Kate v. Meghan (Except Not At All)

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Back in the 1980s the relationship between the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York kept the tabloids churning – one day they were friends and fellow “outsiders,” while the next they were pitted against one another in an unflattering compare and contrast. Thus far, the media itself hasn’t been so bad on this front with the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex – instead, it’s been from onlookers who usually like or dislike one or the other. The only offshoot of this conversation that has really gathered moss is the idea that Meghan will make Kate look bad because she’s more approachable to media and has a better work ethic.

I’ve mentioned this here and there over the last few months, but we haven’t really dug into it. Now, there’s a new article out from the Daily Beast that sums it all up and I’ve decided, why not, let’s pick apart the argument! You can read the full article here – below I have pulled relevant passages I want to address.

Fab Four

“Although the Palace are unwilling to give any precise or exact commitments, sources are suggesting that we will be seeing much, much more of Meghan and Harry over the coming six months than might have been anticipated. A trip to Dublin is apparently in the pipeline, and, possibly a mission to Australia, where the two will be representing the queen as part of their special detail as youth ambassadors for the Commonwealth. It makes an extraordinary contrast to the early years of Kate Middleton’s marriage to Prince William.”

Does it, though? Like Harry and Meghan, William and Kate delayed their honeymoon, however instead of a garden party it was because William was a search and rescue pilot in Wales and the two returned home. A few weeks later, like Harry and Meghan (who are reportedly on their honeymoon now), William and Kate turned up for an appearance in London – they welcomed President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to London at Buckingham Palace.

Ok, so six months – Harry and Meghan are rumored to be taking on a mini-tour of Dublin and a longer tour of Australia (and potentially New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, FYI). Back in 2011, William and Kate made a day-trip in Denmark and completed a tour of the United States and Canada. Also within six months of marriage.

And for what it’s worth, it’s a false comparison because today Harry is a full-time working royal. When William and Kate married, William wasn’t. Neither was Harry.

May 2011

“Kate was barely seen at all for quite a few years after they married seven years ago.”

Um, what? They have carried several hundred engagements, partaken in nine foreign tours jointly (not counting solo trips), participated in annual Remembrance Days, Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (and countless other RF events), represented the RF at the London Olympics, taken on new patronages and QB’d a successful mental health campaign. And I’m only stopping there because I’d like to keep this (relatively) brief.

Again, Kate wasn’t a full-time working royal. With the Queen’s blessing, she and William continued living in Wales for the first two years of their marriage and then slowly upped their count with noted absences when Kate was physically ill from pregnancy or on maternity leave. I do think there are valid criticisms to be made of how the Cambridges have handled the press and their public appearances, and perhaps even their workload – I’ve even made them on occasion – but “barely seen” is flat-out ridiculous.

Will Kate’s engagement numbers in, say, 2012 match Meghan’s in 2019? Probably not, but who knows? If Meghan gets pregnant within the next 12 months then that may very well slow her down as well. It’s quite literally speculation at this point.

2012

Indeed, one of her [Kate’s] first moves was to insist that they moved to a remote cottage in a remote corner of Wales, on a small peninsula as far as it is possible to get from any attention.

Seriously, what? William and Kate moved to Wales in 2010, before they were even engaged. They did this not because Kate insisted, but because William had a job there. And I’m sorry, why are we acting like Wales is a part of the Arctic?

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No one had any idea what they were up to tucked away in the country, although Kate would periodically take carefully choreographed trips to the local town in which she would be photographed shopping in the supermarket which helped show what an incredibly normal person she was.

Or she was going to the grocery store…like a normal person.

Duchess+Kate+gets+Groceries+xdukpQstq9yx

For many months she was incredibly reluctant to appear even by William’s side, and it was a full six months before she had a solo engagement, standing in for Charles at a private dinner for 30 guests at Clarence House in November 2011.

I have never heard that Kate was reluctant to make an appearance with or without William. I have heard that she is shy, but there is a marked difference in how this is being presented. She was not refusing to carry out engagements and in fact she did many as a newlywed.

Yes, she carried out her first solo engagement that November, but that’s actually a normal transition and since we have no idea when Meghan will carry out her first solo engagement this seems a false comparison at this point. And for the hundredth time, Kate still wasn’t a full-time royal, while Meghan will be.

November 2011

But the argument that Meghan is a showbiz native and this therefore makes it unfair to compare the eagerness with which she has embraced her public role compared to Kate deliberately misses a very important fact; Kate and William began dating at university. They first met a full ten years before they got married. It is Meghan who has been thrust dramatically and suddenly into the limelight, not Kate. Meghan may be better temperamentally suited to the experience and she may have become famous in her career, but that doesn’t take anything away from the smiling enthusiasm she has brought to the job, in comparison to what has sometimes seemed rather sullen resignation on the part of Kate.

This is actually a good point, but it shouldn’t be a dig at Kate, so much as praise for Meghan. She has taken on quite a bit in a short period of time. And she’s done wonderfully. But she also did have a career in front of a camera, had done press tours and participated in television interviews. Kate, obviously, had not. She was seven years younger, reserved by nature, marrying a different man during a different time. Meghan, meanwhile, also joined the fray when the KP office was a well-oiled machine and Harry’s public role was well-defined. It’s almost like they are two completely different women who married into this family under completely different circumstances.

Nor have I ever witnessed sullen resignation from Kate. If you want to read between the lines on engagement tallies, go nuts, but to argue she isn’t professional, polite and engaged when she’s on the job is ridiculous, in my opinion.

MH

Of course, right now, you don’t need an opinion poll to deduce that Harry and Meghan are everyone’s favorite royals. What will be really interesting is how Meghan’s popularity holds up over time. Kate has not done well in this respect—one recent survey found the number of people who say they can relate to the onetime ‘girl next door’ is only 13 percent. It’s perhaps not surprising that her rating is way lower than Meghan at 29 percent.

Well, duh. Meghan is new. It will be interesting to see how this holds up, because Kate was in Meghan’s exact spot seven years ago. But even then, these are two different people with two different trajectories, roles and responsibilities. Meghan can be good at her job without Kate having been bad at hers. And btw, “one recent survey” doesn’t pack the same punch in 2018. Can we at least agree on that?

Wimbledon

As The Daily Beast has noted before, the royals have a well honed pattern of engaging in an ever-increasing number of public appearances up until just about the moment that the royal accounts are published, and then disappearing from view for the summer. Buckingham Palace then opens to the public (arguably the most incredible tourist experience available in London) and the royals more or less disappear until September. 

OMG, or they are following roughly the same schedule that’s been in place since the reign of Queen Victoria. And for what it’s worth, members of the Royal Family do carry out engagements after Trooping the Colour – last year, there was a state visit from the King and Queen of Spain in July to offer but one example.

SRF

The wedding itself seems to have been crafted with great emotional intelligence. [… T]he whole event was a deformalizing experience for the royals—from Bishop Michael Curry’s fire and love sermon to the carriage ride round Windsor Castle. The very fact of having a wedding on a Saturday was in itself somewhat revolutionary, as the royals have always tended to get married on a Thursday or Friday, and would always expect public holidays to be granted in honor of the wedding. Harry wisely avoided making a public occasion—or at least an official public occasion—out of the wedding by abandoning such precedents.

Harry isn’t second-in-line for the throne and will never be king, thus comparing the two weddings is an exercise in futility. And btw, these. exact. same. arguments were used when William and Kate married. Literally headline after headline about the “People’s wedding,” their use of a charity registry instead of gifts and the invitation of representatives from charities. If William had done it Harry’s way then wouldn’t he, by virtue of the earlier arguments made, be acting like a paranoid privacy freak?

Official-Wedding-Photographs-Prince-William-and-Kate-MIddleton-in-the-throne-room-at-Buckingham-Pa

Meghan is creating a happy style for herself and her husband; non-paranoid, engaged, warm-hearted and laid back without being dismissive. William and Kate might just have a bit to learn from the new kid on the block.

Yeah, it’s literally the same people running press for these couples – Kensington Palace. Does the Daily Beast know this?

royals-main

Anyway, look, these arguments are exhausting and they are in the minority, but the above is going to stand as my opinion on this issue until actual events have transpired that warrant more discussion. In the meantime, here’s to hoping a joint engagement from Kate and Meghan this autumn helps put this to bed. If I dare to dream, then I’d actually like it to be a Wimbledon appearance in July. The sooner the better, really.

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