The Princess of Wales has been praised for her "star quality" since marrying into the royal family 12 years ago. Now the King wants to capitalise on his daughter-in-law's popularity as he works out what the future of the monarchy will look like.
His Majesty is planning an urgent summit with his heir, Prince William, and Princess Kate, to discuss the direction the royal institution is expected to go over the next year. Insiders say it's not just future king William who is expected to be a pivotal part of his dad's reign – his wife is going to be key given the esteem in which she's held around the world.
Her down-to-earth nature and ability to relate to people from all walks of life, as well as her graciousness, will be crucial when it comes to representing the royal family on the world stage.
A source close to Charles, 74, says he's been working with advisors on the family's priorities as his reign enters its second year, and will meet with his family at Balmoral – usually a retreat where they relax during their summer holiday – to fill them in on his forward planning. Focusing on the Commonwealth is at the top of his to-do list.
"His Majesty is very clear," says the insider. "The Commonwealth must be at the very heart of his reign. He sees it as his utmost duty to fulfil the sincere wish of his late mother, that one of his central roles must be to ensure not only the survival but the robustness of the organisation."
That's where Kate and William, both 41, come in. They'll help to promote the benefits of belonging to the Commonwealth, whose roots go back to the British Empire, to its 56 members, including New Zealand. With some member countries that have the British Monarch as their Head of State looking at becoming republics, that's likely to involve the Waleses launching a "charm offensive".
Kate and William's roles will be "at the heart of cementing their own future and that of the monarchy at large", says the source.
An extensive tour of many Commonwealth countries is expected to be on the cards in the near future. The King and Queen Camilla will also be undertaking their own visits to Commonwealth nations – starting with Kenya, later this year – but they know it is the next generation many people are keen to see.
The King is canny enough to recognise Kate's appeal and what an asset she is to The Firm. Like His Majesty's beloved grandmother, the Queen Mother, she is charming and warm, but also strong, says royal correspondent Jennie Bond.
"She has learned the craft of being royal over a number of years and earned her place as a senior member of the family. Gradually she has also earned the respect of the public and, I believe, the rest of the family. We look at her now not just as William's wife, but as our future Queen."
Regal Kate may be, but it's her relatability that wins people over. British radio host Roman Kemp recently revealed how down-to-earth Kate was when she contacted him privately about a documentary he made about mental health. Their initial contact was through a Zoom call, but then the princess offered to come to his house to chat.
He suggested they meet at the home of his parents – Spandau Ballet bass player Martin Kemp and Wham! back-up singer Shirlie Holliman – because he didn't want royalty to have to go to his London flat.
Roman, 30, says Kate sat at the kitchen counter with him and his parents. "The funniest thing was she didn't have any shoes on because she was respectful enough to take her shoes off at the door. That really stuck in my head because you never see royalty with no shoes."
Another insight into what she's like behind the scenes came with the revelation that Kate recently attended a dance festival on the estate of the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, who live near William and Kate's Norfolk home, Anmer Hall.
The princess had been at dinner with the couple, without William, when they suggested she pop along to the four-day rave on their property, Houghton Hall. A source says Kate was initially nervous about joining the 12,000 revellers. "But after much discussion with her protection officers, she went with lots of security."
Kate, who was wearing jeans, trainers and an off-the-shoulder top, managed to mostly stay incognito, but she was spotted by a couple of festival-goers sipping spicy margaritas and eating affogato (an Italian coffee dessert). They said she appeared to be in high spirits.
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