Royals

Kate Middleton’s courageous comeback

With her head held high, the loyal princess continues to do her best work

The royal family lives by the mantra “never complain, never explain”. It’s why the Princess of Wales has been unable to fight back against some of the shocking things said about her in the controversial book Endgame by Omid Scobie.

However, as the new year gets underway and Kate focuses on a busy schedule ahead that will mix her official duties with being

a mum, royal correspondents continue to defend her over the barrage of allegations that many have described as nasty and untrue.

Kate came off worst in the book that takes pot-shots at most members of the family – and that was particularly galling because she doesn’t deserve it, say many writers who get to see the royals up close.

“The princess has devoted herself to duty, to looking after her husband and her young family. She should be looked up to, not denigrated,” insists author Robert Jobson.

Adds royal commentator Jennie Bond, “I think she is the perfect princess – she’s discreet, she knows what she is doing. The attacks are snide, unkind and untrue.”

In Endgame, Kate – who turned 42 on January 9 – is portrayed as lazy (because she does fewer engagements than other royals) and timid. In the book, she also comes across as a social-climbing Stepford-like wife who is cold to anyone she doesn’t like, and somewhat of a glorified clothes horse because she’s not capable of much more than smiling and looking good.

Omid writes that the late Queen liked Kate because she is “coachable”, and that she’s been “infantilised” by the press and public, so very little is expected of her.

If anyone understood the value of uncomplaining devotion to service, it was our late Queen, who was especially fond of Kate.

But Robert hits back, calling Omid’s depiction of Kate disgraceful.

“His latest broadside attack on the Princess of Wales is unwarranted and worse than unfair,” he says. “It’s a complete character assassination of a woman who has done nothing but try to serve her Queen, and now her King and country. And she’s done it very well.”

Meanwhile, Nick Bullen of Royalty TV insists Kate is not the weak pushover she’s made to appear in the book. “She knows that her job is to support William and it’s rarely about her, it’s always about William being front and centre,” he says. “But make no mistake, she is a force to be reckoned with. She is very strong – she is very clear about what she wants to achieve.”

That includes her devotion to educating people about the importance of early childhood development and how what happens to a person in the first five years of life has a huge impact on the adult they become. Her Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood launched the Shaping Us campaign a year ago and she has thrown herself into highlighting the critical impact of those early years.

Dazzling as Kate is, “she knows that her job is to support William”.

The princess has done her homework on the subject, talking to child development experts, polling parents and visiting countries such as Denmark that are launching important childhood initiatives. Those who have worked alongside her don’t doubt how serious she is about making a difference.

“For her, this is a life’s passion,” says Imran Hussein, director of policy at the charity Action for Children and member of the centre’s advisory board. He says Kate is “extremely knowledgable” about the science behind children’s brain development.

“She knows what she’s talking about and she’s genuinely interested.”

Once a nervous public speaker, Kate has put aside her anxieties to deliver speeches about the cause she believes in so strongly and is using her platform to make a difference.

Another member of the advisory board, researcher Carey Oppenheim, says, “What’s really striking is that she’s got this ability to connect with a really wide audience, in a way that’s informed, and very accessible and human.”

Kate and William attending the traditional Norfolk Christmas service with (from left) Charlotte, George, Louis and niece Mia Tindall.

While her background as a non-royal makes her a lot more relatable than those born into The Firm, one of the issues with Kate is that we don’t know a lot about her beyond the polished and professional images we see of her carrying out official engagements, and the occasional personal tidbit she shares with members of the public when she chats to them.

“We feel that we know her a bit, that we’ve seen the real her, but she’s still something of an enigma,” says writer Victoria Murphy. And, yes, she has “moulded herself to the institution” and created a public persona, but that helps her to do the job she signed up for.

“When she married her prince at 29, Kate Middleton chose a gilded but perilously narrow path,” points out Guardian writer Gaby Hinsliff. “She must be interesting enough to feed the media beast but never so interesting as to be divisive. She can’t have a career in the conventional sense, but also can’t be seen to be doing nothing with her days. She can compete playfully with her husband at things that don’t matter, like spin-bike challenges, but not eclipse him.”

Kate’s life is too privileged and luxurious to be described as hard, yet the pressures of being in the spotlight – which have taken a toll on other royal wives, including Princess Diana and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex – mean it’s not easy.

With Meghan and Harry pulling away and fewer royals on duty, devoted Kate is committed to walking the walk with her family.

If there have been tough times, she hasn’t complained. Her uncle Gary Goldsmith once described her as self-sufficient, resourceful and extremely capable, traits taught to her by her mother Carole Middleton, 68, who believes in dealing with problems with “calm capability, not histrionics”.

Author Robert Lacey says if any member of the Middleton family could have saved their business Party Pieces – which made them millionaires but collapsed last year with debts of more than $5 million – it would have been Kate. His book Battle of Brothers quotes a businessperson who worked with the family and says, “Catherine had all the makings of a fantastic trader. She’s got a shrewd eye for profit and a very hard head on her shoulders. After university, she worked with Party Pieces and I am quite sure she would have taken the business into a new dimension if she had stayed.”

Instead, it is the royal family that has benefited from Kate’s skills, including her ability to connect with people from all walks of life, her keenness to highlight a variety of issues alongside childhood development, such as improving mental health, and her determination to do the best job she can as one of their representatives.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she is the most effective Princess of Wales we’ve ever seen,” says author Sally Beedell Smith, who believes that while her late mother-in-law Princess Diana was bold and embraced important causes that had been taboo, such as AIDS, a lot of what Diana did was eroded by the discord in her relationship with the King, then Prince Charles. “Diana was effective but it was more sporadic and she certainly wasn’t disciplined.”

It’s one word that sums up Kate, who according to Sally, is highly disciplined when it comes to the causes she supports. The same goes for family – she always puts Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, eight, and five-year-old Prince Louis first.

Kate’s priority is giving her kids a magical childhood, while fulfilling their royal duties.

Royal commentator Jennie insists that with the pool of senior working royals much smaller than it has ever been – there are only 11, seven of whom are over 70 – Kate plays a crucial role in the future of the monarchy and it’s totally unfair to slam her for doing 128 engagements last year compared to the King (425) and William (172).

Writer Victoria says Kate’s engagements are balanced with being a mother and are about quality rather than quantity.

Victoria says when Kate first became a royal, she was nervous and keen to listen to what people said she should be doing.

“Over time, she’s become more confident in taking the lead herself, but I think it’s always been in a very quiet way. I don’t think she’s ever going to be someone who goes into a room and instantly takes command. The type of leadership she offers is that she convenes people and brings them together.”

As the consort to a future monarch, Kate is expected to walk a tightrope between being relatable and regal, and serving as an ambassador for an institution that needs to remain relevant. In coming years, the pressure may be intense and the family will rely on Kate to represent them in the best possible light.

Royal expert Christine Ross believes Kate knows that and appreciates she made a lifelong commitment when she married William.

“She’s been working at her projects for years. She’s been building her persona and her role within the royal family because this isn’t about who is most popular today, it’s who is going to be on the throne for the next 50 years.”

Journalist Joanna Coles sums it up, “You feel like, actually, if the future of the monarchy is in her hands, it’s going to be fine.”

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