What’s Going on With Kate & Her Engagements

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As I noted in yesterday’s post, the Duchess of Cambridge is due to undertake her first solo engagement since her third pregnancy was announced on Tuesday, October 31. After disappearing from public view for all of September, she’s popped up on three separate occasions this month, each time accompanying the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry for joint engagements.

The timing of this particular pregnancy announcement was a bit of a double-edged sword. While news of a baby is always happy news in this context and many royal watchers were hoping William and Kate would expand their family, it also came just as Kensington Palace announced that William, Kate and Harry would be doubling down on their royal roles. While William and Harry have absolutely been out and about much more so than they previously would have been in the same time span, Kate’s HG has kept her at home.

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This is a bit of a tricky situation. While I refuse to condone arguments that Kate is “using” this pregnancy to get out of royal duties, the Cambridges and their children have played a role in their professional choices. Some of that is sheer necessity: Kate suffers from HG and is physically incapacitated for her first trimester. Then there is mundane reality of having a new baby and young children – Kate is a hands-on, breastfeeding mother by all reports. She takes maternity leaves to care for her infants. She doesn’t delegate the lion’s share of childcare to a nanny. All of that is fair and none of that should be criticized.

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Where it gets complicated is that unfortunately Kate has always had a reputation for being “work shy.” This stems from far before she and William married, but hasn’t been helped since. She and William spent the first two plus years of their marriage living in Wales, neither working as a full-time royals. Once they moved to London, they quickly decamped to their country home in Norfolk, Anmer Hall where William continued to work part-time as a pilot and Kate made it clear her first priority was raising her two young children.

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The end of 2015 and 2016 saw the most sustained and significant criticism of the couple they had garnered since their marriage. The consensus from their critics was that they had been given a grace period as newlyweds, but that it was time for them to both step up to the plate and take on more public duties. They were in their 30s and, perhaps more significantly, the Queen was in her 90s. Why, people asked, were the Queen and her children – all past or approaching retirement age – working more than the able-bodied next generation?

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Some of that comes from an issue we’ve discussed here in the past, which is seniority. William is second-in-line to the throne and, as such, he is not meant to eclipse his father, the Prince of Wales, in terms of quality or quantity of his work. Kate, unlike the late Princess of Wales or other European royal wives to whom she is compared, is more junior.

Even so, there has been a growing expectation that Kate step in and own her role as a member of the Royal Family, not just as William’s wife, but as a significant public figure in her own right. 2017 was a re-set year. The year started with news that William would be giving up his job as a pilot to become a full-time royal and that he, Kate and their children would be moving full-time to London. There were three tours on the books between Germany, Poland, Paris, and Scandinavia, not to mention Kate made her second solo trip abroad. The couple were highly visible in July before retreating for the month of August when most expected they were moving house and taking advantage of the fact the RF is usually quiet for that month.

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Royal reporters filed a slew of stories in the last days August on news from KP that all three were due to begin a busy autumn, including Kate’s first solo engagement on behalf of one of her patronages since mid-July. And then, on the very day Kate was due to resume royal duties, KP tweeted out that she was pregnant, suffering from HG and forced to cancel the engagement. Now, to be clear, for most people this was exciting news and there was considerable sympathy and credit given to Kate for undergoing this physically tough condition yet again.

For some, however, the news was met with exasperation. Finally, William and Kate would be working full-time and yet, here we go again, Kate would be absent for at least a month and then back out of public view again next spring and summer as she bowed out of engagements for the last weeks of her pregnancy and maternity leave.

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It’s an ugly narrative and, frankly, deeply unfair. It’s also one that women all over the world are fighting against as they juggle the biological and logistical necessities of motherhood with maintaining a career. The problem is, this narrative didn’t start when Kate became a mother, which makes it a bit difficult to disregard it as simply sexist. This is a personal reputational issue and one that the Palace – and Kate – have done a good job of addressing this year. The optics problem is one of timing – the announcement coming on literally the same day she was about to enter the next phase of her public life.

Which brings me to the actual news hook of this post (yes, I’ve purposefully buried the lede here). A story was published this week in the Express recounting a possible phone conversation that William made to the Queen asking that Kate be allowed to lessen her public duties. It says:

[A] new report suggests that a rift has emerged between Prince William and his grandmother over Kate’s request to minimise her duties to focus on their growing family.

The insider said: “Kate’s miserable about doing royal engagements.

“She’s happiest being a mother and wife and has requested to do less in the public eye.”

They also told Life and Style magazine: “The 91-year-old monarch was livid that the future Queen of England would want to lessen her duties.

“Prince William told her Kate wants her public appearances kept to a minimum and he’s 100 percent behind her.

“The conversation was quite icy.”

The source further claimed that this confrontation got the Queen “frustrated” as she holds a “no-nonsense” attitude “when it comes to her royal duties and those of her family”.

The source further claimed that this confrontation got the Queen “frustrated” as she holds a “no-nonsense” attitude “when it comes to her royal duties and those of her family”.

Prince William’s grandmother allegedly stated that she “expects Kate to step up”.

But another royal insider has come forward saying this is “not true”.

Speaking to the website Gossip Cop, which has debunked these rumours as “bogus”, the insider rubbished claims that Prince William and the Queen had a “major fight” over the issue.

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Do I believe this? No. For starters, consider the sources listed out here. These aren’t reputable news sources. But the fact that a British publication picked up the story is surprising. Grazia Magazine also ran the story. Both have been tweeted about and shared, leading many to lend the gossip credence. Part of the problem, unfortunately, is that this rumor aligns with the perception of Kate’s critics – that’s a wealthy woman focused on doing as little as possible. While she was named “Waity Katy” during her and William’s courtship, she’s been upgraded to “Duchess Do-Little” since marrying.

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And while so much of this genuinely unfair, it would behoove Kate in the long-run not to handle this third pregnancy the same way she did her second. That doesn’t only mean not disappearing from view, but ensuring that her public appearances are on behalf of her charities as well as formal RF occasions like Trooping the Colour. No, Wimbledon won’t count in this case. It means maintaining as busy a schedule as is realistic over the winter to make up for September and October, understanding that so long as she turned up once or twice a week for a several-week period it would pretty much fix the issue.

The Queen has always maintained that the monarch has to be seen to be believed. The same goes for the RF’s media darling and for this generation, that’s the Duchess of Cambridge.

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