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The Duchess of Cambridge has seen her life change immeasurably over the past decade, while becoming more self-assured and confident in her royal status.
Now, as she gets set to celebrate her 39th birthday on January 9, with her husband the Duke of Cambridge, 38, and their three children, Kate has every right to feel proud of her achievements.
Former royal correspondent Duncan Larcombe has known the St Andrews University alumni from the early days of her romance with William.
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“I first spoke to Kate when she joined Prince Charles’ ski trip to Klosters, in Switzerland in 2005. She was very shy, but also smiley and carefree. There was no indication of a future monarch in our midst,” says Duncan. “15 years later and she has morphed into the perfect Queen-in-waiting.”
Since then, Kate has attended hundreds of royal engagements and as Duncan points out, she has behaved impeccably – except for one tiny faux pas at the St Patrick’s Day parade in 2013.
“She has only slipped up once. She got her heel caught in a drain. That is quite literally the only time Kate has ever put a foot wrong!” he reveals.
“Even after giving birth to Prince George, she looked like she was going to a wedding. In fact, after each birth she has looked incredible. Her outfits sell out in record time too. She’s nailed everything.”
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Kate’s close relationship with Her Majesty has also helped cement her popularity. The two are said to have grown closer after the Cambridges moved on a more permanent basis from Anmer Hall in Norfolk to 1A, Kensington Palace, in 2013.
“Kate has never tried to be at the centre of everything, she’s happy to support William,” says Duncan. “She speaks fluently and compassionately about her cherished causes and is flawless – others who marry into the royal family in future have a very tough act to follow. They’ll probably never measure up to Kate.”
Over the next 12 months Kate has some exciting events to look forward to, including a poignant trip to mark her 10th wedding anniversary on April 29. Kate and William announced their engagement in November 2010 after he proposed at the foothills of Mount Kenya in Africa. Covid restrictions permitting, they’re planning to celebrate their romantic milestone by returning to Kenya, with their three children in tow.
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“They’re hoping to have a family holiday where they got engaged,” says Duncan, adding that the anniversary is an especially important landmark for the couple. “Understandably, there’s a lot of pressure on royal couples, but William and Kate haven’t been affected by those pressures in the way that other royals have been.”
Traditionally, 10 years of marriage are marked by tin or aluminum, which represent the durability and flexibility required to sustain a loving union. But luckily for Kate, diamonds are the choice of gemstone and may well feature in an anniversary gift from her husband.
This year will also see the arrival of two royal babies, along with a rumoured new cousin for the Cambridge children. Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank are set to welcome their first in ‘early 2021’ while Zara Tindall and husband Mike are expecting their third child in the summer. Kate’s sister Pippa is also said to be pregnant with a sibling for two-year-old Arthur. Kate must be thrilled.
“Kate’s very maternal,” says Duncan. “When new babies arrive in the family they play to her strengths. We’ve seen her embrace motherhood and make it her number one priority. Children aren’t a chore or an inconvenience to Kate and I think that’s an indication of how far the royal family have come. The Queen is a royal first and a mother second.”
The Duchess also devotes her time to supporting a number of charitable causes and organisations, several of which are centred around providing children with the best possible start in life. In November, Kate unveiled the five major insights into her 5 Big Questions survey which will help with her work around early years and development. She’s set to implement changes from the results this year.
“Kate has not only supported Prince William and his causes but she has also quietly adopted causes that she feels personally attached to,” says Duncan. “She’s very honest and highlights issues that perhaps haven’t been discussed before. Kate’s secret is ‘stick to what you know’, rather than attempting to change the world.”
Another exciting event in Kate’s calendar is the Duke of Edinburgh’s 100th birthday on June 10, which will make him the first male member of the Royal Family to reach a century, as well as the first to receive a telegram from his wife!
“It will be a special moment for the whole family. And what can be more of a symbolic gesture than seeing Kate, who’s rapidly emerging as a popular player in the royals’ future, being at the celebrations,” says Duncan.
“With the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it really is down to the Cambridges now. As the pandemic subsides, we’ll see them taking on the bulk of royal duties – 2021 will be William and Kate’s year.”
Kate has enjoyed a close relationship with her brother-in-law in the past so she will be delighted to see an end to rumoured tensions between William and Harry. It’s even hoped that the Fab Four will reunite for the unveiling of a monument to the late Diana, Princess of Wales in Kensington Gardens. The event, planned for July 1, which would have been Diana’s 60th birthday, will be an opportunity for an early celebration of Meghan’s 40th too.
Duncan points out that Kate is an important factor in the reconciliation. “If anyone can bring the boys back together, it’s Kate.”
More happiness on the horizon will be provided by the wedding of Kate’s younger brother James Middleton and his fiancee Alizee Thevenet, who postponed their May 2020 nuptials due to the pandemic. Duncan says the event will highlight how family-orientated Kate is.
“Kate’s real strength is that she’s the product of a very tight-knit, loving family,” Duncan explains. “The Cambridge children will probably act as page boys and bridesmaid at the wedding and Kate will be there supporting her beloved brother. It will be a symbol again of how united and supportive the Middleton family are of each other.”
It’s this upbringing that has influenced Kate’s wishes to give her own brood a relatively regular childhood. Following in his older siblings’ footsteps, her youngest Louis, who turns three in April, is due to start nursery and Kate will no doubt happily share her mixed feelings about the big day if asked. It’s this openness, along with her efforts to shield the children from the pressures of palace life, that makes her a very relatable royal, says Duncan.
Prince William and Kate Middleton
“From the minute Prince George was born, William and Kate have done everything they can to make them feel ‘’normal and it’s the same for Charlotte and Louis. I recently saw some footage of Prince Charles when he was about Louis’ age and it struck me how different things are now. Even though the three youngsters will never have a completely normal life, thanks to trips to the panto, staycation holidays and hours spent running wild in the garden they’re already having a down-to-earth upbringing, and that’s Kate’s doing.”
Wishing you the happiest of Birthdays, Kate!
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