Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, may be one of the most famous women in the world, but that doesn't mean she wants to be in the spotlight all the time, even on special occasions. And when it comes to turning 40 this week, the only thing the mum-of-three wants is to spend time with her nearest and dearest.
"I think Kate's 40th will be low-key and focused entirely on her family," says royal writer Duncan Larcombe. "It's just not Kate's style to want to throw a lavish party. I think we can expect Kate to be deliberately modest, with no fuss."
A big gathering would also be in bad taste given the current surge in Covid cases in the UK, so Kate is likely to have a quiet celebration at home with her husband Prince William and their children Prince George, eight, Princess Charlotte, six, and Prince Louis, three. Her parents Carole, 66, and Michael Middleton, 72, along with her siblings Pippa Matthews, 38, and James Middleton, 34, and their families, are also expected to help her mark the milestone.
But even if she doesn't want a fuss, tributes are likely to pour in in honour of the huge contribution she makes to the royal family. One of the most popular royals, commoner Kate has proved to be a very valuable asset to the monarchy and as she enters her forties, she can look back knowing that for the last decade, since marrying William, she has been able to make a difference to the lives of others by embracing her royal role and promoting causes close to her heart.
In the last year in particular, she has sailed through the tough times caused by both the pandemic and upheaval among her in-laws (such as the rift between her husband and his brother Prince Harry) with grace, poise and humility.
Whether it's outshining film stars in a stunning gold dress at the premiere of the new James Bond film or abseiling and mountain biking with a group of children, Kate has stood out for her confidence but also her ability to make people feel at ease.
She is carving out a unique path as a modern royal, identifying and then pursuing her own interests. These include highlighting the importance of the early years when it comes to children's development and talking about how vital it is for parents to look after their own mental health during the pandemic.
She has also spoken out about issues like addiction. At the launch of her new charity project Taking Action on Addiction, she said in her heartfelt speech, "No one chooses to be an addict. But it can happen to any of us. None of us are immune."
People can see that Kate is very genuine in what she does, and her devotion to duty, while juggling motherhood, makes them feel that the monarchy is in safe hands.
"There remains a growing sense that she is fast becoming the saviour of the royal family," says royal writer Camilla Tominey. "When it comes to ushering in 21st century royalty, Kate will rule the waves."
Her true power lies in how relatable she is, says Camilla. She's approachable, down-to-earth and able to make engaging conversation with everybody she meets. Despite being married to the future king and leading a life of privilege, she has no airs and graces.
She and William, 39, vowed they would give their children as normal a life as possible and they've stuck to that. She makes them packed lunches, does the school run, takes them to the supermarket and dresses them in clothing from high-street shops.
A video released to mark her 10th wedding anniversary showed the family playing on a beach, toasting marshmallows over a fire in their garden at Anmer Hall in Norfolk and sharing hugs.
Kate has been William's pillar of strength in recent times. "Kate is the silent power behind William, the linchpin that keep everything together," says biographer Katie Nicholl. "2021 was an exceptionally hard year for him and he's had to shoulder a lot of burden. All the while Kate is quietly in the background supporting him."
But Kate also makes time to stand up for things she believes in. Her unannounced attendance at a public vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard was a case in point. She felt strongly about paying her respects to Sarah, killed by policeman Wayne Couzens, but did so unobtrusively, mingling with crowds and laying a bunch of daffodils picked from her garden.
Royal commentator Antonio Caprarica agrees that Kate is pivotal in the success of the royal family, today and in the future. He says the British monarchy has been saved in the past by women – Elizabeth I, then Queen Victoria and now Elizabeth II.
"When the Queen is no longer there, it is clear the centre of the royal family will be Kate. She's got charisma, beauty, poise and intelligence. So, once again, it will be a woman who guarantees the survival of the dynasty."
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