Princess Catherine’s vision for her future self

How the princess sticks up for her family behind the scenes

They were three words that raised many eyebrows. When the statement issued by the royal family in response to Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey contained the phrase “recollections may vary”, it seemed like a dig at the couple.

The iron-fist-in-velvet-glove comeback to the Sussexes’ interview was unusually robust for the royals, who tend to stick to a stance of “Never complain, never explain”. Now it has been revealed that it was Catherine, Princess of Wales who pushed for the phrase to be included in the carefully worded statement signed off by the late Queen in March 2021.

During a meeting to discuss how to respond to the controversial interview – which included claims from Harry, 38, and Meghan, 41, that a member of the family had made racist comments about the possible colour of their son Archie’s skin before he was born – Kate and her husband Prince William were in favour of a “toughened up” statement, according to royal correspondent Valentine Low.

In an updated version of his book Courtiers, Valentine says Kate, 41, was even “steelier” than William, 41, when it came to deciding what to write. Palace staff had wanted to send out “a much milder version” than the statement that was released after the interview sparked a global racism storm, but Kate stood her ground when it came to disputing what the Sussexes had said.

Meghan’s interview with Oprah was closely watched by Kate.

In the end, the statement read, “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.

“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Meghan, Harry and Archie will

always be much-loved family members.”

It was William’s private secretary Jean-Christophe Gray who came up with the words “recollections may vary”. However, two senior palace officials said the phrase should be removed because it could rile up Harry and Meghan even further.

Valentine says a palace source told him that Kate and William argued for the words to remain. “They were both of one mind that we needed something that said the institution did not accept a lot of what had been said.

“It was Kate who clearly made the point ‘history will judge this statement and unless this phrase or a phrase like it is included, everything that they have said will be taken as true’.”

The insider says it goes to show how Kate is often stronger and more determined than she seems.

“She does not get as much credit as she should, because she is so subtle about it. She is playing the long game. She has always got her eye on, ‘This is my life and my historic path, and I am going to be the Queen one day.'”

The Oprah interview also included claims that Kate had made Meghan cry in the lead-up to the Sussexes’ wedding over a disagreement about bridesmaids’ outfits. That was the opposite of a story that had been doing the rounds, in which it was alleged it was Meghan who upset Kate. Meghan told Oprah that Kate had apologised to her over the incident and she had forgiven her sister-in-law.

The relationship between the two women has clearly been strained since before the wedding. Meghan has talked about Kate in both the Oprah interview and her Netflix docuseries, in which she said she was surprised by how formal Kate is, while she is a “hugger”. Harry also highlighted differences between the two women in a passage in his memoir Spare. He wrote about how Kate demanded an apology from Meghan after his wife said her sister-in-law had “baby brain”.

According to Harry, Kate told Meghan, “We are not close enough for you to talk about my hormones.”

While plenty has been said about her by Meghan and Harry, Kate has always stuck to royal protocol and said nothing publicly about them.

But royal experts say the fact it was Kate who wanted to make the point about recollections varying in the palace statement speaks volumes about how important it is for her voice to be heard, even in a very subtle way.

The mum-of-three tends to be seen as the family peacemaker, particularly for the way she has helped to smooth tensions between William and his father, the King, and her efforts, albeit unsuccessful, to mend the rift between William and Harry. But that doesn’t mean she will let others trample over her.

“Kate has a ruthless survival streak,” says a palace insider. “I think she keeps her head down because the prize of being queen is so great. But she has a commendable backbone, which appears to come from her mother.”

Another source says Kate’s determination to stand up for the royal family shows she cares very much about what people think about her in-laws, even though she can’t speak out about them.

“She’s very loyal, which is a great trait in a future queen.”

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