The Duchess of Cambridge skipped an important event on the royal calendar this week – and she did so for a most surprising reason.
In the old days, as a queen, you could do just about anything you wanted to.
Drop into Calais, seduce Sir Walter Raleigh or, as Queen Victoria did, just go out and farm for years in Scotland, refusing to do any work.
Our current queen inherited a much, much more limited royal paradigm. No talking politics, no drinking for a day, no invading Catholic countries and no real power. In return, she could wave what she wanted and open parliament every now and then
Queen Mary summed up the rigidity and repetitiveness of royal working life when she said somewhat sardonically, “We are never tired and we all love hospitals.”
The future Queen Catherine is clearly not in the mood for this.
Oh sure, the woman currently known as Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has opened numerous hospitals and is doing everything she can to bring care to a positive Diana-esque level when needed. Even Mary in a bootie would certainly have approved of the Duchess’ custom of hugging a sick child.
But this week’s events are all proof we need that Kate has no intention of clinging to the royal line and walking the same predictable path as all the women who have gone before her.
Ascot was back in full swing for the first time since 2019 on Tuesday: That annual gathering of royalty, the horse-obsessed and horse-lovers returned with gusto after the pandemic. Traditionally, the five-day event was a fixture in royal diaries, with virtually all of the Windsors leading the way and having a great time.
This year’s outing saw something of a return to normalcy. Zara Tindall and her husband Mike, along with Princess Beatrice and her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, have performed multiple times, beaming and proving that a girl can really get a beautiful dress for just four figures.
Meanwhile, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, also put on a good show by leading the carriage procession twice.
It would have been all the same as the privileged course, except for the fact that two large numbers of members of the royal family were conspicuously AWOL: Her Majesty, who was back in One’s castle, holding her feet up and watching all the action on television, and Kate and her husband Prince William.
It was their custom to attend at least once, with the exception of 2018 when Kate had only recently given birth to Prince Louis.
But this week, they’ve spent their time doing the damn thing: work.
The same day the royal cousins were once again in designer power and basking in the sun, Kate convened a roundtable from her Center for Early Childhood Youth, in which not one but two ministers attended. The images couldn’t be grittier: one of pretty hats and fringe, the other of a suit-clad Kate in a book-lined study sitting opposite Sajid Javid, the health minister, and Will Quince, the ministers’ families. Hell, they even had one of those four side table arrangements that they normally reserved for peace talks or UN confabs.
While Kate has regularly brought together a battalion of academics, boffins, thinkers and researchers on early childhood development, this week’s meeting marked the first time she had brought in government ministers in what was a clear escalation of her seriousness and her ambition.
This is far from a one-off.
The Court Circular, the official daily update of royal activities, used to be just the unveiling of plaques after visiting the children’s ward after the ship’s christening, a monotonous list of benefactors at arm’s length.
While Diana, Princess of Wales, strayed from this well-trodden path, over the course of her 15-year tenure as a working member of the Royal Family, it was a gradual rebellion against the status quo and a dedication to doing things her own way. to do .
You only need to read the last few months of the Court Circular to see how dramatically Kate has gone so much further, she has stepped up her work on this issue with the kind of professionalism and determined dedication that has traditionally contradicted the Windsor way. .
As early as this month, in between all the Platinum Jubilee festivities and attending Garter Day, Kate has met with, among others, a professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology, a maternal mental health expert and the CEO of the polling agency Ipsos.
in a essay for the Telegraaf titled Why we wanted to partner with the Duchess of Cambridge, wrote Dr Xand van Tulleken, specialist in public health, together with his twin brother Dr Chris van Tulleken, virologist: “This is not a flashy campaign, with a well-known name as the figurehead, peripherally involved. Nor is it one person’s whimsical idea that it “would be fun to do something for kids.”
“There is nothing trivial about this work.”
Can you imagine Her Majesty taking the time to speak with a professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology?
Never before have we seen a future queen wanting to spend her time in rooms full of people with PhDs instead of people with Hurlingham Club membership.
What’s so shocking here, but so amazing, is that no one saw this coming. Kate was never known for being overly scholastic or academic or even having a great work ethic.
Do you remember the version of Kate that filled the headlines for years? The woman who was constantly accused of being too fond of drifting up and down King’s Road, buying fancy dresses and planning trips to Mustique?
Of course, the Duchess of Cambridge was generally seen as beautiful and prolific enough for Queen’s future appearances, but for years she stood for nothing.
It had always looked like she would function as a purely decorative addition to the royal family in her time as queen, with her greatest contribution to the monarchy being an injection of some fresh DNA to create photogenic heirs. Oh, and she would look good on stamps.
What we’ve got instead is a wonderfully wimpy duchess whose commitment to bettering society goes way beyond doing charity in front of the cameras. What is clear is that she does the boring work here – the meetings, the reading, the roundtables, the homework. Not only that, she does all this with the clear appreciation that this will not translate into any sort of immediate dividends, PR or otherwise.
As Kate said this week, “I’m committed to this long-term – it’s going to take generations to change this landscape, but I hope this is the start of change.”
While the world has been busily watching for the past few years as The Harry and Meghan Show played out in all its gory emotional glory, followed by Prince Andrew’s horrific mess, Kate has transformed herself into a force to be reckoned with.
A force that won’t shy away from getting dangerously close to the Westminster battle. The Royal Family is naturally expected to stay far, far away from anything with even the faintest hint of politics. Call it the first rule of royalties, if you will.
Kate, however, is not floundering with her Center for Early Childhood, but wants to play a role in shaping policy and thus possibly even government spending in the future, and that is clearly very much in the political realm.
Who would have ever thought that the woman whose greatest contribution to British society was raising the bare wedge in the public consciousness could do something so wonderfully radical?
If Queen Mary could see what the Duchess of Cambridge was up to now, she would have a hunch. Could there be a higher form of praise than that?
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years experience working with some of Australia’s leading media titles.
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