Prince William and Kate Middleton are turning on the charm after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's devastating interview

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Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 27, 2021. ANDY COMMINS/POOL/AFP/Getty Images
  • Kate Middleton and Prince William were always more formal in public than Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

  • But their PR strategy changed after Markle and Harry's explosive Oprah interview.

  • The couple have been more affectionate in public, and have changed their social-media style.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Prince William flirting with elderly women in Edinburgh. Kate Middleton letting a young girl teach her how to shoot a bow and arrow. The parents making s'mores with their three kids.

It's been a busy few months for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who've made dozens of public appearances as the world slowly reemerges from the pandemic. But the timing of Prince William and Middleton's recent Scotland trip, as well as their newly launched YouTube channel, is likely no accident.

The royal family was shaken to its core in March following Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's explosive Oprah Winfrey interview. Now it seems Middleton and Prince William are determined to breathe new life into the monarchy, rather than just fulfill their duties.

And it seems they're taking a page from Harry and Markle's playbook to do it.

Prince William and Kate Middleton had always been far more formal than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

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Kate Middleton and Prince William in March 2020. Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

As the future King and Queen consort of England, the Cambridges will alway have a different set of rules and expectations than Harry and Markle ever did as senior royals. But royal historian Clare McHugh told Insider that, by nature, William and Middleton are also far more cautious.

"Kate defines cautiousness," said McHugh, who authored the novel "A Most English Princess." "You can tell from the way she dresses, the way she talks."

"And William is so suspicious of the media," she added. "He's really battle-scarred by childhood experiences with the press."

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Middleton, Markle, and Prince William and Harry were once regarded as the "Fab Four." Anwar Hussein/ Wire Image/ Getty Images.

Celebrity brand management expert Eric Schiffer told Insider that, when it came to the couple's PR strategy, Middleton and William took "little risk" before the Oprah interview.

"They were manicured to the nth degree," he said. "And played their public persona with a Buckingham Palace excellence, out of the playbook that's been mastered for centuries."

Before the pandemic, William and Middleton rarely posted videos on their official Instagram page. If they did, it was usually a slideshow of photos or a clip played over one of the prince's formal speeches.

The Cambridges were also known for rarely showing public displays of affection toward each other, believed to be in line with royal etiquette. In past official anniversary photos, there's often been an air of formality between the couple.

Harry and Markle's Oprah interview put a dent in the royals' reputation

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speaking to Oprah Winfrey. CBS

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex dropped a number of bombshells during the two-hour interview. Markle said Middleton made her cry over bridesmaid dresses (and not the other way around, as some publications had reported), while Harry told Winfrey that he and William were "on different paths."

Markle and Harry also said they received no support from the royal family when Markle began experiencing suicidal thoughts, and that some royals had "concerns" over their son Archie's skin color.

The interview was "very damaging for the monarchy," royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told Insider.

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Oprah Winfrey spoke to Meghan and Harry in an explosive new interview. Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images

Schiffer told Insider that the interview released a "giant smoke bomb" that impacted the royal family's reputation while boosting Markle and Harry's global image, and helped them connect "with people's humanity and their own struggles."

"It created this contrast, and Harry and Meghan's PR strategy, in essence, is to be the unanointed modern-day royals of the populace. This is a populist strategy," he said.

Following the interview, William and Middleton seem determined to change their public image

Many were shocked when the Cambridges announced in May that they were launching a YouTube channel to share a glimpse inside royal life.

The couple announced their new channel with a 30-second clip that featured upbeat music and the duke and duchess bantering with each other.

A source close to the prince told Vanity Fair that William is now "more relaxed" about the press, and more willing to embrace social media.

"It has been a blessing in many ways for the royals in general, because it means they are more in control of their public image than ever before," the source added.

Middleton and William also released a video celebrating their 10th anniversary, which showed the couple being affectionate with each other and doting on their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis as they played on the beach, climbed trees, and made s'mores over a campfire.

The couple released new anniversary portraits that were far less formal than years past, too. In fact, their poses seemed partially inspired by Markle and Prince Harry's own intimate engagement photos from 2017.

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Kate Middleton and Prince William photographed by celebrity photographer Chris Floyd. Chris Floyd/Camera Press via Getty Images

In one of the photographs, Middleton is seen with her elbow resting on William's leg as they hold hands. As Insider's Talia Lakritz pointed out, the pose is nearly identical to one of Markle and Harry's engagement pictures.

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Markle and Prince Harry's engagement photo. Alexi Lubomirski / Kensington Palace

These public displays of affection continued during Middleton and William's recent Scotland tour. The couple paid a visit to the University of St. Andrews - where they met - and competed against each other on a land-yachting course. One Yahoo! story noted that the couple were "smiling lovingly and laughing" together during the course, and that William "even affectionately put his hand on Kate's back in a tender moment we don't often see from the perfectly poised heir."

The Cambridges also frequently met with the public throughout their tour, hosting a drive-in movie night for National Health Service workers at the Queen's Edinburgh palace and taking an electric race car for a spin.

And this time around, William and Middleton shared videos of these moments on their social-media page. Gone are the overly formal slideshows with William's speeches. Now we're seeing the duke and duchess laughing with each other and the public in their Instagram clips.

"It's very interesting to me that in the wake of the Oprah interview they have really adjusted their style," McHugh said. "They realized if they don't, they'll be overshadowed by this couple living in California, so they have to show themselves. They have to reveal who they are more, because that's the currency now. So they let the anniversary film out and they have YouTube and they make jokes, it's a new world."

William and Middleton's current strategy is similar to what the royal family has done during past PR crises

"What they're doing now they've been doing since the 1840s," McHugh said. "That was a revolutionary moment in Europe when all sorts of monarchies were being overturned and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had to find a way to make the monarchy seem more appealing so that it would stick around."

"So they fought back by showing, oh no, the monarchy is just like you," she added. "They showcased their children much more than any monarch had done before, they took the families on expeditions to Scotland."

Evidence of this pattern can be seen in two of the first Instagram posts that Middleton and William shared following the Oprah interview. To mark Mother's Day in the UK, the couple shared a photo of cards that their children had drawn to remember Princess Diana, as well as a cake that they had baked. Two images that any family, no matter their status or income, could relate to.

But Middleton and William have also taken notes from Markle and Harry.

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Markle and Prince Harry at the Invictus Games. Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

Schiffer believes that this is how Middleton and William will keep the monarchy going in the long run.

"Right now, Harry and Meghan have an advantage because they're tuned in and understand the minds and hearts of Gen Z and Millenials," he said. "They're unmasking what it's like to be a royal and allowing the public to feel like you're now friends with a royal. So the challenge for Kate and William will be finding ways to connect emotionally, without losing the majesty and decorum of the Crown."

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