Daniela Elser: Kate borrowing Queen’s Bentley reveals big plans for duchess

OPINION:

In most jobs, top-notch performance might earn an employee a promotion or a workplace-appropriate pat on the back or even, in extreme circumstances, a Woolworths mud cake being proffered in their direction.

But the royal family? Well, they do things a tad differently.

When the Queen wants to express her pleasure with any of the ever-dwindling number of working members of the house of Windsor, she has no end of money-can’t-buy trinkets and treats to shower her lucky “employees” with.

Take in 2019 when she made Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in recognition for doing a stellar job at duchess-ing or 2018 when she made the former apple-of-her-eye, grandson Prince Harry, one of her official aide de camps.

Dispensing priceless pieces from the royal jewellery collections is another one of Her Majesty’s go-to gestures, such as permanently lending Kate the Bahrain pearl drop earrings, (which feature pearls given to her for her 1947 wedding) or the four-string Japanese pearl choker which the monarch herself used to regularly wear.

This week, we can add something new and surprising to this list of royal distinctions she can doll out: getting to zoom around in her very special Bentley.

See, last weekend, when Kate and husband Prince William were seen leaving the London Cenotaph after Remembrance Day commemorations it was not in their usual family Audi or even in the electric Jaguar they use on occasion but in what appeared to be one of the Queen’s very own, especially-built State Bentleys.

Perched in the back seat, and looking suitably sombre, the Cambridges were whizzed away in (literally) regal style.

Given that the royal family is not exactly short on vehicles (or antique carriages or horses or bikes or even helicopters), this choice of transport was clearly not born out of necessity.

Rather, the 95-year-old lending the couple her bespoke wheels translates to a very clear cut signal of approval and the symbolism of the future King and Queen Consort riding around in a car with a coronet slapped on the door is impossible to miss.

The sight of Kate riding around in Her Majesty’s car reflects the extent to which the duchess has been stepping of late, especially as vicissitudes of age catch up with the formerly unflagging sovereign.

On Sunday, before the Cambridges’ noteworthy exit, it was Kate who had taken the sovereign’s usual place after the Queen pulled out less than two hours beforehand with a sprained back. With the distribution of the HRHs across the Commonwealth and Foreign Office balconies overlooking the Cenotaph likely having to be quickly rejigged, it was Kate who got to take the primo spot between Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.

Likewise the night before at the Festival of Remembrance at Royal Albert Hall where she was positioned plumb in the centre of the front row of the royal box.

This all comes a full month after the Queen first cancelled a series of events on the orders of doctors before being secretly hospitalised overnight in October. With this current health crisis ongoing, and the Queen having no scheduled public appearances between now and Christmas, it could very likely be Kate who will gamely pick up the slack.

Visibility has and will always be key to the monarchy. (As the Queen famously once quipped, “I have to be seen to be believed.”)

To this end, the at least temporary withdrawal of Her Majesty from public appearances could leave something of a vacuum.

While Camilla, as the wife of the next King, might be the obvious candidate on paper, and while she might have built up a bank of public respect for her work on issues such as domestic violence, she is never going to be a widely adored figure.

Redoubtable? Sure. Enormous fun? All but guaranteed. But a dazzling public figure who can charm the masses? Sadly not.

Which leaves Kate as the only possible candidate to step in and to step up.

Sure, she might have been largely written off by Fleet St and social media in her early days of HRH-dom, attracting a steady stream of criticism for her penchant for zipping off to Mustique on the reg, but now she enjoys buoyant public approval with a November YouGov poll finding 78 per cent of Brits having a positive view of her. (Only the Queen and William have better numbers.)

Not only has she managed to meet the key job requirement of the wife of a future King – popping an heir and not one but two spares – but she has surpassed expectations (or at least my expectations) for what she has done with her royal platform.

While her initial stretch as a member of The Firm largely saw her timidly holding onto a steady stream of useless clutch bags while visiting regional community centres, a growing confidence has seen her mould her role into something much more substantial in recent years.

Her key area of interest has long been the early childhood years, from 0 to 5, a charitable focus that superficially seems like an obvious choice as something suitably inoffensive and niiiiiiiice. It could be so very easy to dismiss this as an easy path to choose but the reality is what has driven her to take this on is the understanding that intervening during those crucial years can play a significant part in preventing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues later in life.

If ever there was a test of the Duchess of Cambridge’s royal mettle, and the sheer number of innocuous sweaters in her closet, it was during the pandemic, during which it is universally held she played a blinder — the 39-year-old proved to be the royal family’s MVP, popping up on Zoom calls with everyone from school kids to nurses in Mount Isa.

Like the Queen Mother 80-odd years earlier, there Kate was projecting stolid dependability and cheeriness in the face of a national crisis. (And it was only months after the fact that it was revealed that her husband William had had the virus in April.)

Then there has been her performance during the never-ending Sussex drama, having gotten on with the job amid the ructions and high-strung emotions of Megxit. She has, as 101 cheap tea towels urged, kept calm and carried on.

In April, it was Kate who stepped in and played peacekeeper after Prince Philip’s funeral, drawing Princes William and Harry together in conversation and thus saving coverage of the sombre event from being wholly overtaken by stories of feuding brothers and bad blood.

Interestingly, on that very day, Kate was wearing the Queen’s pearl and diamond choker.

In fact, looking back, after more than ten years in the job, Kate’s record remains totally unblemished. She has never created a media flap, generated any real controversy or turned up anywhere she was meant to without a hat. (Let alone having her toes sucked …)

Instead, she has diligently and conscientiously applied herself to the job of keeping the institution of the monarchy, and the millinery industry, afloat.

Is it any wonder then that her boss, and grandmother-in-law, has been passing along to her an ever-growing slate of her own former official roles? In 2016, Kate took over from the Queen as the patron of the national charity Action For Children and of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (the home of Wimbledon), in 2019 as the patron of the Royal Photographic Society and also the same year, as the patron of Family Action.

In 2018, she became only the second royal patron, after the Queen Mother, for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Nursing Now campaign and in 2020 was named joint president of the Scouts (along with the Duke of Kent) and of which the Queen is patron.

Back when the Cambridges were dating, and later when they became engaged, there was a certain breed of commentator who seemed to enjoy using the word “commoner” as a pejorative when it came to Kate. Now, William’s choice of future Queen looks like nothing less than a masterstroke and the single move most likely to keep the monarchy alive in the decades to come.

Little wonder then that his Gan-Gan is letting him borrow one of her Bentleys…

Source: Read Full Article