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With her elegance, poise and polished manners, it’s no wonder Kate Middleton is admired the world over as the perfect duchess.
Since becoming Duchess of Cambridge on the day of her wedding to Prince William a decade ago, Kate has grown into her role and made it her own, says royal expert Duncan Larcombe.
“When she first became a duchess, she and William were thought by some to be too formal, as though they were trying too hard but I would say we’re now seeing a complete transformation,” he says.
“It’s been very gradual but Kate’s developed a unique style of her own.”
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“Whether it’s to do with the meteorite crashing into the royal family that was Meghan, who knows, but we really are seeing Kate open up and talk about the struggles of being a mother, for example.”
“We’ve seen her during the lockdown, hosting all kinds of Zoom meetings and talking about things she cares about.”
“There’s so much about Kate that’s, frankly, perfect.”
“She didn’t just play hockey for the school, she was the captain; she didn’t just get a boyfriend at university, she found a prince.”
“Kate’s got that aura of perfection that originally alienated her from some people. But she’s changed and evolved into her role. She’s much more relatable.”
Kate’s introduction into the world of royalty began when it was clear that her relationship with William was serious.
Although her upbringing was posh, she was no aristocrat and had to learn the etiquette required to become a royal. And, says Duncan, she was the perfect student from the start.
“By the time Kate started seeing William, she’d already been mixing with the upper echelons of society at her school, Marlborough, the ideal school to groom your child for a life of privilege,” he says.
“William had visited Kate’s school to play rugby and like many students there at the time, she probably would have gone over to catch a glimpse of the future king.”
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“But she never aspired to become an ‘It’ girl and always steered very well clear of bad influences. Being royal attracts all sorts of people wanting to party with you and that was never what Kate wanted to do.”
“She always focused on William and what he wanted and what she needed to do to make it possible for her and William to be together.”
As Kate and William’s relationship grew, the duchess was guided in the etiquette of royal life by senior members of the family.
“Prince Charles and Camilla were very helpful to Kate and took her under their wing, guiding her on her journey to becoming a royal,” says Duncan.
“Kate’s entry into the royal family was gradual and orchestrated. It was at least six years before the palace would even confirm that William had a girlfriend but in that time, behind the scenes, Kate joined Prince Charles and Camilla on holidays.”
“Kate and William spent a lot of time up at Birkhall, the Queen mother’s home on the Balmoral estate that she gave to Prince Charles.”
“The Queen has always had a very good relationship with Kate and I’m sure Her Majesty gave Kate some pointers too.”
“So Kate became very immersed in how the royal family worked and she showed a willingness to learn, to use her eyes and ears to take in everything needed to become a royal.”
“She started with the basics, smiling and asking people the same questions everywhere she went.”
“In her first engagements, you can see her copying the way the Queen sits and at an Irish Guards engagement with William shortly after they were married, you can see how hard she’s trying to get everything right.”
“I think her voice is a lot more polished than when she first met William, her voice is definitely more regal.”
“But now she has her own trademark style in the way she does walkabouts and royal speeches.”
Now, 10 years into the role, the Duchess is often credited with holding the firm together.
“I think becoming a mother has been the making of Kate,” says Duncan. “She has something in common with so many people now and everything she’s learned both as a member of the royal family and as a mother has turned her into a duchess of the people.”
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