As Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, approach their 10-year anniversary this week, it’s an opportunity to look back and see how Kate Middleton, who was given the name “Waity Katie” by the press, transformed from “Duchess Dolittle” into a regal queen-in-waiting.
This regal transformation is epitomized by the recent picture taken by Getty’s Chris Jackson at the funeral of Prince Philip.
Her somber eyes, seen through a small black veil, and expression were both haunting and reflected her growing confidence and influence within the family. There is no doubt, she is the future Queen Consort of the United Kingdom and wife and mother of future kings—but this journey wasn’t easy.
After their marriage, Catherine received a lot of comments for supposedly being “work-shy,” due to her seeming lack of initiative in this new royal role and occasionally looking bored and disinterested. Those criticisms weren’t without merit.
Living in Anglesey, Wales while William worked as a helicopter pilot, she spent much of her time at home and her engagements were somewhat few and far between.
For a woman who has been close to the royal fold for nearly 10 years, she also remained remarkably and notably nervous.
In the first several years of her marriage, her hands were almost constantly clasped in front of her crotch with her clutch, seemingly never moving. Whether walking, talking or even while pregnant, her hands seemingly never moved from that position. At times it looked rather awkward.
Her first public speech was rather rough, though delivered beautifully in what many have called out as an overly posh, plumy accent, which is likely not her natural accent. Again, it was likely a reflection her nerves and wanting to sound posher than the Queen because she was firmly aware that to some, she would never be considered good enough because of her middle-class upbringing.
During engagements, sometimes her expressions were at times overly manic and not completely natural. That’s part of the game, but sometimes it was a bit too much.
She also had a few too many wardrobe malfunctions, the yellow dress at the airport in Canada, at an airport in Australia at the end of their first Asia tour, the mishap with their arrival in New Zealand with Catherine Walker, the helicopter in Australia, at the Indian air…, oops I mean the war memorial with the white dress and those are just the public engagements. Clearly, airports don’t agree with Catherine’s wardrobe, but thankfully the Indian malfunction, which was the last one, happened five years ago.
Personally, I wasn’t much of a Kate fan. Her wardrobe sometimes surprised me from time to time, but mostly I found it rather bland. When it comes to work, she seemed to lack initiative compared to other royals, like Crown Princess Victoria, Queen Maxima, Queen Letizia and others. Generally, Kate seemed content to smile, wave and then go home.
As one commentator put it, she is “a plastic princess, designed to breed.”
In the beginning, the comments weren’t far from the mark. There just wasn’t much substance to Kate or her work.
But in 2018, that seemingly changed.
Perhaps Prince Louis was a makeup child after a rough patch in her marriage or maybe it was the inclusion of Meghan Markle, who drew some of the press attention away from Catherine and her family, but she finally blossomed.
Gone was the crotch clutching, which both made her look less confident and caused her to slouch, and the Duchess of Cambridge was now standing straight and striding, confident. Though she sometimes her hands still fall to that position, it’s no longer like they’re glued there.
She also started her initiative Early Years. According to the Royal Foundation website, “For the last nine years, The Duchess of Cambridge has spent time looking into how experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of today’s hardest social challenges such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide and homelessness.”
As part of the program, she encouraged the United Kingdom to participate in a survey, where the data was gathered, presented to the public and will likely be used to help her and her team with strategizing how they want to continue to use it in future.
Her photography, which at first resulted I some eye rolls and an excuse to own the rights to family photos, has also improved and she participated in a session where she took lovely pictures of Holocaust survivors to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
But what really changed me from a Kate-hater into a Kate-champion was her interaction with her children at a polo match in 2018 after the birth of Louis.
It’s the first time the public had the opportunity to see the family interact, without the obtrusive glare of the cameras or as part of an engagement, and it was clear how close they are and how much Kate is their mother.
Now that might seem obvious, she gave birth to them after all, but in wealthy and royal circles, sometimes most of the parenting responsibilities fall to the nanny or nannies and not to the parents. That’s not the case with Kate (and William as well, who is also close to his children as evident by Louis asked to be held by him during the 2019 Trooping of the Colour event).
This was seen again at another polo event in 2019, where Kate spent much of her time chasing around little Louis.
Their children revealed a level of comfortableness with her at those polo events and others since that demonstrates Catherine’s role as a devoted and deeply involved parent. Yes, she may be royal, but she is first and foremost a mother. That bodes well for the future of the United Kingdom.
If William and Catherine can raise three well-adjusted, respectful and duteous children, that will secure the future of the monarchy more than just about anything else and prove the naysayers wrong and that Catherine is worth her weight in gold.Perhaps it took 10 years, but Catherine is no longer “Waity Katie” or “Duchess Dolittle,” but the future Princess of Wales and a Queen-in-waiting.
Photo taken by Chris Jackson.