The quiet making of our future queen

Camilla Tominey
·8 min read
Kate arrives for the funeral of Prince Philip - Chris Jackson/Getty
Kate arrives for the funeral of Prince Philip - Chris Jackson/Getty

It is arguably one of the best photographs ever to have been taken of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Capturing not only the sombre mood of the occasion but also the steely determination of a family in mourning, Kate’s sorrowful green eyes stared straight down the lens as she was pictured arriving at Windsor Castle for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral on Saturday.

Taken by Getty photographer Chris Jackson, who is married to the Duchess’s stylist Natasha Archer, the extraordinary image revealed the steady yet serious gaze of a Royal whose decade in the monarchy has been characterised by quiet confidence and calm self-composure.

Resplendent in the Queen’s pearls, even behind a black face mask, the 39-year-old mother of three managed to exude both style and substance as she was thrust back into the spotlight for her first major Royal event since that Oprah Winfrey interview.

Despite having effectively been thrown under a bus by the Duchess of Sussex’s suggestion that she had made her cry during a bridesmaid’s dress fitting – and not the other way round – it was Kate who was the first in the 30-strong congregation to engage Prince Harry in polite conversation following the 3pm ceremony at St George’s Chapel.

Having repeatedly looked over at her brother-in-law, seated opposite, during the 50-minute service while both William, 38, and Harry, 36, buried their heads in their orders of service, the woman once cruelly dubbed “Waity Katie” showed just how much she shares what Prince Philip once described as the Queen’s “abundance of tolerance”.

Kate with Harry and William as they talk to the Dean of Windsor after the funeral service  - Pixel
Kate with Harry and William as they talk to the Dean of Windsor after the funeral service - Pixel

Willingly playing the role of peacemaker, she tried to carve a path to reconciliation between the Royal brothers.

It is no secret that William is still seething over Harry’s suggestion that both he and their father, the Prince of Wales are “trapped” in a “racist” and “bullying” Royal Family.

Yet having gained a formidable reputation for keeping calm and carrying on in the face of a royal crisis, Kate did what she has always done as she has failed to put a foot wrong since she first arrived in the House of Windsor almost 10 years ago to the day: she rose above.

Subtly moving aside after she had broken the ice to allow her husband and brother-in-law to finally walk in a pair, Kate gracefully helped to engineer the rapprochement the world had been waiting for.

And while it may all have been choreographed knowing the cameras would be trained on the trio who once carried out so many public duties together, it helped to soften the negative narrative around the brothers’ feud – turning what could have been a strained scene into something much lighter.

Moments after leaving the funeral service, Kate walked with William and Harry, gradually stepping back and allowing them to talk - pixel GRG
Moments after leaving the funeral service, Kate walked with William and Harry, gradually stepping back and allowing them to talk - pixel GRG

It came after she had put a loving arm around her emotional father-in-law, Prince Charles, 72, who was spotted wiping away tears with a white handkerchief as he emerged from the chapel’s Galilee Porch, to give him a reassuring peck on the cheek.

It was the heir to the throne who insisted the Royals abandon their assembled chauffeur-driven limousines in favour of taking a stroll back to Windsor Castle, with the sun still beating down on his father’s final resting place. This spur of the moment decision on a day of such meticulous planning allowed the Royals to take off their face masks for the first time in more than an hour – and talk freely – and provided a touching moment of humanity to the weighty proceedings.

While it would be a mistake to read too much into the brief encounter between William and Harry – with one Royal source warning: “one swallow does not a summer make” – it was certainly a start. Courtiers had already commented on it being a relief that the brothers were now able to talk on the phone – in the same time zone for once – after Harry spent the week leading up to the funeral quarantining at Frogmore Cottage, his former Windsor home.

But were it not for that galvanising moment, the Cambridges, Harry, Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, might not have stayed on at the 94-year-old monarch’s private apartments for a further two hours.

Talk of a “Windsor summit” may well be overblown, but it is unthinkable that they did not discuss the fallout from the Sussexes’ outpouring to the US chat show host, having not seen each other face to face in more than a year. It is not just the suggestion that an unnamed Royal had questioned Archie’s skin tone that continues to bristle, but the Sussexes’ insistence that they were not being supported – contrary to the Royals’ belief that they “bent over backwards” to accommodate the needs and desires of the independently-minded and sometimes demanding couple.

Contrary to suggestions she was unfriendly and unwelcoming towards Meghan when she first arrived on the Royal scene in 2016, Kate was among the first to “reach out” to the American former actress, sensing that while they may have very different personalities, they shared a common bond as royal WAGS under the spotlight.

Kate was said to have been welcoming towards Meghan when she first joined the Firm - Paul Marriott Photography
Kate was said to have been welcoming towards Meghan when she first joined the Firm - Paul Marriott Photography

However, the chasm between the introverted Home Counties girl and the extroverted star of US legal drama Suits appears to have widened when a distinction was made between Kate marrying into the Firm as an “unknown” and Meghan already having a profile. According to one Palace insider: “They were not only very different women with very different personalities but very different women who came from very different places. Kate spent 10 years as a girlfriend learning the ropes. Everything happened much more quickly with Harry and Meghan, who entered the Royal scene with her own, fully-formed ideas. I think Kate found her quite intimidating.”

Little wonder, then, with Harry attending the funeral of his grandfather alone while his pregnant wife remained more than 5,000 miles away, having been advised against flying by her doctors, the dynamic between him and his brother and sister in law reverted to more how things used to be.

What must Harry have made of being welcomed back into the Royal fold by Kate, who he lovingly described as “the big sister I never had” when her engagement to William was announced in November 2010? As the couple’s best man, and for years, the “third person” in their marriage as they carried out public duties as a triumvirate, Harry knows better than most the important role Kate has played in taming his brother’s fiery emotions as the couple prepare to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary on April 29.

William “hit the roof” when paparazzi photographs emerged of his wife sunbathing topless during a private holiday in the south of France in 2012 but Kate largely shrugged it off. When the couple won €100,000 (£92,000) in damages from Closer, the French magazine that published them, they donated the money to charity. Harry would have also been acutely aware of how hurt and embarrassed intensely private Kate would have been by Meghan’s retelling of the intimate events leading up to their May 2018 wedding – which have been met by stony silence from camp Cambridge. (Close aides continue to insist that Kate was left in tears, as originally reported by this newspaper.)

He also cannot fail to have respect for his sister-in-law’s magnanimity in not only being willing to forgive and forget, but also in trying to foster the same spirit of compassion in their nearest and dearest. The parallels between unflappable Kate and Harry’s famously conflict-avoiding grandmother are becoming increasingly uncanny.

Throughout Megxit, Kate has echoed Her Majesty in reminding friends and family that Harry and Meghan remain “much loved members of the family”. Among the Royals most hopeful of a reconciliation, she was even telling friends before the Oprah interview that she did not think it was too late to “pull them back in”.

Even after the bombs rained down on the Firm, the Duchess was said to be keen to try to bury the hatchet – also for the sake of two-year-old Archie’s relationship with his cousins, Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five and Prince Louis, two.

According to one source: “Being so close to her own siblings, Pippa and James, and having witnessed first hand the special bond between William and Harry, she has found the whole situation difficult and upsetting. Her natural instinct is to try to smooth things over.”

Far from drawing a veil over the conflict that has plagued the monarchy for over a year, Kate’s sacrifice in the face of public duty on Saturday put her in the frame as a Queen in waiting like never before.

Read more: The Duchess of Cambridge’s secret power comes down to one personality trait