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Polo + Wimbledon = Better Balance Between the Duchesses of Cambridge & Sussex

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Between polo on Wednesday and today's Wimbledon outing, we have gotten a more authentic look at these two princesses more balanced and authentic rapport. When Meghan joined the family, there was a fan-created expectation that the two women would be besties. In my opinion, that seemed unlikely based purely on their interests and personalities, and I felt we saw that unlikelihood ripen to reality even before Meghan and Harry tied the knot. I don't see a real desire on the part of the royals to push Meghan and Kate together anymore. They tried that tack in the first few months, and it is my opinion that it backfired rather badly. I already mentioned how uncomfortable last year's Wimbledon appearance was, and the Christmas display of happy unity was, in hindsight, a little embarrassing. What we saw from these two events is a far more realistic relationship, and more authentic, which is good for the public and good for the ladies themselves. Let's look at polo first, and then chat about Wimbledon. 

On Wednesday, William and Harry competed in the King Power Polo Challenge. Some of you missed this bulletin, but the two princes announced last year that moving forward they would play less polo, but the polo they did play would be for big money. This is a disappointing development for fans, but not shocking. It makes sense that they'll scale back on polo as the years roll on. The result, though, is that the polo they do play is an even bigger treat for us all, and a bigger family event for them, too. 

Polo is a quasi-public/private event. Obviously Harry and William are playing for charity, but their families show up or don't at their pleasure. Sometimes Kate comes, sometimes she doesn't show. Given how infrequently William plays now, I knew that both Kate and Meghan would be there and that they'd bring their children. I do think in the last few years that polo changed from a family event where the royals knew they would be photographed, to more of public engagement vibe--or at least a bit of a photoshoot thing. That's not a criticism, it is just a function of where the family is right now with the current media mood. Nevertheless, it remains a private event, and so we see a more natural and relaxed side, even if they look a little more dressed for the press. 

One thing that was clear from polo is that while Meghan and Kate are friendly, they are not chummy. There were photos of the two women interacting--they did talk to each other, and smile and laugh together--everything seemed perfectly calm and friendly, but they obviously are not close. Meghan stood the majority of the match, and she was just slightly off to the side--just a little apart with Archie. More than a few pointed out the contrast between Meghan and Kate at this match and Kate and, say Zara, or Kate and Autumn Philips at other horsey events.  

I have said it once, I will repeat: they just aren't great friends.  Meghan has not fit into the royal family seamlessly, which is not surprising. It wouldn't have been seamless in the best of circumstances. She is a foreigner married into not just a foreign family, but a royal family. I suspect the culture shock, and the culture clash, is greater than any of us have really imagined. That is a universal culture issue that any foreign woman would face. With Meghan in particular, there are the  bumps along that way that we have already discussed, which are in addition to that base culture clash. So, the body language at polo was not out of left field, it was to be expected. This isn't to say she isn't welcome, but it takes time for people from different cultures to assimilate among themselves. 

A quick note about Archie's presence. Many were surprised to see Meghan bring Archie. Kate never brought her little ones when they were that young, but again, this really is a family thing, and if Meghan wanted to bring her baby, more power to her. In years past, we would have been thrilled to see any of Kate's little ones, had she decided to bring them along. Plus, given Meghan isn't all that warm and fuzzy with her in-laws, it was nice for her to have her own little man with her to cheer on Harry. 

It was announced at the end of the week that Meghan and Kate would attend Wimbledon together to watch the Women's Singles championship. Serena Williams was competing, and as you all know, Serena is a good friend of Meghan's, so it was natural that she would attend. Kate is the royal patron, so it was not only natural, but perhaps obligatory, for her to attend. After the decidedly unsuccessful debut of these two at Wimbledon last year, the Palace did not try to shoe-horn the two into a similar situation. 

As patron, Kate arrived early enough to greet her hosts and meet some junior players. To everyone's delight, she brought her sister Pippa, who has not attended with Kate since 2012. In usual Middleton mode, though, Pippa was still as discreet as ever. After getting out of the car, she disappeared into a side door, while Kate said hello to the Chairman of the AETLC and his wife Gill Brook (the woman in blue) and headed off to do some official meeting and greeting. There is lunch in the private club room before a match (it's described in the tennis special Kate appeared in), so that is where Pippa slipped off to, and where Kate joined her before the match. 

Meghan arrived just ten minutes before the start of play, and the three women made their way to their seats in order of precedence--Kate, Meghan, and Pippa. I frankly think that a sister-date to Wimbledon was long overdue, but it was also a very strategic move to bring Pippa. She made the party of two a party of three and immediately diffused some of the pressure to maintain conversation or smiling faces. Together, they were a more relaxed and jolly party, with Meghan able to turn to either lady. They all seemed to interact with a little more ease, and it looked like a lovely day.

After the match, Meghan left, and only Kate met the champion backstage to congratulate her, before rejoining Pippa in the Royal Box for the Men's Doubles finals.  All in all, an interesting week, which revealed a more natural rapport between Meghan and Kate, even if they aren't in fact besties. 

I'll just say briefly on the fashion--Kate repeated her D&G from Canada today. I loved it on the first wear and still love it today. That color is stunning on her, and the silhouette of this dress is just fabulous. I am a big fan of those oak leaf earrings she was wearing from Asprey London, as well as that D&G Sicily bag she was carrying. Pippa's more ruffled look was a win for me, too. Her dress was Anna Mason London and she wore wedges from Penelope Chilvers. Meghan went with Hugo Boss today. It wasn't my favorite look from her, but I did like the Wimbledon White and she looked lovely and glowing. 

Kate was wearing L.K. Bennett for polo, with a Mulberry belt and bag, and wearing her Catherine Zoraida Fern hoops and Castener wedges. That pink on her is fabulous. We haven't seen Kate in an LK Bennett midi in while (can you believe I just said that?), so it was interesting to see that the dress is now a polo choice. It was a great breezy piece for the field, and as I say, fabulous color on her and fabulous color for pictures against the green of the grass. Meghan was wearing an olive dress from Lisa Marie Fernandez. Olive definitely is one of her preferred colors (remember Louis's christening?), and although it isn't my preferred color, it looks great on her. I don't like the baggy look, but she looked very comfortable and chic. One of my absolute favorite bloggers, Being Bridget, loves tent-style dresses. I follow her religiously on Instagram, and doing so has definitely exposed me to so many ensembles with this silhouette. So again, while not my preference, wear what you love, or in Meghan's case, what felt comfortable for a day under the scrutiny of a long lens. 

Over and out kids. Kate and William will be at Wimbledon tomorrow!  See you soon...

Kate & Meghan Will Attend Wimbledon Together + Kate's Visit in Suzannah

Friday, July 12, 2019

On Tuesday, July 2, Kensington Palace announced Kate would attend Wimbledon later that day. The Duchess was scheduled to sit in the Royal Box to watch Serena Williams play on centre court, but she arrived early and slipped into the stands at Court 14 to watch Christina McHale (US) and Harriet Dart (UK).  I think when Kate comes to Wimbledon she likes to get in as much tennis as she can. It must be quite an experience to occasionally be back in the stands where she used to watch the play, after eight years watching from the Royal Box.

Kate debuted a new dress for her day out. This was a bespoke Suzannah from the latest collection. Kate has worn the label before, but I am surprisd she chose to go with a custom piece. I think of this as more of an off-the-rack label for Kate, but Pippa really loves Suzannah, so perhaps we are seeing some sister influence. Whatever the case may be, a custom piece for Wimbledon does underscore that Kate is putting real thought into her style choices and that she is looking to wear specifically styled clothes. I know some people think of the expense, but as I have noted over the years, clothes are part of her job description, and I am always pleased to see Kate developing her style and presenting creative ensembles at her various events. [Update: It's not bespoke! When she first appeared, the thought was it was customized, but apparently the consensus now is that it is indeed off-the-rack. So, I guess my initial thought was correct, this is till not a label Kate customizes. ;)]

I liked a lot about this dress, but it wasn’t my absolute favorite. I loved the crisp white for Wimbledon, and the use of lapels on a dress. I am personally not drawn to the double-breasted look in dresses, or at least here it didn't sell me. I’d generally prefer a wrap style with lapels, but the double-breasting was not so bold as to be overwhelming. The buttoned sleeves definitely weren’t a huge win for me, either. It’s just a little too frou-frou. But, fashion is fashion, and these are the types of embellishments that keep life interesting. Although the dress didn't tick all my favorite boxes, I did like it. The dress reminded me a lot of a Gal Meets Glam piece; it was very Julia Engal.

Kate finished the look with a McQueen belt (loved it!), a McQueen bag (also loved it, and very trendy), and her Catherine Zoraida Fern earrings, which have gotten a lot of wear recently. Finally, she was wearing her Gianvito Rossi Piper 85 heels.

A lot of you asked if Kate would appear at Wimbledon with Meghan, and as you probably heard this morning, she will! I think this was a damned if they did, damned if they didn't situation. I do not think that their first time at Wimbledon was a successful joint-engagement. Although there were certainly smiley photos, the overall vibe was one of awkwardness. Kate trying to be serene and warm, Meghan trying to look calm and comfortable. They each ended up looking stiff and awkward. I think they have very little in common, at best, and given the way in which they have been pitted against each other, they know every glance and interaction will be scrutinized. Hopefully after a year as in-laws, though, and weathering the various stories, they will have a more natural rapport with one another. We shall see. 

Kate's Visit to Hampton Court Garden in Sandro Paris

Thursday, July 11, 2019

It is time to do some real catch up! Last Monday (July 1st), Kate attended the opening of her Back to Nature garden at Hampton Court. Although this was not on her calendar, the opening date was public, so most royal watchers expected her to show up, and we were not disappointed.

We were not disappointed in the fashion, department, either. This dress was by French label Sandro Paris. If Kate is going to continue wearing midi dresses, this kind is my favorite—beautiful colors, attractive print, flattering cut, and youthful features, like the gathered bodice and that v-neckline. The v-neckline might have been the biggest selling point for me—you all know I like a good plunge. The v-neck really does lighten the look of the midi dress--it adds some va va voom, and even streamlines the silhouette, I think. 

Kate’s Castener wedges are not, sadly, growing on me, but they seem to be the wedge of the summer. Now I know how all of you who didn’t love the Corkswoons felt.  The Polly Petal earrings by Accessorize were the perfect accessory here. The print of the dress is quite fun, and I feel like these earrings are right on vibe. 

I don't feel like there is all that much to analyze here. Given the nature of the outside activities, a longer hemline is definitely a good call. These easy-breezy summer dresses are very youthful on Kate and they track the informality of an outdoor children's event, while still hitting the appropriate formality for a royal Duchess mixing with the public. This was a big win...Casteners notwithstanding. ;)

Archie's Birth & the Media Storm + Godparents

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quick thoughts on the godparent kerfuffle. If you missed it, Archie will be baptized in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle on Saturday. The Sussexes said that the godparents are private individuals and will remain anonymous"in keeping with their wishes." I think the obvious elephant in the room is that anyone willing to pony up £30 may view the records, and obviously any number of papers will do so, and the godparents will be known to everyone. So why refuse to release them?  I don't know what the answer is. Perhaps the Sussexes think this is a good precedent to set, and that they are drawing a line between private and professional. If that is the thinking, I think it is very obviously a bad plan. No one can ell where the line is, and rather than appearing like royals walking the thin line of public and private, they seem fickle.

Perhaps they have chosen a number of the celebrities (not exactly private people) many have speculated they might, and knowing that their choice will be gossiped about and criticized (rightly or wrongly), they are trying to play this discreetly so at least when it hits the papers they can say, well we didn't make a big deal of it. Also not a great strategy.

I don't know what the logic is on their end. I am perplexed that the Sussexes continue with a course of action (blowing hot and cold with the public) that is clearly garnering them negative coverage, even from people who had been, or otherwise would be, fans. It seems counter-productive and a little self-defeating.

This seems a good moment to quickly answer the many requests to elaborate a little about the kerfuffle surrounding Archie's birth.

To recap briefly, the Sussexes issued a press release about a month before the birth in which they said they planned to keep the details surrounding the birth of their baby private. In the second half of the release (the private notes to the press), the Sussexes told the media that the Palace would inform the media when Meghan went into labor, at which point the media could set up along the Long Walk at Windsor and begin their live feeds. The notes included operating hours for the media, and the directive informed the media they could stay 72 hours after the labor announcement. The directive also said that the Sussexes would then tell the media, when they were ready, that the baby was born. Fair enough. 

Apparently, Meghan went into labor Sunday afternoon. "Chatter" was heavy on Twitter late Sunday night (U.S. time, so dawn in Britain), suggesting that something was afoot with Meghan. It has now been reported that the Duchess of Sussex was taken to a hospital by Harry and their security team on Sunday afternoon, stayed the night (presumably in labor), and delivered her son at 5:26am local time. 

The Sussexes issued a press release on May 6th around 9am EST/2pm local time reporting that Meghan had gone into labor in the early hours and an announcement would be issued shortly.  Less than 45 minutes later, perhaps as little as half an hour, the Sussexes posted on Instagram that the baby had been born and it was a boy. Apparently this was posted simultaneously with an official press release to the media. So, to be clear, the Sussexes did not inform the media when Meghan went into labor--not even around the time the baby was born. They waited hours after the birth to say she had gone into labor and then immediately broke the bigger news that the baby had arrived.  

The Sussexes said they would do one thing, and they did another. You can't really slice it any other way. Had Meghan gone into emergency labor and the baby had arrived quickly amidst tension and worry, no one would have begrudged the couple a change of plans brought about by necessity. That did not happen. At the time, I saw lots of people brush this off, remarking that all that matters is that the baby and mother are healthy and happy. It's great that Meghan's labor and delivery were without incident and that Archie is healthy. We all hoped for as much and are delighted that nothing went wrong. That is entirely separate from the issue, which is the fact that the Sussexes said they'd do one thing, and then did another. 

What is doubly strange about this scenario is that it all could have been avoided. Although lots feel the Sussexes owe the public updates about their baby, and there is an argument in both directions on that, they chose the parameters they gave to the press themselves! They could have said from the start, "we aren't going to inform you of anything until we are ready. Once we make an announcement, you can set up on the Long Walk." That might not have been popular, but it would have been honest, and it would have presented a consistent stance. I would have supported them in that. Instead, they themselves committed to telling the media when Meghan went into labor, and then they did not follow through.

What is quite bizarre is that this behavior is self-defeating. Meghan and Harry alienated the press,   and doubtlessly irritated the senior royals and senior staff who had to play catch up and clean up.

A baby should be a slam-dunk positive news cycle for proud parents. I thought that after some difficult months of bad headlines, the arrival of their baby, at least, would be rosy and glowing coverage from start to finish--despite the fact they were keeping the arrangements private. It was amazing to me that thanks to a tangle of their own making, they turned the majority of the early coverage into a media storm of criticism.

The ultimate fall out here is that the media and the public are no longer certain that they can trust what the Sussexes say when they say it. That will take a very long time to repair.