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Following an Icon: Kate & Princess Diana

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Today I want to wish a very Happy Canada Day/La Fête du Canada Day to my Northern readers. I am currently reviewing William and Kate's tour of Canada over at Kate's Clothes, and today, as everyone recalls, the royals were on Parliament Hill to enjoy the musical performances, and later, the fireworks.  If you are interested in reliving the tour, I am doing an Instagram look-back which you can follow on @KatesClothesDotCom



As you are also probably aware, today would have been the 54th birthday of the late Princess of Wales. In her short and glamorous, yet tragic life, Diana became a worldwide icon of fashion, beauty, and royalty. The fascination with Diana and the sometimes obsessive fixation on everything tied to royalty, has meant that for some royal watchers, we have grown leery of endless conspiracy theories and ludicrous correlations to Diana that are purely meant to sensationalize or capitalize on the popular Princess's reputation.  When Kate Middleton came on the scene, it was inevitable that comparisons between the two women could be drawn. While this seems like a natural connection, it can be taken too far, and the extreme end of the spectrum, such as that bizarre and almost macabre  Newsweek cover, have been justly criticized. As a royal watching community, I think we have collectively swung the pendulum too far, though, in the "No Diana" direction. There is a happy medium between never comparing Kate to Diana and running overboard, as has certainly happened. After all, Diana must be a woman Kate looks up to and in some areas attempt to emulate. How could she not? Diana is her husband's beloved mother, and although she is gone, she is Kate's mother-in-law and the grandmother of her children. They have a strong connection which can and should be pointed out when appropriate.  

Diana in My Favorite Philip Somerville Hat


Even before Kate and William fell in love, Princess Diana had to have had an impact on Kate. As a teenager growing up anywhere in the world, let alone right in Britain, Diana dominated the headlines. She was the most photographed woman in the world and already a massive fashion icon. Kate must have been quite a fan and I imagine she had more than a few glossies covering Diana's style and engagements. When Diana was killed in 1997, Kate would have been 16 years old, easily able to appreciate the tragedy of her death and the trauma that the young princes were experiencing.



Once Kate met William, Diana would have been of even greater interest, and she must have studied the late Princess even more closely. I believe she did look to Diana for fashion inspiration, as would be natural. Kate rented a Philip Somerville hat to attend William's investiture into the Order of the Garter in 2008. While I am sure she was attracted to the style, I can't help but think the label helped in giving the hat a stamp of approval.



Kate also debuted her first (public) Catherine Walker in Canada on July 2nd when she planted an Eastern Hemlock with William near a tree that Princess Diana and Prince Charles planted almost thirty years before. Diana collaborated with Catherine Walker for many of her iconic dresses and I think that both Kate and Carole are nodding to Diana when they choose this label.



Certainly, Kate's dress to present Prince George at St. Mary's appears to have been modeled after Diana's, to say nothing of a number of other pieces including the black McQueen that so strongly echoed Diana's (in)famous black evening gown.


Kate has a penchant for beautiful shoes, and she is in no short supply of Jimmy Choos. Diana has strong connection with Choo, with whom she collaborated on a number of bespoke sky high heels for the Princess in the years leading up to her death. I don't think it is a coincidence that Kate favors the shoe label so heavily.



From the sapphire ring that sparkles on her finger to her various nods to Diana in clothes and millinery, to the name she gave her daughter, Kate is clearly happy and eager to incorporate Diana into her life. This is just what we see on the outside, too. Kate's personal life must be filled with stories and memories of Diana from William and, I am sure, pictures of the Princess's smiling face are not in short supply Chez Cambridge. Diana is obviously a strong presence in Kate's life, and someone she must think about with some regularity.



We have to remember that while Diana's memory has been sensationalized in many areas, Diana is Kate's family, she is William's family. It isn't odd or inappropriate for them to think of her often and pay tribute to her in a million different ways throughout their marriage. In the engagement interview, William rightfully pointed out that no one is asking Kate to fill Diana's shoes, and honestly, I don't know anyone who is. But, filling her shoes is not the same thing as appreciating her style, even echoing some of her iconic moments, or finding ways to emulate her personal strengths. Kate is a strong woman with a strong sense of self. She isn't pressured to be Diana, rather, like anyone following in the footsteps of a admired predecessor, she is finding the good and avoiding the mistakes. We should allow Kate to celebrate Diana and the connection she has to her.

Instagram Post via @KatesClothesDotCom 

Lookback: Military McQueen + Carole and George at the Farm Park

Thursday, June 25, 2015

You knew this post was coming, right? I am selectively choosing to write lookbacks on some of my favorite early ensembles, and today's coat certainly qualifies. William and Kate married on the 29th of April and disappeared on honeymoon in May. They emerged for a few events between their honeymoon and their blockbuster tour of Canada, and this was one of those events. Accompanying William to the Victoria Barracks in Windsor, it was Kate's first military event. 


Kate fell only a little short of Princess Diana's 1987 appearance at Sandhurst in this modern and feminine military coat dress. I do not think it was just the novelty of seeing Kate dressed for a formal public engagement that had us all swooning at this ensemble. It was picture perfect from head to toe. Be luck or design, she also looked great next to William in his military coat:


Her hat was a bespoke Rachel Trevor-Morgan--the same milliner who made her wildly successful grey Order of the Garter disc hat. I am already partial to structured berets, but this hat had just enough detailing to give it character, but was simple enough to complement the streamlined coat. Its navy hue matched her McQueen coat and Prada pumps perfectly. She accessorized with the Cartier shamrock pin and her cipher bracelet, all in gold that popped against blue. I know Kate likes white--and she looks amazing in white--but Kate in blue just might be the best.  




Kate's bubbly and joyful personality was on full-parade that day. She was smiles and laughter with William, the soldiers, and the families. Her infectious enthusiasm has become a trademark, I think. How many events has she lit up since this day?


Kate was still a real newbie to her royal role, but you would never have known it from her relaxed demeanor and confident stride as she walked across the parade ground to her seat.



The newly-weds presented operational medals and met privately with families. I think it was important that one of Kate's first public events was honoring men and women of the armed forces who serve the United Kingdom. It was a poignant introduction into her own life of service, and a reminder for us all that some give very literally of themselves to safeguard freedom. 


I am not entirely sure if it was the color scheme, the design, or styling, but this outfit has an unshakable place in my list of Kate's Greatest Looks of All Time. On Kate's Clothes I have marked it an easy "Acorn Ensemble." I hope we get more of the same in the future! 


In other news... Granny Carole was spotted with Prince George at the Bucklebury Farm Park. They were photographed heading back to the car, George perched on his granny's shoulders, a protection officer hovering nearby. 



First of all, props to Carole for toting this tyke. Talk about in good shape! Second, I love George's unruly mop. We have mostly seen him with it brushed, so it is cute to see it a little on the wild side. Lastly, who else loves Carole's outfit? Seafoam is such a trendy color right now, and really flattering with her complexion. I want to repliCarole this one. Banana Republic has some cute pieces in seafoam... :)  See all the pictures at PopSugar here

Prince William: Birthday Boy + Proud Daddy

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Today is both Father's Day and Prince William's birthday, so we are celebrating the Duke of Cambridge this afternoon. We don't give him a lot of air-time here on From Berkshire to Buckingham, but a princess needs a prince, and Kate is our princess, so William is our prince. I have come to like William very much over the years. I really only ever followed him because he married Kate and since he is her husband, I read the occasional article. I am very impressed by the man he has matured into, evidenced by is quiet confidence and his strong presence. He is very private, but it seems he knows what he wants and isn't afraid to stand up for it. To celebrate his birthday and Father's Day, let's look at a few of William's big daddy moments!



As the whole world knows, William has had a rocky relationship with the press, which I feel has sometimes translated into a dislike of the public. I don't know that this is entirely fair, but sometimes that is how it felt: William doesn't like people. As he fell in love with Kate and began dating her, we began to see a softer side to the prickly prince. He was still frosty, but I think we all thought it was pretty charming, since his hostility was transformed from a latent aggression toward publicity to protective consideration for his girlfriend.



While William's protectiveness usually manifested itself in lawyering-up over pap shots, one of my favorite dating incidents remains the time it seems William chose to deliberately expose a private moment to make a point. In 2009, William and Kate were solidly past their break-up, but there was no engagement and people were still mumbling and grumbling, wondering what was up with the two of them. A News of the World sting operation sent a wired reporter to the Ibiza villa of Carole's brother Gary Goldsmith, and caught him on tape cutting cocaine and offering to procure high dollar prostitutes. Gary also mentioned his friendship with his niece Kate and her royal-boyfriend Prince William. As you can imagine, the Palace was not pleased. Certainly, it was a huge embarrassment for the Middleton family. Although, it wasn't Kate's fault, the press was bad, and some people wanted to claim Kate was tainted by association. Leaving a pub in Wiltshire, William paused in the car park and pulled Kate in for a thorough kiss before the two went on their way. It was captured in still shot and video:



Capturing this intimate display of affection may have been a lucky break, but I believe William deliberately was telegraphing a message to the media, to London society, and the world. Kate was the love of his life, and she was here to stay. Certainly, there are times when you should weather the storm quietly, but I know that this gesture meant so much to Kate and to her family. 



The Cambridges' wedding was the happiest I have ever seen William. The entire day, he beamed a smile that could not be wiped from his face. His obvious elation at marrying Kate was partially displayed by his willingness to allow that happiness and love to spill over and encompass the public, as well. It was (unknowingly) one of his finest PR moments.  



On the balcony, it was Kate who seemed a little shy of the press when William suggested they kiss for the cameras, and it was William who asked her for one more, which he certainly made count. 



His new title and his marriage seemed to mark a turning point for William. His position in the royal family gained an added measure of gravitas and we saw a shift in his public persona, too. He seemed more confident, more measured, and more professional. William went from carefully protecting his girlfriend from the media, to introducing his wife to the world, while proudly watching her navigate her new role with aplomb.  Still, I think we all remember his distress in Southeast Asia. On the day that the news broke that the couple had been invasively photographed on holiday in the Luberon, William held his cool relatively well. But, by the time the couple boarded their flight that evening, fatigue and stress and worn down his calm facade and the prince glowered at the assembled press as he stalked down the red carpet to the waiting plane. Again, his just anger at the distress and pain his wife was so graciously weathering was a sterling moment, and endeared him to me even more.


Time and again, either on tour, or thanks to the more relaxed moments captured by at sports games, we have seen that William is not just a protective guy, but a bit of tease and very much in love with Kate.



As we celebrate Father's Day today, his transition into a daddy has been another window into William's personality. The photos of Kate holding baby George dominated the headlines, but I thought it was sweet and special that William took a turn holding his firstborn. Kate carefully tucked little George in, before William turned for his photo, smiling broadly.



William can't help but smother his little ones in love, and this shot of a stolen kiss Down Under still makes me laugh. It's as if George is thinking, "No more, Dad! No more!""


I don't think it is a secret that some people preferred William and George's little appearance at the Lindo Wing after Charlotte's birth to the actual presentation of the Cambridges' second child, but whichever touched your heart more, there is no denying that William's biggest daddy moment since the Bilbies, was pretty adorable.



I think this was a mixed event for William, because his modus operendi is to protect his child's privacy at all costs, while his natural inclination is also to proudly show-off his treasure. I was glad that the royals didn't sacrifice tradition for privacy. William could not have been more down-to-earth and normal as he toted George from the car and gave him a quick little kiss of reassurance as they turned to move inside.


Watching George with both his parents is indicative of the kind of parents the Cambridges are. We have certainly seen that George loves his mummy, and it has been so, so sweet to see that he shares a similarly strong connection to his daddy. If you can't pick your nose on your dad's shoulder, whose shoulder can you pick your nose on? I mean, really.


William made some comments toward the press and public when he was younger that really soured my opinion of him, but over time I have learned that we can unfairly translate his natural reticence, his need for privacy, and his drive to protect his loved ones as a disdain for his public, which is not the case. I think we have seen, as the years have ticked by, that he is a wonderful husband and now a wonderful dad. Kate has always been very obviously proud of William, and I am happy to say that I am entirely on board.



I can't wait to see him more with George, with his little daughter Charlotte, and hopefully a few more  munchkins in the future! A Happy Birthday and a Happy Father's Day to the love of Kate's life and From Berkshire to Buckingham's favorite prince, HRH the Duke of Cambridge!



Kate's Past Appearances at Order of the Garter

Monday, June 15, 2015

Good afternoon! As you may know, today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta! The Queen, Prince Philip, and Prince William were all at Runnymede this morning to commemorate one of the most significant moments in the history of self-government and modern law. It was very exciting! Obviously, we were hoping that Kate would pop out for the afternoon at Windsor Castle, but regrettably, she did not. Even though Kate didn't show up, I did write a post covering her past ensembles for the Order of the Garter. I am a little low on time after a busy weekend, and I am overdue to give Kate's Clothes some attention, so I put it up over there, even though I began it for FBTB. 



Kate did not attend the Order of the Garter this morning, to my disappointment, but not surprise. She has never missed a Trooping, but she skipped out on the Garter service in 2013 when pregnant with George and I suspected that we were going to see that repeated today. This year, she may not be pregnant, but she is still trying to cocoon herself in that private time with Charlotte and George... Read the rest at Kate's Clothes here. Let me know which ensemble you liked the best! I think you will be able to figure out my favorite. :) 

Kate & George at Beaufort's Festival of Polo

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I was so excited this morning to see that Kate had brought George to polo. It a lovely Sunday surprise on this rainy day. Today was her first appearance at polo this year, and only the second time we have seen George at a game.  I rushed up some shots and now I am going to write an actual post about this.  Her "mom-shops" were on display as she ran after her rambunctious boy, and even took a moment to give him some, cough, direction:



The event was the Gloucestershire Festival of Polo and there were events and games most of the weekend, but this afternoon was the charity match in which both Harry and William competed last year, and happily, today, too. We had a near miss, because the weather has been a little off in the area, but the website assured fans the game would go forward despite rain in the morning.   


Polo is a great game to attend because it is very bucolic and relaxing. No stands, or cramped seats like many sports games, but open fields and usually green embankments on which spectators can sit and picnic or, as Kate does now she has a little one, play with others. The horses are majestic and powerful, and their hoof boots drumming the turf are the exciting soundtrack of the game. It's easy to drop in and out of the game, too, following the goals closely for a bit, or taking time to catch up with friends.



As a Kate fan, polo has a special place in my heart because it was the backdrop against which we watched much of their relationship. We saw Wills & Kate at nightclubs, and certainly vacationing in the sand and the snow, but polo was a real staple, and a chance to see William and Kate in a relaxed environment together. Some of my favorite shots of the couple remain a few of those early polo games, like this afternoon at Coworth Park:



It was a family affair at the Beaufort Polo Club today. Prince Charles, and the Phillips family were on hand to cheer the competition between teams Piaget and Royal Salute. William arrived in his Frenchboy pants and a (coordinating?) sweater. I know these aren't his most popular pants, but I am a big fan. Cool Harry decided to play it a little safer in simple white trousers. 


When I saw these shots of Kate sitting along the sidelines with George, I couldn't help but think of her sitting so many times with Pippa or other friends, sipping champagne and watching the play.


She has traded the champagne for a little guy even bubblier, and it is amazing to see how the years have been so good to Kate, and should only get better and better.



Can you imagine next year with princess Charlotte along?


Look at George: "Mom and Dad are having a little moment, and I am stuck in the middle. Even Uncle Harry has his head in his hands. Let's get back to the game, shall we?" Haha, I love this little guy's faces.

Add caption

Kate has developed a bit of a uniform for polo. Breton top, comfortable skinnies, and her Sebagos. I would like to have clearer photos of Kate, but I think she is wearing the "Reverse Stripe Breton Top" from Me + Em, as featured in their August 2014 issue.




Kate looks just gorgeous and so relaxed today! I think her hair is probably still benefiting from yesterday's styling, but a more relaxed yet glamorous mom at polo I cannot  envision. I think we will get more photos later in the afternoon, but I thought we'd start off with this set because I couldn't wait to share!




Trooping 2015: Not Exactly the Finest Hour

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The first thing I thought this morning when I saw a picture of Kate at Trooping was, "Wow, that is a big hat." It is a big hat, it isn't the biggest she has ever worn, but it sure has heft. Let's get to that a little later, but I just had to jump right in here with that reflection. Today, as you must know, was the annual Trooping the Colour! It was a big one, because, to the delight of pretty much the entire world, Prince George made his first appearance ever on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony. That being said, it is not an entire understatement to say that today's Trooping ended in an awkward and avoidable traffic jam.  Obviously, I am going to tell you why I think this. But, let's cover some fast facts, first. 



Yesterday, the news circulated that George might attend Trooping, as William and Kate try to ease him into his Royal life, both allowing him to adjust slowly to all these shouting people who love him, and to satisfy the justified complaints of the press and fans that George isn't visible enough.  Good call, Cambridges. George was spotted by photographer Chris Jackson, smiling and waving from a window in the arms of his beloved Nanny Maria. His exuberant personality was on full display:

Chris Jackson Twitter


I thought Kate looked a little fatigued today. We had more than the usual sober shots, where she didn't have much of a smile going on. I know it is hard to smile every minute, and maybe she was saving her facial muscles in case Harry gave them a workout on the balcony.



I thought, "Surely, they will liven up once they are out waving to the crowds." 

Screen Capture off BBC via British Royals 

Good thing I didn't put money on that bet... They did cheer up, really they did!  I still suspect that as a mom with two under two, Kate probably was up early to be dressed and ready, and could probably have used a strong coffee. 



So, to the coat-dress! I know what you are thinking, "this looks like my grandmother's sofa!" It doesn't, or, your grandmother has a really gorgeous sofa. I liked this a lot. I think the pattern is very 18th century, Georgiana Cavendish looking, but in modern tailoring. (By the way, Georgiana was friends with Marie-Antoinette and her style was heavily influenced by the French queen. So basically, this is French.:)) The fabric is a woven silk, and the weave gives it a nice structure that flatters Kate's still shrinking figure. We have talked about these post-baby appearances in the past, and I think that Kate finds them a little difficult. It is probably harder for her to choose what to wear and her confidence is likely not 100%.   


Catherine Hooker "Astrid" Coat Dress


It has been six weeks exactly since she gave birth to Charlotte and waved to us all on the steps of the Lindo Wing. After George, it was five weeks before Kate made an informal appearance at the Ring O Fire race on Anglesey, and 7 weeks before she made her big come-back at the Tusk Gala. For that event, too, she chose a dress that was beaded, and created more of a barrier between her and the cameras. 



The hat: As mentioned, it is big, or maybe a better description is chunky. It looks like a hat that could do some damage if Kate tossed it on the bed afterward and it missed and hit William.  Incidentally, that is exactly what I would do with this hat were I in her shoes. :) I digress...  

Lock & Co./ Splash News/James Whatling

By Sylvia Fletcher, the lead milliner at Lock & Co., it is called the Marisabel. It reminds me very much, actually, of her bespoke disc hat from Rachel Trevor-Morgan. That hat is easily one of my all-time favorite toppers from Kate, and today's seems a cousin, although we can argue how distant. The Marisabel has that steep side, which gives it the substantial, weighty feeling that we haven't really gotten from any of her other hats. It does remind me, ever so slightly, of a bathtub. I will privately refer to it as such. But, it is a hit with me! It was different, it had a real presence, and it grabbed my attention. I love structured hats. (Check out Harry getting down to the business of amusing his favorite ladies:)



Ok, I can hold it in no longer. Let's just get to the bad part. It was time for the flypast, the doors opened, the royals appeared. Excitement was high because William was holding George in his arms, and as they filed out onto the balcony the cameras were clicking furiously. The perfect end to a perfect morning. Except wait, what's this? What's wrong with this picture? Is that the nanny leaning over the Queen trying to smile at George? Has one of the housemaids decided to push her way into the Royal Family's balcony appearance? Ohhhh, no, no, no! That isn't an interloper! Why, I believe it is HRH the Duchess of Cambridge!



Yep, that's her! I am not going to futz about here, this. looks. terrible. I do not care if they wanted the four generation line-up, Kate should be in the first row...at some point! She is a senior royal, she is William's wife, and she is George's mother. Could this be more awkward looking? Well, probably, but this is bad enough.  Part of what makes it bad is that everyone else is standing flush with his or her spouse. Everyone but Kate.



One thing seems clear, front row real estate is pretty expensive on that balcony. So expensive that Kate can't even get a look-through. Which begs the question, who is that child who scored a spot between the Queen and Philip? The Queen should have moved the child--who is no doubt loved and cherished by his family and friends alike!--over and made room for Kate. Next week as fans flip through People in the grocery checkout,  they will notice HRH the Duchess of Cambridge awkwardly trying to edge her way into some participation with George and William.  A four generation photo is fine, but at some point Charles should have moved for Kate to join William, or William should have turned to Kate. There should have been a family portrait. (P.S. I actually do have a guess as to who the boy is. I assume he is Sophie and Edward's son. They are at the Swedish royal wedding today. This has been confirmed.) 



When the Queen turned to leave the balcony, I think Kate was moving up hoping to get a look and a wave in with William and George before they left the balcony. It was an historic moment for her child, and for her family, but William was turning to go at the same moment.  Kate tried to make a subtle move around him, and he correctly took the cue to mean one last wave, which he turned to give, but it was too awkward for Kate to move around him, and it turned into just William and George giving a final "bye!"



You know, I spend a lot of time arguing to various people that the royals have welcomed Kate, that the Queen has never slighted the Middletons, Charles is a pretty good guy, there is protocol to follow, no, she isn't a brood mare, (gross and has no evidence or foundation).... on and on. I still believe that, by the way, but this today was bad. It was really bad.  Can I get an Amen, Carole?



I think I have spent my fury. :) I haven't actually, but I will move on. Ok, one more word. This  sort of thing damages the Monarchy. You think that is overly dramatic, but it is not. Accumulated positive media can make or break the Royal Family.  [Think of the time that Charles muttered that slur about reporters on the ski slope. That still informs my opinion of him.] Each isolated incident of either good press or bad press is like a little pebble dropped on the scale of "Royal Viability." Those pebbles can really add up. These events have the power to strengthen the institution, or deteriorate people's loyalty, love, and interest. Today reflected poorly on the Queen, on William, and on the institution and is a little pebble on the wrong side of the scale. We can splice the video and argue the Queen didn't notice it was awkward, William didn't notice, or lamest of all, Kate didn't mind, but these pictures won't go away, and true or false, the tale they tell is very unflattering.  There should have been a moment or two where the Cambridges stood together as the fundamental, family unit that they are.



I am going to go drink some coffee, like I need more stimulation, but I had happier plans to do a quick poll on your favorite Trooping hat, so let's try and focus on hats. Here are the past four years:


Or, you can choose "the bathtub"...which was the only part of Kate that was visible most of the time... :)As a clarification, as I said earlier in the post, William loves Kate and I am sure it was never his intention to create this scenario. Furthermore, it seems unlikely Kate was that ruffled by it. Lightly disappointed they didn't get more time to soak it in together, but life moves on. Importantly, the point stands that no matter the intentions or motivations, this was a PR fluff. Let's hope it does not happen again.

[Note: I am holding all comments, agreeing or disagreeing with my position, that contain remarks that are arbitrarily unkind about any member of the royal family, Bea, Eugenie, the Queen, etc. There are no personal attacks in this post, and the comment section rules remain the same. Critiques are welcome, but this isn't an open door to say unkind things. Please be considerate of this rule if you would like your reflections to go live.]