.
Read more in the September Issue of The Australian Women's Weekly on sale now.

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