The Duchess of Cambridge skipped a key event on the royal calendar this week – and she did it for a very surprising reason.
Previously, as a queen, you could do just about anything you liked.
Invade Calais, seduce Sir Walter Raleigh or, as Queen Victoria did, simply go camping in Scotland for years and refuse to do any work.
Our current queen inherited a much, much more constrained royal paradigm. No talking politics, no drinking day, no invasion of Catholic countries and no real power. In return, she could wave all she wanted and open parliament from time to time.
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. »
Future Queen Catherine clearly doesn’t have a bar of it.
Oh sure, the woman currently known as Kate, Duchess of Cambridge has opened many hospitals and is doing a wonderful job of increasing Diana’s care to positive levels when needed. Even boot-faced Mary would surely have approved of the Duchess’ sick child hugging routine.
But the events of this week are all the proof we need that Kate has no intention of sticking to the royal line and following the same predictable path as all the women who have come before her.
Ascot was back in full swing on Tuesday for the first time since 2019: That annual gathering of royalty, horse-obsessed hangers and horses are returning with enthusiasm after the pandemic. Traditionally, the five-day event has been a firm fixture in the royal newspapers with just about all Windsors coping and having a wonderful time.
This year’s release saw something of a return to normality. Zara Tindall and her husband Mike as well as Princess Beatrice and her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi recorded multiple appearances, beaming and proving that a girl really can get a wonderful dress for just four figures.
Meanwhile, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall also cut a fine figure, leading the carriage procession twice.
Everything would have been normal for the privileged course, except that two batches of royals were obviously AWOL: Her Majesty, who was back at Castle One putting her feet up and watching the whole action on TV, and Kate and her husband Prince William.
Overall, in the past, the Cambridges have been there on the first or second day, which is usually when we see the Windsors showing up in greater numbers. (Although they finally arrived on Friday UK time, that was after missing much of the famous race.) Instead, as Ascot was in full swing, rather than spending time Deciding to put a monkey each way on the fourth race, the Duke and Duchess were an hour’s drive away in London doing the craziest thing: working.
On the same day that the royal cousins were, once again, in creative force and soaking up the sun, Kate was convening a roundtable from her Center for Early Years which included not one but two government ministers. The images couldn’t be more striking: one of pretty hats and thrift, another of a suit-clad Kate in a study lined with books sitting across from Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, and Will Quince, the minister’s families. Heck, they even had one of those four-table tables they normally reserve for peace talks or UN conferences.
While over the past few years Kate has regularly brought together a battalion of scholars, boffins, thinkers and early childhood development researchers, this week’s meeting was the first time she has attracted ministers government in what was a marked escalation in its seriousness and ambition.
It is far from unique.
The Court Circular, the official daily update of royal activity, was just a plaque unveiling after the pediatric ward’s visit after the ship’s christening, a monotonous list of arm’s-length benefactors.
While Diana, Princess of Wales has strayed from this well-trodden path, it has been during her 15-year tenure as an active member of the Royal Family, a gradual rebellion against the status quo and a commitment to do things his way. .
One need only skim through the final months of the Court Circular to see how far Kate has gone much further, having stepped up her work on this issue with the kind of professionalism and single-minded dedication that has traditionally been antithetical to the Path of Windsor.
Already this month, between all the platinum jubilee festivities and her participation in Garter Day, Kate has met, among others, a professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology, an expert in maternal mental health and the CEO from the polling company Ipsos.
In an essay for the Telegraph titled Why we wanted to work with the Duchess of Cambridge, public health specialist Dr Xand van Tulleken and his twin brother, virologist Dr Chris van Tulleken, wrote: “This is not a blitzkrieg, with a well-known name as a figure of bow, involved peripherally. Nor is it one person’s fanciful idea that it would be “nice to do something for the kids.”
“There is nothing insubstantial about this work.”
Can you imagine Her Majesty setting aside time to talk to a professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology?
Never before have we seen a future queen want to spend her time sitting in rooms full of people with doctorates instead of people who are members of the Hurlingham Club.
What’s so shocking, yet so wonderful here, is that no one saw it coming. Kate has never been known to be too bookish or academic or even have a great work ethic.
Remember the version of Kate that made headlines for years? The woman who was perpetually accused of enjoying too much floating down the King’s Road buying pretty dresses and planning getaways to Mosquito?
Sure, the Duchess of Cambridge was generally considered pretty and fruitful enough for the future Queen gig, but for years she stood up for nothing.
It had always seemed that, in her time as queen, she would function as a purely ornamental addition to the royal household, her greatest contribution to the monarchy being an injection of fresh DNA to create photogenic heirs. Oh, and she would look great on stamps.
What we have instead is a delightfully awkward Duchess whose commitment to bettering society goes far beyond doing charity for the cameras. What is clear is that she does the boring work here – the meetings, the reading, the round tables, the homework. Not only that, she does all of this with the clear-headed appreciation that it won’t result in any kind of immediate dividends, PR or otherwise.
As Kate said this week, “I’m going for the long haul – it will take generations to change this landscape, but hopefully this is the start of change.”
Over the past few years, with the world busy watching the Harry and Meghan show unfold in all its bloody emotional glory, followed by Prince Andrew’s disgusting mess, Kate has transformed into a force to be reckoned with. .
A force that does not hesitate to come dangerously close to the Westminster fray. The royal family is expected, of course, to stay far, far away from it all, even with the faintest whiff of politics. Call it the first rule of royalty, if you will.
However, Kate is not straying to the edges with her Early Years Centre, but looking to play a role in shaping policy and therefore potentially even government spending in the future, and that obviously falls within the realm of Politics.
Who would have thought that the woman whose greatest contribution to British society was to elevate the bare wedge heel into the public consciousness could do something so delightfully radical?
If Queen Mary could see what the Duchess of Cambridge was doing now, she would have collusion. Could there be a higher form of praise than this?
Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.