Duchess Kate is is now ready to shed her Norfolk country mum persona

Back in January, Kensington Palace and the Middleton Manor PR joined forces and went into overdrive for the Duchess of Cambridge’s Keen 40th Birthday PR. It was clear that Kensington Palace sent out talking points which they wanted mentioned in every bloody story about how Kate is the most magnificent jewel in the crown, while also being the most humble and down-to-earth and glamorous person you’d ever want to meet. Within all of those sugary birthday pieces, there were several threads which people wanted to discuss in detail. One, Kate and her people can’t keep Meghan’s name out of their mouths and they gloss over the fact that Kate tries to copy-keen Meghan whenever possible. Two, Kate and her people are really hellbent on convincing everyone that the Cambridge marriage is just fine and that William adores her and would never leave her. It was… a lot. And it made me wonder.

Anyway, the Evening Standard has a new piece called “Queen-in-waiting: How Kate Middleton became the face of The Firm: More solo engagements, revamped style and a big job reforming the pale, male stuffy face of the monarchy — the former Middleton is on a roll.” This was not written by one of the royal Rota dumbasses we usually discuss. The author is Luciana Bellini. The piece reads exactly like the birthday keenery, except this piece was designed to deflect from the fact that Kate and William completely bungled their Caribbean Flop Tour. Some highlights:

Kate was unruffled during the Flop Tour: While the couples’ tour might have been blighted by PR blunders, with images of the Duke and Duchess shaking hands with impoverished children through a fence and appearing in the same open-topped Land Rover used by the Queen in 1953 — criticised for being “tone deaf” and harking back to British colonialism, there was no hint of that across Kate’s perennially unruffled features.

Shedding the country-mum persona: The events in the Caribbean have ushered in a major shake-up of royal tours, but then the Cambridges have long been planning a shake-up of their own, in particular for Kate, who is now ready to shed her Norfolk country mum persona to claim her spot as a polished frontline royal. The timing is both fortuitous — with senior figures saying she has grown increasingly confident — and necessary. The tectonic plates within the royal family have shifted and with Harry, Meghan and Prince Andrew firmly out of the picture, it falls to Charles, Camilla, Kate and William to pick up the slack. “There’s no one else to take on the royal workload — and Kate has very willingly stepped into that role,” says royal expert Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine.

Kate’s keen projects: Kate is forging a path of her own with projects that really matter to her, such as The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood that she launched last June. “Kate won’t just take on anything — it has to be something that really interests her, where she feels she can make a difference,” says Seward.

The Denmark trip: Insiders noted that she was, in many ways, more herself on the trip. “Kate seemed more relaxed without William, who can be a bit fussy when he’s on royal jobs,” the Evening Standard’s royal editor Robert Jobson told TV’s The Royal Beat. More overseas visits without William are planned. Set to be shorter than standard trips, they will focus on issues that really matter to her, such as early childhood development and learning.

Changing up her style: She’s also had a bit of a rebrand. Gone are the safe shift dresses, replaced by braver looks by cool contemporary designers, from The Vampire’s Wife and Alessandra Rich to Roksanda and Self Portrait. Her Caribbean tour wardrobe got everyone talking for all the right reasons. “She just kept pulling out look after look, and every one had something about it, whether it was a nod to the current vintage trend or a completely different colour on her,” says one fashion insider who’s worked with the Duchess for over ten years. “Her look is much fresher and more modern now, with bold choices that show her growing confidence.”

Her marriage: Her marriage to William is as ironclad as ever – indeed, those close to the couple say that the turbulent last two years have only served to bring them closer, with Kate acting as William’s rock during his upsetting rift with his brother and the Prince Andrew scandal, and following Philip’s death. There is a sense that Kate is finally taking this opportunity to seize her role.

It’s all going according to Kate’s plan: “Everything is all part of a long-term plan that she and William have worked out together,” says a source close to the royal household. Her clear-headed tactics are said to stem from her stable middle-class upbringing. Attending Marlborough College – whose ranks are packed with bona fide Sloanes, aristocrats and alumni including Samantha Cameron and Ghislaine Maxwell – she moved in the sort of upper-class circles that made her transition into royal life relatively smooth.

No one has ever been a royal mother before Kate: Kate’s parenting is hands-on – she does the school run regularly, turning up in leggings and a no-nonsense ponytail and queuing with the other mothers to get a coffee after drop off. “Her royal career has been built in an unprecedented way, upon the need to have space for parenting,” says one royal insider. “There was criticism in the early days of their marriage when they were said not to be doing enough, whereas in fact they were pursuing a different strategy, with the entire agreement of the Queen and Prince Charles. The priority was for the two to spend time together as a young married couple, and for their early married life not to be put in the straitjacket of royal service.”

Kate’s destiny: So what can we expect from Queen Catherine? “I would compare her to a young Princess Elizabeth,” says Seward. “Kate has always known her destiny and is ready for it now – unlike Diana, who shied away from it and never wanted it. She has understood her role from the beginning and made it her ambition to do it properly.”

[From The Evening Standard]

This is very much our tri-annual Promise To Be Keen PR drive, I think? Every three or four months, the Middleton PR will go into overdrive to remind everyone that Kate exists, that she’s growing into her role, that she will eventually become very keen, and then Kate just continues on as she always has, barely doing anything, flapping her jazz hands, collecting buttons and cosplaying Diana, Meghan and the Queen. The problem is that this kind of piece belies a real panic about *something* going on in Kensington Palace. It could be as simple as panic about the Flop Tour, where Kate made a complete ass out of herself as she toured “the colonies” in her expensive couture. But it also feels like this has no connection to what is really happening with William and Kate, especially given that they’re truly planning to move to Windsor so that they can do LESS work.

Photos courtesy of Instar, Avalon Red and Backgrid.

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