Although the fourth season of The Crown has come under fire for fictionalising much of its depiction of Princess Diana, nobody has disputed how a young Lady Di was thrown in the deep end when it came to adjusting to being the future Queen of England.
Paraded in front of the press, and expected to act with the poise and grace of a monarch to-be, it’s no secret Diana struggled with the overwhelming sense of duty that was expected of her.
The royal family are not always known for learning from their mistakes. But when Kate Middleton first came into the fold, they realised that to ensure William’s then-girlfriend could go the distance from young university graduate to future Queen Consort, it would take years of preparation and planning.
Project Prep-Kate-to-Become-Queen first started before she and William got married in 2011 – and was spearheaded by the Queen herself.
“From the beginning, Kate Middleton had a great deal of support from the Royal Family which was really instructed by the Queen,” revealed journalist Ashley Pearson in Amazon Prime’s Kate Middleton: Working Class to Windsor.
“[This was] to make sure that she knew as much as she could possibly know and what to do in every situation – bearing in mind, of course, that she didn’t grow up in this world. There were things like learning how to get out of a carriage without exposing your modesty and learning how to bend down to get flowers from a young girl without exposing your modesty. Things that you would never think you’d have to learn but, of course, a woman in her position would certainly need to know.”
On Kate and William’s wedding day, Queen Elizabeth lent her granddaughter-in-law her Cartier Halo Tiara, which originally belonged to the Queen Mother.
It was seen as a significant choice; like the Queen Mother before her, Kate was a non-royal, becoming a Duchess, who would one day become Queen. The Queen Mother’s transition to monarch was a successful one, and this was seen as an outward sign to the world that Kate was being supported by the royal family in her own journey.
In the almost ten years since the wedding, Kate has gone from a young wife with just a few royal responsibilities to being front and centre of many royal engagements. But the royal family have trodden carefully around pushing her out in front of the public.
In contrast to Princess Diana who did her first solo engagement when she was 20-years old, just six months after getting engaged to Prince Charles, Kate was given a reprieve. In the hope that being given some time to adjust to royal life would mean she was able to carry herself in a more stately fashion, Kate didn’t attend any solo engagements for a year after becoming the Duchess of Cambridge. She was given the luxury of finding her feet, and working out which patronages would suit her, so she could be invested in them.
Today, the Duchess of Cambridge is the royal patron of 18 charities, and tellingly, has taken over several directly from the Queen, including The Lawn Tennis Association, and The Royal Photographic Society.
Inheriting these roles from the current monarch is no accident – it’s the palace making Kate visible to the public, and showing they are putting their trust in her.
“This is all very deliberate,” says royal expert Katie Nicholl, on television show Kate: The Making of a Modern Queen. “It’s very much part of the palace machine bringing her from the shadows of Anmer [in Norfolk where Kate and William spent the first year of their married life] and into the forefront, into the spotlight, because they are very clever.”
In 2018, Kate launched her first solo project, the Early Years Project, a landmark study in the UK which focuses on the first five years of a child’s life, from pregnancy to five years old.
Royal watchers believe this project is the culmination of almost a decade of work as a senior royal. She’s been given the go-ahead by the Queen to spearhead the project as a way of cementing her future status as Queen Consort.
At Remembrance Sunday earlier this year, Kate appeared on the royal balcony with the Queen and Camilla to watch Prince William and Prince Charles lay wreaths on behalf of the royal family at the Cenotaph.
With the absence of any other senior royals, the line-up was significant; the Queen and two future Queen Consorts.
Sombre, reflective and dressed appropriately, there was no doubt that Kate looked regal. Seeing Kate holding her own alongside these women must have been everything the royal family had hoped for when William proposed to his university girlfriend.
“We are seeing a Queen-in-waiting,” confirms Nicholl. “We are seeing the Duchess take on more duties, more royal engagements, more of a public profile than ever before.”
Last week, Kate and William embarked on a three-day tour of the UK to thank community workers and frontline staff for their response during COVID-19.
It was the first official journey for Kate on board the royal train, and royal sources say lockdown has shown Kate the “importance of their power to be agents of the nation’s gratitude.”
Seeing Kate hold court with members of the public, taking the trip in her stride, is yet another sign of how cleverly the royal family have helped her trajectory from young woman to future monarch.
As The Crown hits our screens and reminds us of the fate that befell Princess Diana, the royal family must be thanking their lucky stars for future Queen Kate.
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