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Can the Cambridges Travel in One Car? The Queen's Christmas Luncheon

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Today was the Queen's annual Christmas luncheon.  She hosts it every year at Buckingham Palace and invites her large extended family.  It is a lovely tradition that allows more distant relatives to get together and enjoy the splendor of Buckingham Palace, see the Queen, and celebrate this wonderful family holiday before HM departs to Sandringham for Christmas with her immediate family.  

We don't get pictures from inside this private family gathering, but it has become a tradition to enjoy the car photos of the royals arriving (and leaving).  This is another event where the car photos are de facto official. ;) 

The Cambridges arrived in separate cars.  William drove with George in the front seat and a security guard in the back.  Kate arrived in her sporty Audi hatch back with Charlotte peeking cheerfully from the back and baby Louis watching the excitement outside the car with open-mouthed wonder. Mr. Security was riding shot-gun. Quick fashion notes--Kate appears to be wearing Emilia Wickstead, and those are her beautiful Cassandra Goad pearl earrings. Interestingly she had ditched the earrings by the time the party was over (see the first picture in this post, which is actually a shot of her leaving. I liked it, so I led with it). 

There is a lot of speculation about why they arrived separately and the truth is we have no idea.  It could be just about anything.  It is possible they were off doing separate things in the morning, or they may have wanted an extra car for Nanny Maria to take home in case Louis had a meltdown midway through the meal. Who knows! It is not, however, mandated for security reasons or because they can't all fit in one car. They all travel in a single car with some regularity, and it isn't essential that security be in the car with them.  As is the case with diplomats and politicians, etc, the royals' cars are tailed by a back up car--they drive in a two-car convey, if you will. So, a guard could pop in the actual car, and often does, but they also could give a royal some space and drive in the car behind. 

As if to prove the point, the Cambridges left the event in a single car driven by William, with Kate in the front seat and their kids lined up in the back. Those little ones look a little spent, don't they? :) 

Harry and Meghan weren't there.  They are still on their 6-week break, which appears to be a break not just from the public, but from the BRF. I think that is healthy--that is not a criticism.  I thought it was interesting that one outlet said the couple are in an "undisclosed country."  I was wondering today if they could possibly still be in the U.S. after their Thanksgiving break here. If so, they have a remarkable ability to fly under the radar, but, they might very well be. It is possible to fly under the radar.  But, I wonder if they are off somewhere else? Maybe holidaying somewhere warm?  I don't know. There have been reports, too, that Meghan is using this break to ready a major initiative in the U.S., or an initiate that will have a major U.S. outreach component.  We will have to wait and see. 

Kate in Velvet at Diplomatic Reception + Why the Screen on Kate's Window?

Friday, December 13, 2019

This past Wednesday was the annual diplomatic reception at Buckingham Palace where the Queen hosted close to 1,000 guests from the diplomatic community.  The Queen, Charles and Camilla, and William and Kate were among the royals who attended. It is a major event on the royal calendar and something we all look forward to getting a peek at every year.

Kate has been experimenting more with her style for these major evening events in the last year or two--I am thinking of the pink Marchesa she wore to the State Banquet for Spain, the ruffled McQueen she wore to the Banquet for Trump, and even the ruched blue McQueen she wore for the Dutch State Visit.  Those have all been fresh and experimental for her, after years of trending toward the sequined Jenny Packham gowns.  Although the JPs have been beautiful, even I have been tiring a little of the same simple style (although last year's white gown for the Diplomatic Reception was stunning).  Just last month I was dreaming about how much I would have loved Kate's Royal Variety dress in full velvet, so you probably know that this McQueen dress was a huge win for me.

This dress is bespoke, but based off of a similar RTW style from the brand.  Someone asked me if the back has detailing, and as you can see from the lead photo above (zoomed in below), she does not have any panelling or lace on the back.  It is a very minimalist gown, leaving all the punch to come from the velvet and tailoring. I think it oozes old world glamour and sophistication.  It looks like something Greer Garson would wear in some golden-age black and white.  One of my girlfriends messaged me and reminded me of this picture (above) of Diana, too.  It's just a stunning dress, and that neckline perfectly frames the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace Kate wore years ago (on loan from HM).

Kate wore her Lovers' Knot tiara and new diamond earrings that we haven't seen her wear previously, as well as a large statement ring.  Kate used to love a good cocktail ring for a night out, but she abandoned statement jewelry like that after her engagement to William.  In the past few years we have seen her slowly begin to return to wearing large rings for formal functions, which I love.  There are hypotheses about these pieces, but the Queen's jewelry vault is not my area of expertise. Suffice to say both the earrings and the ring are almost certainly loaned from the Queen from the royal collection.  [insert shrug emoji here :)]  If you want to do a deep dive on all this, I commend you to Susan at What Kate Wore, who has presented the collective wisdom of the royal watching community and her own substantial expertise in her coverage of the evening. It's very interesting.  You should run over and check out that great post!

One of my favorite parts of the night was this shot James Whatling captured of Carole Middleton arriving at Kensington Palace before the Cambridges left for the party.  Grandma was on babysitting duty! 

The Car Screen 

Every year Kate has attended this event (and other major evening receptions at the Palace that are announced, but that have limited press access--or none at all) we have gotten car photos of the Cambridges as they leave Kensington Palace. Someone asked me why no one ever uses full length photos from several years ago, and the answer is because until last year, we never got pictures from inside this event (at least we haven't in the time Kate has been attending).  So the car photos are important.  On Wednesday, the first images of the Duchess that started to populate the picture agency websites (where people pay for pictures--more on that in a moment:)) showed that there was a screen across Kate's window that really obscured the shot.  I was very surprised and I hope in the future the Cambridges remove the screen.  We aren't quite sure why the screen was there. 

One option is that the screen was left in the window, the staff forgot to remove it, and Kate didn't think much about it.  It has been noted that the Queen had a screen up on her car in the last week or so, and I think this might be the same car; the royals have a fleet of Bentleys and Jaguars and share them.  So, this might be the same car, and they just forgot to remove the Queen's screen. That would an unusual oversight, but it is possible.

If the screen was placed deliberately, I think it was probably to force news agencies to run photos that included William.  His side of the car did not have a screen, and so photos from that side of the car were lovely and clear.  The royals night have been trying to focus the spotlight on the Cambridges as a power couple--the future of monarchy--amid all the bad press certain members of the BRF have drawn down lately.  It wouldn't be the first time they worked to steer the press toward the shot that would tell the Palace's preferred story.  I would certainly understand that, but I think it also had some negative messages staff might not have considered (if this was, indeed, deliberate). 

If it becomes the norm to obscure Kate's side of the window, que sera sera, but Wednesday night it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Although the royals are certainly allowed to have privacy in the car (like the Queen putting a screen up for her commute last week), car shots for events like this one are essentially part of the event.  Everyone expects to get them, and these are the kinds of shots for which the royals should smile and wave--I'd say they are part of the engagement and part of their royal duty to maintain good relationships with the people and press.  It looks in bad taste to deliberately block a shot like this.  

Blocking shots brings me to my final point, and one of the primary reasons I found this to be a bad move.  Photos don't take themselves.  I received a number of comments saying the screen was a "first world problem" or that "[the royals] released full shots right after," but real people take these photos.  Real people go out in the cold December night in London and they stand outside some uber-wealthy person's gates in the hope of capturing, in a split second, a good photo.  They then try to license (i.e. get people to pay to use) those photos.  A lot of people in the royal watching community take this for granted, and there are droves of fan accounts that share hundreds of photos they pulled from Google without a second thought to the fact the photos are someone's work product. But, photographers make their living off of these shots.  As a photographer you can't be in two places at once, so anyone queued up on Kate's side of the car got a screen blocking his or her shot.  For an event where the press are expected to wait outside for the care hot, and always do, it is important not to ruin the money shot for half of them.

One of the reasons people think this is a tempest in a teapot is because it is primarily inside baseball. I understand why many people don't think twice about where photos come from, or the "economy of reporting on royals," or even the ways the Palace might or might not be trying to shape the narrative. We are in the weeds here, but a lot of what I write about on this blog is the deep-dive. If you just care about the finished product, I can see why these details might be tedious or inconsequential (the average person picking up People in the grocery store line didn't think twice about a few bad photos), but if you are interested in the finer points about the royals' relationship with the press and the way PR is made, this type of thing is interesting and notable. 

A screen is bad look for a night like this--when press inside the event is limited, and photographers' single chance is the anticipated car shot.  Hopefully it was an oversight and next year Kate's side of the car is not obscured. :) 

Kate Picks Christmas Trees with the Kiddies; Carole Decorates at Party Pieces; NATO Reception

Friday, December 6, 2019

I thought these were patterned pants when I saw the image previews.  They are not patterned pants.

On Wednesday, the Queen passed along one of her longtime charities to her grand-daughter-in-law and future Queen, the Duchess of Cambridge. HM had been patron of Family Action for 65 years, and had inherited the role form Queen Mary, so it is quite the premier-royal-woman charity. 

Kate does themed dressing to perfection, and she looked the part of a stylish elf in a gorgeous green emerald sweater from Really Wild and her Perfect Moment Mini Duvet coat we’ve seen a number of times. Kate completed the look with her Berghaus Supalite II boots and simple gold hoop earrings she has worn a number of times, but for which there is no ID as of yet.   

This was such a festive and fun ensemble for an afternoon crouching down with near-toddlers and man-handling Christmas trees!  I love that Kate doesn't shy away from the obvious Christmas colors--she just dressed up as a Christmas tree.  I don’t mind a pretty snug skinny jean, as you all know, but it might have been the lighter wash of the jeans coupled with the short cut of the sweater, but I did find the fit a little distracting. I think most of us tend toward darker washes for more formal outings, and lighter, more worn jeans for these dressed down affairs, but I think a darker wash, or a longer coat would have made this a little more of a win in my book.

The same day, Party Pieces (the Middleton family business) posted a picture of Carole decorating a tree at the Party Pieces office in Berkshire. I loved the timing (Kate out picking Christmas trees/Carole decorating one), and that Carole featured herself.  I think the Middletons should feel comfortable being a little more active in public. Kate has been a royal for almost a decade and her family has the right to maintain a public profile.  I hope Carole's earlier feature in the Telegraph and this post are signs of more to come. 

Finally, just the night before, Kate attended the reception the Queen hosted at Buckingham Palace for leaders of NATO nations. It is always fun to see Kate, but these BP receptions are often disappointmenting in terms of pictures. We only got a few snaps of Kate, and she is obscured by the crush of the crowd in all of them.

We did get a bit of peek, though, at her Alexander McQueen dress, which featured (from what can be seen) a high neckline, tailored waist, and buttoned sleeves—maybe sleeves with a bit of a bell? I have seen a view of the dress from farther away, and it appears to go at least mid-calf. So for me, a lot depends on the length and movement. We will have to wait for a good recycle to get a proper look.

This week was my mom's second round of chemo.  I came to town to be with her through it. It was a rough go, and she has been pretty miserable; it has been very hard to watch. She has an aggressive and very resistant cancer, and we won't know until mid-December if the chemo is working. We continue to pray to God, through the intercession of his Blessed Mother, that He will heal her--that the cancer will respond to the chemo.  I always think of the Wedding Feast at Cana, when Jesus was not ready to begin His ministry, but one word from His mother and He changed the water to wine.  We just need one word from her. :)  Thank you for praying with us and for us.  I really struggled the first few weeks, but I have felt your prayer lately.  Sometimes, when I am lying in bed at night worrying, I remember how many of you are praying, and it gives me courage.  Thank you.