“I asked William why he waited for so long to make it official and he told me he wanted to be sure,” Edwards recalls. “He made a brilliant choice in Catherine. She is completely her own person and she supports William tremendously. I never thought we’d have anyone like Diana ever again, but now we do. I think most people in this country think one day she’ll make a great queen.”
According to a former courtier who knows Kate well, her family values, loyalty, and discretion have also prepared her well for royal life. “There were many times from the engagement onwards when she would come to Buckingham Palace to speak with ladies in waiting, private secretaries, and those who work closely with the queen so that she could learn about her future role,” the source says. “She wanted to know what it was like to go to a state banquet, how to conduct herself on a walkabout, and what would be expected of her on a regional tour so that she could get it right. There was a real willingness from everyone at the royal household to help her make it work.”
One year after the royal wedding, it was already possible to see that work paying off. Queen Elizabeth invited Kate to join her and Prince Philip on a visit to Leicester in March of 2021, traveling by royal train as part of the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee tour. Kate and the queen were photographed laughing together while sitting down to watch a student fashion show, and people in the crowd spoke breathlessly to the press about their encounters with the duchess. One onlooker asked Kate about William, who was stationed in the Falklands at the time. The duchess responded that she was “missing him terribly,” but also added, “I’m being well looked after.”
The years that followed Kate and William’s wedding were some of the happiest for the royal family and compared to the turbulence of recent months, fairly placid ones. After sending them to Canada and America for their first overseas tour months after their wedding, the queen gave the Cambridges her blessing for them to spend the first years of their marriage out of the spotlight. Much as the queen and Prince Philip did in the early years of their marriage, Kate and WIlliam were able to live a relatively ordinary life on the island of Anglesey, off Wales, where William was working as a search and rescue pilot.
After Prince George was born in 2013, the couple moved to Norfolk so that they could enjoy their time as a new family in the relative peace and quiet of their country bolt-hole, Anmer Hall. It was only after Princess Charlotte was born and Prince George started school in the fall of 2017 that William quit his job with the Air Ambulance service and the family moved back to Kensington Palace to take on their roles as full-time royals supporting the queen. George and Charlotte joined them on tours in Canada, Poland, and Germany, and the Cambridges seemed to be working hard to find a harmonious balance between their private and public lives.
The children, including Prince Louis, born in 2018, represent the fulfillment of Kate’s dynastic obligation to the throne. But motherhood, as one friend of the couple’s observes, has “been the making of Kate.” In an interview last year with Giovanna Fletcher for the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast, Kate was remarkably candid about her experiences of motherhood. She spoke about the joys of holding Prince George for the very first time, the terror she felt when she left the hospital holding her precious new baby knowing the world was watching, and how she feels “mom guilt”—“Anyone who doesn’t as a mother is actually lying!”
“She is the future Queen of England, but in that moment we were two mums sitting down and having a chat,” Fletcher says. “She talked about how she has to step away from being a mother to do her royal work and how she feels guilty at times. It was a big thing for her to admit, and it made her seem so normal.”
Despite the pressures of raising three children, however, Kate is equally serious about her role and responsibility as Duchess of Cambridge and future Princess of Wales. It is why, sources close to her say, she has bided her time, carefully choosing the 17 patronages and organizations she supports to reflect her personal interests: young people, particularly the preschool generation; mental health; the importance of nature and sport; and her passion, photography. As one of her team says, “she sees them as a commitment for the rest of her life.”
Aides at Kensington Palace call the duchess’s Early Years work her “legacy project.” In a speech just before Christmas, Kate explained why the campaign is so important to her. “If we only expect people to take an interest in the early years when they have children, we are not only too late for them, we are underestimating the huge role others can play in shaping our most formative years too.”