As royal consort to the future King of England Kate Middleton, 29, sheds her middle-class maiden name for something a little nobler. Britain’s modern princess, previously dubbed ‘Waity Katie’ by the hound-dog tabloid press, proves she has no desire to be waited on.
Somehow, it seems far too proper to refer to her as Catherine, let alone the Duchess of Cambridge. Not that Britain deems her unworthy of the title - Kate be counted on for her spotless mannerisms and crease-free turnouts as much as any blood-born aristocrat. Yet lofty titles, royal entourages and courtesies-on-cue just aren’t typically Kate.
While few intimate details are known about Buckingham Palace’s newest addition to the Royal Firm, Kate’s relationship with the press in recent years has been a less-than-stately affair. Despite endless media speculation (which only worsened once her relationship with William was made public), the ever-stylish Kate has managed – on most occasions- to escape the persistent bloodhound noses of photographers hungry for a snap of an unflattering facial expression or rift between the knees when emerging from the backseat of a car.Media photographs have been our only glimpse of Kate, her airy disposition captured only in split-second stills and published in glossies for public consumption. We’ve been acquainted with her as companion to the Prince, always dressed in tailored designer outfits and never without a fascinator perched on her head of immaculately groomed brunette locks. Until recently, Kate has refused to give any official interviews, and the impatient readers of British tabloids waited, salivating in suspense, for big news on this relatively little known Art History graduate from Berkshire.
In an exclusive interview with Tom Bradby for ITV in the couple’s first onscreen appearance since their engagement was announced in November last year, Kate revealed that the proposal was ‘a total shock.’ She smiles, perhaps a little self-consciously, as if well-aware that audiences in all reaches of the English-speaking world are no longer viewing her as the ‘Waity Katie’ of past tabloid christening.
Instead, the public gaze is diverted to the dazzling sapphire engagement ring that now glitters on her left hand. Followers of the Royal Family nearly two decades earlier would have no difficulty recognizing the ring as the one presented to Diana by Prince Charles in 1981. While bearing the memory of her husband’s celebrated mother on her ring finger, Kate is also left with the burden of comparison.“I hope, very much, that people don’t try and compare her to the Princess of Wales,’ said Lady Elizabeth Anson, cousin to the Queen and Royal Party Organiser. ‘She’s a person in her own right and it’d be very unfair to do that.’
Joanne Fowler, senior writer for People, offers her opinion as to why Kate is by no means the late Princess of Wales, taking special care to tell the two apart.
"She's a very modern English woman. She's not like Diana, who was from an aristocratic family. (Middleton) is smart. She's athletic; she's very much of the moment. Everything about her is well thought out. She's handled her time in the limelight with incredible grace and dignity, not making a mess of anything."
As the daughter of British Airways flight attendant stock, the newly titled Duchess of Cambridge will undoubtedly be hounded by dogged publications determined make sure she doesn’t forget her ‘commoner’ origins. In reality, this somewhat archaic label couldn’t be a more inaccurate description of the regal St. Andrew’s graduate and future Queen of England.Her birthplace, the small village of Bucklebury in the heart of Berkshire, marks the beginning of her ascension from middle-class to monarchy. Kate’s childhood home is one of many similarly picturesque cottages on Chapel Row, the local civil parish and quintessence of provincial life.
Kevin Allford, Kate’s former school teacher at St. Andrews Preparatory, noticed Kate’s sunny personality and diligence even at twelve years old.
"[Kate was] well organised, you could rely on her and she was very responsible even at 12 or 13,” said Allford in a BBC interview. “She always had a smile on her face but took everything seriously."
Before she became the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate operated on a nine-to-five routine, working as a buyer for the fashion retailer Jigsaw, as well as helping to manage her parents’ online party business, Party Pieces. However, her attempt at the normal working life familiar to the majority of Britain’s population was a brief stint. Soon, the paparazzi sniffed out her daily routine, and adjusted their schedules (and hiding places) accordingly.Splashes on the front pages of Britain’s ruthless tabloids and ambushes on the way to work at eight-fifteen every morning were the crowning glories of media harassment for the very private Kate. When enough became enough, the royal family pleaded with the media to give the girl some space, finally threatening legal action.
The paparazzi clampdown after her twenty-fifth birthday afforded Kate some much-needed privacy, but public interest in the Prince’s long-term girlfriend remained rife.
“She’d been on the front pages for so long, yet no one had ever heard her speak,” said Tom Bradby after his ITV interview with the couple.
Kate and her new husband are scheduled to visit Canada and California in the summer on their first official tour as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. As a testament to the couple’s ‘no frills’ policy, Kate has opted to travel without the attendance of a lady-in-waiting. A source has described the outwardly posh Kate as ‘very low maintenance.’
“She did her own wedding-day make-up and is confident in doing her make-up for the cameras,” said the source.
Kate’s understated charm has been praised by royal commentators and personal friends alike. She remains poised in the surge of flashbulb attention. With flawless ease, she smiles with a film-star quality that surpasses her small-town origins. Her effortless laugh infects those she greets at public appearances, while her manners reflect her personal sincerity.“Her natural personality is discretion,” said Claudia Joseph of Kate, who wrote the Duchess’ first biography entitled Kate Middleton: Princess in Waiting. “She’s similar in personality to William – she’s not going to upstage him.”
The lack of scandal surrounding the Duchess of Cambridge is bound to be a collective exhale for the Royal Family’s inner circle. Media hype may have exploited the enigma of Kate in the past, but it is unquestionably her quiet dignity that silences the ever-watchful press and keeps the pages of gossip columns bare of incriminating print.
The real Kate Middleton is somewhat of a mystery, garnered by royal titles, imperial fly-byes and jubilating crowds. Her public image is subject to speculation, but for some reason it is not difficult to feel that one knows her. Insiders certainly agree:
“She’s just one of the people – perfect royal material, because she’s not got much of a past,” one insider commented. “She’s patient, she’s got beautiful manners and the fact that’s she’s not very exciting has only got to be in her favour because she’s not going to make any mistakes that way.”