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Kate's Imminent Return To A New Royal Family

Monday, August 27, 2018

As summer fades to fall, we are also inching toward the return of the royals. Meghan and Harry announced a slew of public engagements last week, followed several days later by a calendar update for the Duke of Cambridge. A little oddly, Kate's official calendar remains silent and empty.

The Duchess is on a maternity leave both she and the Palace jealousy guard (and I support her in that protective clasp on her family life). Nevertheless, by this time we usually hear something concrete about her return. In fact, in the past few years, Kate and William have made "early returns" to the limelight, coming back from holiday for late-August events to kick off the autumn season (e.g. their August 25, 2016 visit to the Young Minds helpline center, pictured below).

Certainly this year is a little different. As a new mother of three, and scrambled schedule due to the new restrictions of the school calendar, Kate has a busier fall on her end that she has had in the past. Still, I may be alone in this, but I have found the silence a little unusual.

Over the summer, I remarked to a few friends that Meghan's arrival to the royal family was serendipitously timed, because it came just as Kate bowed out for several months. This quirk of the calendars permitted the Sussexes to bask in the glow of their wedding and the public enthusiasm it generated. The Palace deployed its new star couple often both before the wedding and in the weeks that followed the May 19th ceremony. In addition to allowing Harry and Meghan time to be the main attraction, their busy schedule kept the public and press engaged while Kate took time to bond with Louis, George, and Charlotte. The two Duchesses did undertake a joint engagement that felt awkward at times, but was sweet and ultimately a successful outing for both.

But, a royal family is one of hierarchy. Just like Hollywood's golden-age stars were billed according to star power, the Palace has to make sure that all its stars are garnering the right amount of media attention and the proper public reaction and support. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the "situation room" where the strategists are deciding the best course of action to take over the next few years. This fall, the Palace has to merge Meghan into the Firm, or reintroduce Kate, depending on how you approach it, in a manner that permits both women to shine, avoids unnecessary comparisons and friction fueled by public speculation, and keeps the hierarchy in order. Given Kate's focus on family, and Meghan's strong interest in action, the PR people have a delicate tightrope to walk, and a lot of the task is controlled by forces only tenuously held or entirely out of the Palace's control.

All of these reflections were bouncing around in my head yesterday when the pictures of Kate at Balmoral hit the press. I was immediately struck by Kate's the new clothes, the statement jewelry, and the fact William and Kate accompanied the Queen in her Bentley rather than arriving by separate Range Rover.

As discussed on this blog in the past, Kate has certain clothing categories, and for the most part (there are exceptions to most rules) she wears certain labels for certain types of events. Catherine Walker is a heavy hitter in Kate's closet, and this was a bespoke item, too. At the end of the day, there is only so much you can read into a royal wearing an expensive coat to a Sunday church service, I know. But, we can say that this is a far more formal (dare I say regal?) ensemble than she generally fields at Balmoral (see below). Add to that her placement next to the Queen and I think there is a plausible argument that the ride to Crathie Kirk doubled as a very subtle PR event. We haven't seen a lot of Kate, but she certainly made this appearance count by looking every inch a future Queen.

I should be clear, just so the comments don't blow up,* that my interest in the balance between the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex is not entirely Meghan specific. The woman Harry married was always going to be a star, because he is a star. Balancing Meghan (and Harry!) with Kate and William, particularly as the two couples differentiate more and more as they settle and build separate households and families, was always going to be an interesting balance act.  I do think we will hear an announcement on her calendar sooner rather than later, and I will be interested to see how the fall plays out. I am not predicting anything seismic, but I do think we will see more little subtle shifts.

[Updated] The Cambridges Pictured Heading to Church at Balmoral

Sunday, August 26, 2018

This morning, Emily Andrews confirmed that the Cambridges are at their annual visit to the Queen at Balmoral in Scotland. Sure enough, pictures have emerged of the Duchess accompanying Her Majesty the Queen to Crathie Kirk for the Sunday morning church service. William is in the front seat, which you can see from other snaps at the Daily Mail here.   

Did anything stick out to you right off the bat? Kate is wearing a very smart, new ensemble, in addition to accompanying the Queen. Typically, Kate recycles when she goes to church at Balmoral. I am trying to think of a time we have ever seen her debut a coat in the car on the way to Crathie Kirk and, just from memory, I am coming up with nada. 

September 2013
This is a bespoke Catherine Walker, which was Susan at WKW's initial guess, and has been confirmed by the label. The Duchess paired it with diamond and pearl earrings she has on loan from the Queen. These earrings were created in an art deco style with pearls then-Princess Elizabeth was gifted from the king of Bahrain to mark her marriage.  Kate has worn these to a couple of big ticket events, including Remembrance Sunday and Royal Ascot (below). Given their provenance, I would categorize them as accessories with some clout.

Kate topped off her look with the Lock & Co. hat she first wore to a memorial service for Richard Meade, and then recycled (although it was the hat's first official outing) at an event for the RAF Cadets. 

Although we only have a partial view of the ensemble today, I liked everything I could make out! It is interesting to see this hat again, and it looks to work really well with the buttoned up coat. One thing is certain, the summer is almost over when Kate is heading to Balmoral wrapped up in a coat and blanket!

There was more news about the family's Scottish visit. Emily tweeted that Kate took George on his first grouse hunt on Friday, and that the family have been joined by Zara and Mike Tindall and their children, in addition to the Phillips, the Wessexes, and Prince Charles. 

From the picture I have seen on Tumblr (above), it looks like Kate is driving sitting shotgun (several of you have noted that Kate is likely the driver, wheel is on the opposite side!) and might be wearing the hat she wore for the Vogue photoshoot.

I have some thoughts about Kate's clothes today and this appearance and am typing them up now and hope to publish them in the morning. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that post tomorrow. In the meantime, this kid has to get to bed.

What Do Kate & the Cambridges Do During the Summer?

Friday, August 17, 2018

What do the Cambridges get up to during these lazy, hazy days of summer? As you know, the Cambridges did spend a fortnight in Mustique soaking up the sunshine. On their return, the family of five headed to their country house. Anmer Hall is nestled in the Norfolk countryside just by the Queen's Sandringham estate. William and Kate gave it a complete overhaul before moving in, and it is now the perfect royal retreat where they can indulge in quiet living and spend their days in privacy. They have a number of favorite pastimes. We know that Kate enjoys swimming, and takes George and Charlotte to the Buckingham Palace pool when the family is in London, but at Anmer they have a pool right in their backyard. 

An obvious requirement for Kate's dream country house is a tennis court, and Anmer has one of those, too. When they moved in, the original court was apparently dilapidated, though. So, in 2015 the Cambridges applied to their local planning board for permission to replace the old court with a new Astro-turf one. Kate told Judy Murray in 2017 that George was learning to play, but generally just whacked at the ball. The tennis super-mom gave Kate some tips on drills she could use to begin to hone George's skills. I am sure the Duchess is spending time getting both George and Charlotte handy with their rackets, but she also enjoys a competitive game with her husband William.  

The Cambridges venture beyond their own property line, of course, and Anmer Hall is not very far from the coast. Although the kids might have beach-fatigue after their fortnight in Mustique, it probably won't be long before they want to get back to the sand. George has been pictured in the past enjoying the chillier Norfolk beach with Carole Middleton. These pictures were taken on the morning of George's birthday (July!) in 2015. Carole was likely keeping him busy while Kate prepped a party at home. I am sure the Cambridges enjoy the beach as a family throughout the summer. 

Kate also loves to take her kids to farm-parks. When she heads to her parents' home in Bucklebury, Kate can take the little ones to the Bucklebury Farm Park. Happily, they have an option in Norfolk, too, where she has been pictured enjoying the play-sets at Snettisham Park. Bucklebury Farm Park banned guests from photographing other guests, and apparently Kate's PPOs are actually rather aggressive about cameras. 

I don't know if we haven't seen recent snaps of Kate at Snettisham because the Palace has successfully volleyed amateur photographers, or if with three children, it is easier for Kate to just stick to her own backyard and the private homes of her friends in the area. My suspicion is that she doesn't go to these local play parks as much anymore. That brings up the point that Kate and William have a very nice social set in Norfolk. The Meades are in the area, among others, and I am sure that the families gather at the various homes throughout the summer. Below Kate greets James Meade at polo just this summer:

Kate's 2016 appearance at the Houghton Horse Trials was with the Meades and was hosted on the estate of the Cholmondeleys, Houghton Hall.

The Cholmondeleys are friends, too, of course, and in 2016 they hosted the Taste of Norfolk fundraiser for EACH at their Houghton Hall home. 

So, the Cambridges have plenty of social outlets while in Norfolk, and opportunities to introduce their children to the children of their friends. I am sure these are very, very happy days for them.

Finally, in late August, the Cambridges will head from Norfolk north to Scotland to visit the Queen at her Scottish estate. The family visits Balmoral every year, although this year we might see them a little earlier than usual if they accommodate school schedules. Balmoral provides even more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and picnics by the river that are staples of their summer holidays. There are always pictures of William and Kate headed to church on Sunday, but when we are lucky we also get shots of them driving around the estate:

Come September, we should see the Cambridges return to London and enjoy the start of the red-carpet season. :) 

William and Kate at Basil's Bar Bash

Friday, August 3, 2018

Emily Nash had a Mustique exclusive a few days ago. She confirmed that William and Kate were on the island, as we suspected, and quoted sources who told her that the two attended the Basil's Bar bash together. I was 98% confident the initial report was correct, but without pictures, and given the unusual timing, I was not entirely certain. This gives the final seal of certainty in my book. 

Basil's Bar 
This party was at Basil's Bar. I wrote a fairly detailed history of Basil's Bar in my post The Mystique of Mustique, and of the man himself. For those who don't want to do the deep-dive, Basil has been around since the start of the Mustique adventure, and worked his way up from a bartender to the owner. William and Kate invited him to their wedding in 2011, so I think he clearly holds a special place in their ongoing memories of the island hideaway, and in their hearts. 

Emily's recent article (which you can read here) has some fun quotes from those who attended the party and saw Will and Kate. It is her comment toward the end of the piece that really highlights why William and Kate like to return to Mustique: 
Given the complete privacy of the exclusive island, it comes as no surprise that William and Kate take the opportunity to blend in with other tourists. With a no-fly zone enforced over Mustique and the discretion of other guests, the royals are able to truly relax and let their hair down. On previous trips, William and Kate have played tennis, gone snorkelling and scuba diving, and enjoyed cocktails at the five-star Cotton House resort.
In a  previous article, a fellow traveller spoke to Hello! and gave some insight into how thoroughly the Cambridges take advantage of their tropical trips.  Apparently, William and Kate are accomplished divers:
Martin Katz, a famed Beverly Hills jeweller, and his wife Kelly met the royals in 2008, and speaking exclusively to HELLO! in 2015, Kelly revealed: "They're quite the sportsmen. We went diving and they went very deep, more than 90ft. Our instructor said Martin and I weren't qualified to go on the shark dives they went on."
We know that William and Kate like to live "the ordinary life." From their university days at St. Andrews where they had a very cozy nook at a local pub to their low-key (but still glitzy) nights out at Bunga Bunga, they like the occasional date night. 

Their sweet date at the King's Head Hotel in Norfolk is still one of my favorite William and Kate sightings. They were both so naturally relaxed and Kate was dressed down with her hair in a clearly air-dried state of wavy glory. :) 

Or their movie nights grabbing popcorn before the show?

Digression into the date-spots of these two aside, the point is they like to get out like anyone else. In Mustique, they can enjoy the same type of beach holiday the rest of us can, without too much paparazzi interference. I was surprised that we didn't get a long lens of them at he beach, or a snap of them transferring at Saint Lucia on the way back. It is possible Hello! will launch an exclusive in the next few weeks, but if not it just shows that even the Cambridges can pull off the occasional complete coup. ;)

Happy Friday, all!