After years of play-it-safe style and shy public appearances, the Duchess of Cambridge has undergone a calm but remarkable transformation. Kate Mansey reveals how she finally found her self-confidence – and her voice
Few of those who had gathered in the garden of the Royal Horticultural Society in Wisley, Surrey earlier this month would have noticed it, but when the Duchess of Cambridge finished her short speech, she gave herself a smile.
Kate relaxed and insured earlier this month in a £ 1,800 Emilia Wickstead dress and £ 17 Accessorize earrings. She visited the Wisley Garden of the Royal Horticultural Society in Surrey to view the latest version of the children's play area she had created for the Chelsea Flower Show
If she felt a little satisfied with herself that day, she was absolutely right – because Kate & # 39; s speech to an audience of families to launch a new Back to Nature Garden would have been a personal triumph
In a floating midi dress with flowers by Emilia Wickstead, Kate had spoken with confidence and moving humanity about how children benefit from outdoor activities and how young lives can be saved or ruined, depending on the care they receive in those precious early years.
If she felt a little satisfied with herself that day, she was absolutely right – because Kate & # 39; s speech to an audience of families to launch a new Back to Nature Garden would have been a personal triumph.
It was not long ago that the idea of addressing an audience filled her with fear, as her assistants knew all too well. They would rarely announce Kate & # 39; s speeches in advance and give her the opportunity to gracefully bend if she finds herself overcome with nerves. An early speech at the National Portrait Gallery had been remarkably painful when a frightened duchess stumbled over the words, a crimson blush on her cheeks.
At Wisley, however, we saw a very different Kate. Here was a happy, confident senior member of the royal family, relaxed, humorous and completely at ease with the role.
In recent months, so much attention has been paid elsewhere – for example, to Meghan, Kate's glamorous new sister-in-law; about rumors about a gap between William and Harry and about the ongoing problems that Prince Andrew faces – that Kate's silent transformation has gone almost unnoticed.
With Prince William at the Chelsea Flower Show in May, in a £ 2,500 Erdem dress and £ 4,500 earrings from Cassandra Goad
Yet it seems that the duchess has finally found her voice – and something. Everything about her seems to be more self-confident, not least her appearance. There was a time when Kate was known for playing safely. But it's gone & # 39; armor & # 39; from tailor-made dresses to knee height and bare heels. Nowadays she can be seen in bold designer blouses, wide legs and elegant midi dresses.
Where once she gave literal meaning to the handbag and grabbed it with both hands as a comfort blanket for her belly on engagements, the duchess is likely to be seen earlier with a chic mini handbag by her side.
There are some clever stylists behind the fashion makeover, sure, but those who know the Duchess well say that she deserves the honor of having the humility to listen. This is not a characteristic shared by all members of the royal family.
It all comes down to what her fashion advisers believe the three C & # 39; s are of style: condensing, assembling, creating. This means striving for & # 39; real & # 39; looks and have confidence to match combinations of your best outfits from your wardrobe, instead of relying on a & # 39; star & # 39; piece of haute couture. It requires some courage from the duchess, but the results bring more sense of personality to the fore.
Kate & # 39; s makeup is also toned down, while her new hairstyle contains the natural wave of her hair and honey blonde highlights a warmth from the & # 39; winter sun & # 39; give it to her face, so she gets the most out of her summer tan while it lasts. No more time is wasted on styling the hair. And gone are the clipped, faux-aristo tones she once used for public speaking in favor of a more natural voice. If there is anything that we have learned from the recent criticism of the monarchy, it is that the public has no time for royals who present themselves as something that they are not.
The queen has also played an important role in Kate's transformation by elevating her status within the royal family. On April 29 this year, the eighth anniversary of her marriage to Prince William, Her Majesty made the Duchess Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. This is the highest honor available for a female member of the family and a very personal seal of approval. Kate now wears a special blue sash at state banquets as a reward for her work in support of the monarchy.
Such & # 39; n public recognition appeals to her & # 39; head girl & # 39; – look at life – and Kate was deeply honored. From her earliest days on the school's playing field, she was encouraged by a strong determination to succeed. Healthy competition from her American sister-in-law has undoubtedly encouraged her even more, not least in her calm attempt to develop her own distinctive message. A well-connected source said: & # 39; Kate believes that queen, country, and family come first. She is very clear about her priorities and the values that determine how she lives and works. It's about treating other people well to get the best out of them. She takes her role very seriously and just wants to do her best. & # 39;
Kate at a state banquet for President Trump in June. The blue sash indicates the new status of the duchess as Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order – the highest honor a female royal woman has. The yellow ribbon, with a hand-painted portrait of the queen, is the royal family order, also granted to Kate for her service to the crown
It is quite a contrast to Meghan's approach, which seems to bring more than a touch of show business to its duties. Although Sussex's Instagram page contains right-hand quotes, the Cambridge updates are more in line with the way the royal family does things, such as raising awareness of charities and updating followers about engagements. And while Meghan came under fire for taking no fewer than six private jets in the summer, Kate made sure her family boarded a commercial plane to visit the queen in Balmoral.
While Meghan continues to look for the glamor of her acting days and uses her position to pursue her international ambition to change the world and & # 39; break the internet & # 39 ;, Kate & # 39; s vision is intentionally domestic – calculated to support both Britain and her own family. In her charity work, the duchess has chosen organizations such as the Scouts to match her personal interests, including nature, sports, children's development and photography.
Kate was with Wisley to visit the third version of the children's garden she made this year for the Chelsea Flower Show and last year she convened a steering group of specialists from the early years to see how underprivileged children could offer a better future.
Many of her meetings happen far away from the cameras, but those with whom she has worked say that Kate always comes prepared after doing her homework in advance.
Kate & # 39; s next big engagement comes this fall, when the Cambridges tour of Pakistan – the first official visit of the British royal family since Prince Charles and Camilla visited the country in 2006.
Her assistants say that she now feels integrated in her work and has gathered a team around her that she likes and respects. She is known as a good boss. It is difficult to imagine a more elitist institution than the royal family, but according to well-placed sources, Kate does not think there should be a hierarchy within her team.
& # 39; She wants everyone's voice to be heard & # 39 ;, said a source. & # 39; That means she takes the time to listen to ideas from the most junior members in her team. Then they will say: & Wow, she knows my name. She asked me what I thought. & # 39; That's just how she is. She is also very loyal to her staff. If you make a mistake, she will realize that you are human and will support you in any way. & # 39;
Kate took off the armor – the chic voice, safe shoes, the shield of the handbag – and let her watch
Gossip from the palace suggests that sister-in-law Meghan is not so collegiate. Some courtiers have indeed been polished by the approach of the Duchess of Sussex to royal life. Undoubtedly this is partly due to the commendable, perhaps unprecedented energy that Meghan has brought to the role, but she has also disturbed feathers by hiring external advisors whose opinions are at odds with those of her courtiers.
Kate also seems to have cracked motherhood, another source of her new personal trust. After the summer vacation of the family in Scotland, she looked fresher, carefree and more confident than ever when she walked hand in hand with her daughter Charlotte on the first day of the little princess at school.
The arrival of Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four, and Prince Louis, one, means that Kate has accomplished more than the task of creating an & # 39; heir and a reserve & # 39; to produce, as they are often called.
Given that she is only 37, there may even be a fourth at some point – which is an eye in Harry's eyes who said he and Meghan would limit themselves to & # 39; up to two children & # 39; to minimize the impact on the environment. How the eyes must have been rolled in Kensington Palace, Kate & # 39; s house in London, with that little joke.
The mini-cambridges are always spotless and well-mannered, and although it clearly helps to have nannies and assistants, the no-nonsense middle class values of Middletons have undoubtedly played a role. Granny Carole, the mother of Kate, is very present in the lives of the children. The family spends as much time as possible away from London in the (relative) normality of Anmer Hall, the Cambridges mansion on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
Prince George may be third in line for the throne, but when the Waitrose van arrives, the boy is sent to help the driver carry the bags into the house.
One thing that is rarely noticed is the continued support that Kate gives her husband William, the second in line for the throne, whose personality is not particularly suited to living in the spotlight. In fact, she has performed miracles. A specific moment comes to mind when the two were on tour in Canada in September 2016. They had arrived earlier that day with Prince George and Princess Charlotte in tow, and William was certainly uncomfortable, smiling uncomfortably, and his jaws sticking together while 100,000 men applauded a large crowd. the royal couple. The duchess leaned over to talk to him, perhaps a joke or an observation, and patted his knee softly. He noticeably relaxed.
Employees who know Kate and William well say that for years they have not seen them as happy and relaxed in each other's company. It was clear to see them racing against each other in the King & # 39; s Cup sailing regatta for the Isle of Wight in August (William & # 39; s team came third and a lot of chatter when Kate & # 39; s team as the latter ended and received the booby prize from a giant wooden spoon).
The calm reassurance she has brought to their family life is what Kate is now projecting in public, and this is why her appearance at the Royal Horticultural Society has been so widely praised. Kate has taken off the armor – the chic voice, safe shoes, the shield of the envelope bag and the heavy eyeliner – and has finally dropped her. In addition, she has proven that she is not afraid of being vulnerable and has therefore shown great strength.
She will need it in the goldfish bowl of royal life, where criticism comes from every quarter, even the most unlikely.
On that day in Wisley, Kate bent over to talk to a boy who had painted his face like a tiger. & # 39; Are you a tiger? & # 39; she asked little Dylan Corbin.
Dylan looked bewildered and proved that the HRH status does not play a role for a child, and corrected her with the answer: & # 39; No, it's facepaint. & # 39;
Exactly the kind of ordinary language that Kate admires, actually.
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