A Tale of Two Duchesses

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The Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex are in the midst of a busy November – one that unfortunately I’m only able to circle in and out of here. As we speak (I type), both women are carrying out engagements in London, but before we get there, I want to catch up on the last seven days.

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Before helicoptering back to London to attend the Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday at Buckingham Palace, William and Kate were in South Yorkshire to open McLaren Automotives’ Composites Technology Centre and make an appearance at Centrepoint’s hostel in Barnsley.

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Centrepoint is an organization focused on homelessness with which William has been involved since childhood and served as patron of since 2005. It was featured prominently in the documentary spearheaded by William and Harry on the late Princess of Wales last year as Diana is credited with introducing William to it and inspiring commitment to less glamorous work. Indeed, William has been consistent with Centrepoint – long before he was a full-time working royal, he carried out engagements for them, attended meetings and participated in initiatives as notable as spending a night sleeping on the street in the winter of 2009. 

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In that sense, it’s unsurprising that Kate would tag along to lend her support, particularly given the first engagement and her publicly expressed desire to carry out more engagements in the UK outside of London. 

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For the day, Kate chose a cobalt blue coatdress from Eponine London. This garment first made its debut in January 2017 at Kate’s inaugural engagements for last year. I like the color, but I wasn’t a big fan then and I’m not a big fan now. It’s serviceable, and in this case forgivable given that the new theory for Kate’s evening gown last week was Marchesa.

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The very next day, William and Kate were then back at it, this time attending BBC to commemorate Anti-Bullying Week and oversee the broadcaster’s work as part of William’s taskforce to address cyberbullying. 

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William delivered a strong speech calling on digital and tech companies to take responsibility for their role. The second half is posted here: 

And when I worked as an Air Ambulance pilot or travelled around the country campaigning on mental health, I met families who had suffered the ultimate loss. For too many, social media and messaging was supercharging the age-old problem of bullying, leaving some children to take their own lives when they felt it was unescapable. I felt that I might be able to make a difference on this issue. I did not have the answers, but I did have the ability to invite the brightest leaders and researchers in social media to sit around the table, to listen to parents and children, and see what we might do together to make the online world safer and happier for our young people. What I found very quickly though was that the sector did not want to own this issue. I heard doubts being cast about the scale of the problem. I was told that companies were already doing plenty and just needed more credit for it. I saw denials about the age of young children on some of our most popular platforms. And crucially I heard over and over again that a collective approach – across the industry, with charity partners, ISPs, researchers, and parents – just wouldn’t work. The individual platforms were just too different and user expectations too complicated to try to come up with common tools that could be easily understood by children, parents and teachers. So a year ago, when it came time to launch a series of commitments that the sector would make on this issue, I announced a plan of action that I freely admitted did not go as far as I hoped. Now it did include some very positive things – a joint awareness campaign, new guidelines for reporting bullying, and a pilot for a shared emotional support platform. A year on though, even those modest commitments have not been implemented with the enthusiasm I would have hoped for. And while I am grateful that today we are announcing that the emotional support platform and the Stop, Speak, Support campaign will get fresh energy, I am disappointed that we are ending our taskforce collaboration without a real, collective sense of pride about what we have achieved. Now I will admit I have learned plenty through this process about how I can best lead similar endeavours in the future. I underestimated the scale of the challenge that this process would represent. I may have been too ambitious and I may have needed to look again at who we brought to the table. I am worried though that our technology companies still have a great deal to learn about the responsibilities that come with their significant power. I say this not in anger. Again, I believe that our tech leaders are people of integrity who are bringing many benefits to our lives and societies. I am very concerned though that on every challenge they face – fake news, extremism, polarisation, hate speech, trolling, mental health, privacy, and bullying – our tech leaders seem to be on the back foot. Their self-image is so grounded in their positive power for good that they seem unable to engage in constructive discussion about the social problems that they are creating. The journey from inventors in the student dormitory to the leaders of some of the most valuable companies on earth has been so fast that they may struggle to understand that their incentives have changed. The noise of shareholders, bottom lines, and profits is distracting them from the values that made them so successful in the first place. They are so proud of what they have built that they cannot hear the growing concern from their users. And increasingly they seemed resigned to a posture with governments and regulators that will be defined by conflict and discord. It does not have to be this way. Social media companies have done more to connect the world than has ever been achieved in human history. Surely you can connect with each other about smart ways to deal with the unintended consequences of these connections. You have made so many of our institutions engage directly with the people they serve. Surely you can build a new relationship with your own users that is based on service, community, humility and transparency. You have powered amazing movements of social change. Surely together you can harness innovation to allow us to fight back against the intolerance and cruelty that has been brought to the surface by your platforms. And you have brought families together in ways that were previously unimaginable. Surely you can partner with parents to make the online world a safe place of discovery, friendship, and education for their children. You can reject the false choice of profits over values. You can choose to do good and be successful. You can work in the interest of the children and parents who use your products and still make your shareholders happy. We not only want you to succeed. We need you to.

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Kate wore a teal Emilia Wickstead dress first debuted in 2014 and recycled since. This – and the pink version that Kate also owns – has always been a fan favorite. I’m on board with it – the repeats are always more fun when the Duchess reaches far back in her closet. 

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Finally, today: Kate visited University College London’s Psychology and Language Sciences department to learn more about the role of environment and biology in child development. 

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As you may recall, shortly before going on maternity leave earlier this year, Kate formed a new steering committee focused on early intervention, which has been a key part of her work over the last few years. Per the Royal Foundation’s notice in March:

“Stemming originally from her interests in issues such as addiction and the effects of family breakdown, and her visits to charities and support organisations, Her Royal Highness has been struck time again that so many of society’s greatest social and health challenges often stem from problems that start to manifest themselves in the earliest years in life.”

Kate recycled a burgundy Paule Ka skirt suit that she first debuted in 2012 and most recently wore publicly in February 2017. I’m a fan of this suit, but I think my favorite showing of it has to be last year’s when it was dressed down with flat boots. 

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Now, before we move on to Meghan, there was one more event last week that in fact featured both women. The Cambridges and Sussexes attended the Royal Foundation’s autumn party at Victoria House in London. The event was kept under wraps by Kensington Palace and was not technically a public appearance, though a few images have emerged from the evening. 

Kate wore her red Preen dress first seen in 2014, so that year is really making a comeback these days(!) Preen

Meghan, meanwhile, wore a black strapless Roland Mouret dress. We got less of a good look at it, but you get the gist: Roland Mouret

As for Meghan, things have been a bit quieter on her side of the street. After a marathon four-country tour last month and now solidly in her second trimester, I would imagine her pace will stay relatively sedate through the duration of her pregnancy. Rumors have been swirling about her and Harry looking at real estate through London, but I’m holding on addressing that when I finally have time to finish up a broader piece on the question of the royal households splitting. 

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< p style=”text-align:left;”>But today, while Kate is at UCL, Meghan undertook an engagement of her own: visiting the Hubb Community Kitchen to see how the organization is using the proceeds from their cookbook. Crucially, the funds raised through the book’s publication allow them to work seven days a week, providing a more consistent revenue stream for the women involved. 

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Meghan is wearing a loose, burgundy dress by Club Monaco and a matching coat from the same brand. The boots are Givenchy and may well be the one piece of this look not quite working for me. Alas.

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Moving on to our last event – on Monday evening Harry and Meghan attended the Royal Variety Performance. The event is held in honor of the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund, of which the Queen is patron, and each year various members of the RF attend on her behalf. Last year it was William and Kate, with Kate wearing a rather controversial embellished Jenny Packham while pregnant with Prince Louis. 

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This year it was Harry and Meghan’s turn, and Meghan’s turn (apparently) at wearing a divisive gown. Well, skirt, I should say. She chose a black and white halter top from Safiyaa over a long black fishtail skirt from the same label. Heels were Aquazzura. 

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Unfortunately, I agree with the critics on this one – from the waist up it looks a bad throwback to the ’90s and the proportions look slightly off in a way that makes me think this is Meghan trying to adapt fashion for her pregnancy and eschewing maternity wear. There’s a reason it exists, my friends, but Kate also had to learn these lessons once upon a time so it’s a safe bet Meghan will get there eventually.

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And on that uplifting note, we are officially caught up on recent engagements. I will do my best to get some posts (even some history) in the queue over the next few days, but the past several weeks have been a bit of an obstacle course as you can glean. Fingers crossed and such. 

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