Since announcing their engagement on November 27, 2017, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have undertaken a series of public engagements to introduce the bride-to-be to the UK. So far, they’ve turned up in Nottingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh, as well as two engagements in London. Averaging around two to three appearances per month, it’s likely that the two will continue at the same pace until the big day in May.
But the excitement of the events, the newness of Meghan and the breathless media coverage made me both nostalgic and curious about this time seven years ago when it was the Duchess of Cambridge – then Kate Middleton – who was preparing for her future role. It’s been just long enough that I wanted to take a look back and see what’s changed and what hasn’t.
So, without further ado, Kate’s engagement:
William and Kate made things official on November 16, 2010, a day we covered in more detail a couple months ago. At the time of the announcement, the two were living full-time in Anglesey, Wales and the well-oiled machine that has become Kensington Palace didn’t yet exist. Harry still lived at Clarence House when he was in London, which is exactly what William had done before setting up base in Anglesey. And if memory serves, Kate’s London flat had been pretty much taken over by her younger sister, Pippa, by then.
The other major difference was that William was years away from serving as a full-time working royal, and so while there was more pressure on Kate as a future queen consort, she also had a much slower introduction into the nuts and bolts of public engagements. Consider that Harry and Meghan made their announcement on a Monday and that Friday they were in Nottingham. By contrast, William and Kate made their announcement in mid-November and didn’t take on their first joint appearance until late December.
The chosen event was a holiday concert in Norfolk, which with hindsight is rather sweet given it would later become their home base after the Queen gifted them Anmer Hall. The Thursford Christmas Spectactular, as the event is called, raised money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. And for her clothing, Kate chose a brand that was new to her profile then, but has subsequently become a mainstay of her wardrobe, Temperley. Worn over black stockings and under a black blazer, it was a slightly updated twist on Kate Middleton classics.
All things considered, this was a light lift. It wasn’t even a real engagement. No walkabout, no meeting officials and limited exposure to photographers snapping at every angle. The couple arrived, were photographed and entered the event. Simple. My God, we were so easy to please back then.
After that, our next sighting of Kate came when she was photographed riding through the gates of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Christmas luncheon a few days later. She didn’t join the RF at Sandringham that year, instead opting to spend the holiday with her own family in Berkshire. William, meanwhile, spent the day “on call” with the RAF.
On January 8, 2011, one day before Kate’s 29th birthday, she and William attended a friend’s wedding in West Yorkshire. The couple weren’t photographed together, but Kate was spotted wearing a fabulous velvet coat dress by Libelula and purple heels. Remarkably, she looked noticeably slimmer than she had just a few weeks before and it began ongoing speculation through her wedding day that she was on a crash diet to prep for the wedding. Was she? I mean, probably.
The first official engagement didn’t come until February 24, 2011, more than three months after the announcement and two months before the wedding. Wearing a brown herringbone Katherine Hooker coat and brown suede Aquatalia boots, Kate helped christen a lifeboat with champagne in Anglesey and then participated in her first walkabout as a crowd of roughly 1,000 people gathered to shake her hand, take her photo and get a glimpse of the future queen.
It was a smooth operation – Kate exhibited few nerves, chatted with crowds, did her bit and kept things light-hearted. If anything, people were consistently pleased by her level of poise and confidence as she moved about.
Next up, Kate joined William at their alma mater, St. Andrews University, in Scotland, this time to a crowd of 3,000 and a welcome of bagpipes and all the their old professors. Among the anecdotes we gleaned from the day, was that Kate kept all of her old school essays to one day show her children.
She chose a red Luisa Spagnoli skirt suit that she has recycled many times since, most recently this time last year. She has subsequently lengthened the skirt, but its original debut with taller boots was perfect for her late-20s style.
The following day she made an unexpected appearance back in London when she joined William and Harry at New Zealand House to sign a condolence book for those who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquake. Sadly, I don’t know who made either the black coat or red dress that she wore, and I don’t think we’ve seen either since!
Next up was Pancake Day in Belfast on March 8. Wearing a Burberry trench with a slight ruffle on the hem, she fearlessly flipped pancakes right in the middle of the walkabout. Frankly it remains one of her most impressive moments in my (humble) opinion because there’s no way I would have had the guts to do so … and if I did, I would absolutely have dropped one.
Last but not least, she was in Lancashire at Darwen Aldridge Academy in an Amanda Wakeley suit and LK Bennett heels.
And that was it – we were just 11 days before the wedding by then and the next official appearance was the wedding itself in Westminster Abbey. Interspersed between these engagements were a handful of candid moments – frankly the last times we’ve seen Kate out and about in London with any regularity. She was spotted shopping and lunching with her mother, Pippa and, on one occasion, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Four days before the big day, she was spotted out in a fantastic black Issa dress doing a last bit of shopping. Two days later, she was spotted in jeans carrying a large garment bag, and finally, on April 28, she and her family arrived at the Goring Hotel where she spent the eve of her wedding.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Looking at all of this together, and comparing it to today, there are two big things that jump out at me. Well, three, actually. The first is that we haven’t gotten any candids of Meghan running about town since her engagement was announced, which is actually pretty remarkable. There have been rumors and reports of comings and goings, but no actual photos or subsequent tabloid stories.
Secondly, Meghan is taking on more engagements and lengthier ones at that. My guess is the different has more to do with Harry being a full-time working royal and thus there being a slightly higher expectation of Meghan hitting the ground running. The other part of that is, like I said, the office of Kensington Palace is now a well-oiled machine and there is a different mindset towards how Meghan will fit into a team of four, as opposed to Kate joining an extended Royal Family.
Finally, there have been some snarky headlines here and there that the public’s love affair with Kate is over and Meghan is the new fan favorite. I think Kate’s engagement clearly shows a similar level of excitement and while Meghan absolutely deserves a warm welcome and popularity, it’s ridiculous to claim one comes at the expense of the other. Meghan is new and a wedding is always going to be a bit more fun than a married couple of seven years. Let’s just agree that there’s a lot to look forward to this spring and call it a day.
And on that note, it’s a bit surreal to look back on these photos and realize that in seven years this couple has gone on to have (almost) three children, take on eight foreign tours and build an issues campaign as successful as Heads Together. Understanding that a royal career is playing the long game, that’s a pretty eventful run so far!