Today we’re going to review the Duchess of Cambridge’s past year. Month by month we’re going to walk through the most memorable moments of 2018, review the fashion and discuss the highs and lows of Kate’s engagements, foreign tours and public appearances. Ideally what we’d like to see each year is growth as Kate evolves within her role as a member of the Royal Family and personalizes her position. In order to gauge that, we’re going to (briefly) cover where we ended in 2017 and then work our way through the highlights of the past 12 months.
This won’t capture everything and is certainly a subjective exercise and I’d love to see where you agree or disagree. With that, let’s get into it:
Where We Left Off
The end of last year was full of anticipation – Kate was in the second trimester of her third pregnancy and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had just announced their engagement. The year ended with the debut of the “fab four” at Sandringham, while Kate had finished out a pretty busy autumn and there was a new tour on the horizon. When I wrote last year’s recap I noted at the end that if Kate ended up taking a long maternity leave we may well see similar criticism to what we saw in 2015 and 2016 and Kensington Palace would have to mitigate that – well, we know now that Kate did take a long maternity leave and the ball bounced a different way. More on that below.
Over the last couple of years Kate has returned to work earlier and earlier, whereas once upon a time the first half of the month was blocked off for travel and extended private time. This year, our first glimpse of Kate was still at Sandringham in early January when she was photographed walking to church with William and the Duke of Edinburgh. The couple earned some bonus points for spending extra time with the Queen, while Harry and Meghan rang in the new year taking a holiday in Monaco.
Kate returned to work on January 10 in a navy Hobbs coat and her blue floral Seraphine dress for an engagement with Place2Be. I was a fan of this look at the time and it’s only grown on me since.
With William and Kate due to undertake a tour of Sweden and Norway at the end of the month, I was expecting that Kate would appear a handful of time in the middle of the month and then retreat before the tour. I was incorrect – she carried out six separate appearances solo and with William that set the tone for what was an impressively busy first quarter.
On the fashion-front, I’m going to call out this…let’s say tangerine(?) coat from Boden that was a fresh twist from the Duchess in the middle of several repeats from her second pregnancy.
Two more quick notes before we move on to the tour is that 1) Kate helped launch a new mental health website for children that dovetails nicely with her focus on early intervention and 2) William and Kate spent a day in Coventry, illustrating what would become a concerted effort for the two to carry out more engagements in the UK, but outside of London.
So, Stockholm – the tour kicked off with three separate looks, by which the first two were overshadowed by a gold and floral silk dress by Erdem that has become one Kate’s more infamous sartorial moments. I have a tendency to get excited any time Kate wears something outside of her wheelhouse, so I actually had to look back at what I wrote:
Much like I dock points for pieces overly duplicative, I tend to give more when Kate takes a risk. Because of that, I like this dress. I doubt this will end up getting a “best of” nod at the end of the year, for example, but I certainly don’t dislike it the way others seem to.
It’s nice to know one’s self, I guess.
The next day, true to form, Kate debuted a great day ensemble – a red and white Catherine Walker that has become a bit of sleeper hit for me:
And then torpedoed it with another Erdem number, which may well end up winning my least favorite evening look for the year:
February kicked off in the middle of the Scandinavian tour, with two days in Norway. The media noted at the time that several royal reporters ditched the tour midway through to get back to London in time for Meghan’s first evening event, but if they did then they missed quite the stunner by way of a pink Alexander McQueen gown that more than made up for Kate’s Erdem dresses in Sweden.
Once again, I imagined that post-tour and a busy January, Kate would take a longer break after returning home. I was wrong. Just five days later, she carried out an engagement in Essex wearing a new royal blue Goat coat. I’m not sure why exactly since blue coats aren’t exactly new ground for HRH, but I really loved this look.
Ugh, then it was the BAFTAs, the lead up of which was a “will she or won’t she” on Kate wearing black in solidarity for the Time’s Up movement. She did not, instead choosing a dark green with a black sash that some believe was a nod to the color of suffragettes. I was disappointed at the time, but the gown is still beautiful and it underlines an important shift Kate is in the process of making – more on that below.
Later in the month, Kate picked up two new patronages: Nursing Now 2020 and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). Unfortunately, she did so while wearing a truly hideous custom-made blue and white Jenny Packham getup.
Last but not least, she sat beside William, Harry and Meghan at the Royal Foundation Forum which marked the first time all four appeared together for an engagement. It was a big hit and fascinating for those who have been paying attention to see them all interacting with one another. All seemed friendly and easy.
There were two maternity looks from Kate’s pregnancy with Princess Charlotte that I was eager to see and we got both in March. The first was this JoJo Maman Bebe coat:
And the second was this navy Beulah number:
I preferred both on their debut showing, but still, it’s nice to get what you want, you know?
For those keeping track, Kate once again handed out shamrocks to the Irish Guards on St. Patrick’s Day, so we’ve apparently all learned our lesson from 2016. She recycled a green Catherine Walker that she debuted in Stockholm, which is pretty soon for a repeat, but makes sense given the timing of her pregnancy and the color.
She also wore a second custom-made Jenny Packham outfit that was incredibly unfortunate. March was really an emotional roller coaster upon reflection.
The big win for me came from her last engagement before going on maternity leave – Kate paired a white Goat coat with a new Hobbs top and skinny jeans that I really loved. The more that I think about it, I tend to love when Kate dresses up jeans and this was definitely no exception. Fashion highlight of the month in my book.
Though not an engagement, we saw Kate one more time before she went into hibernation – Easter at Windsor Castle with the rest of the Royal Family. She wore a brown Catherine Walker coat that didn’t do much for me, but the fact that she and William were late and everyone went into overdrive trying to figure out why was kind of hilarious.
Just three weeks later, the couple re-emerged with Prince Louis. Kate wore a red Jenny Packham dress – the designer being the same one worn for the debut of all three of her children, while the garment itself was a refreshed version of what Diana, Princess of Wales’s wore when she left hospital at the birth of Prince Harry in 1984. Some are taking that to mean Kate is done, while others see it as a nod to the second son – we’ll see.
Not having covered the births of Charlotte and Prince George on this site, this was a very exciting day and I’m glad to have been able to have the experience Cambride-style before the arrival of Royal Baby Sussex in a few months.
Just shy of a month later, Kate re-appeared for Harry and Meghan’s wedding at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Tasked with helping to mind the pageboys and bridesmaids, of which George and Charlotte were two, Kate wasn’t the center of attention that day but did still manage to stir up some controversy over the color of her Alexander McQueen coat. Was it cream or pale yellow? I believe we’ve subsequently netted out on very pale yellow, but I’m still of the mind she should have gone a different route that day.
That marked our one and only real glimpse of Kate that month, though a week later she was photographed with George and Charlotte at the Houghton Hall Horse Trials. The snap came innocently from a passer-by, but I’m of the thought that Kate definitely knew being pictured here was a possibility and was okay with it for reasons I’ll get into shortly.
Similar to May, June brought us one public appearance and one private one that may have stolen the show for the summer. The public was of course Trooping the Colour, for which Kate wore a new pale blue Alexander McQueen dress that did nothing for me and George had his mouth covered by his second cousin, Savannah Phillips.
Just a day later, Kate was photographed with George and Charlotte watching polo with Autumn Phillips and her two daughters, Savannah and Isla. As I said at the time:
Kate obviously knows that she and the kids will be photographed at these events, but they do go a long way in making the public feel like the family isn’t holed up behind palace walls. The last time Kate was on maternity leave the public mood began to turn sour, in part because of the dearth of information, but also because Kensington Palace began cracking down on the children’s privacy. With Kate unlikely to fully return to a heavy work schedule until September, these semi-regular outings are a way of garnering goodwill in a controlled environment and without making the children uncomfortable.
As we know now, Kate wouldn’t return until October and in fact took a longer break with Louis than she did with Charlotte. I think the fact that there wasn’t a bigger dust-up about it had to two do with three factors: 1) the addition of Meghan, obviously 2) a busy first quarter that included a tour and 3) these photographs. The lack of visibility in in 2015 was a major factor in general crankiness whereas here the public was given a visual reminder of what Kate parenting looks like.
A month after Trooping, the Cambridges finally made their debut as a family of five at Louis’s christening. As she has at all her children’s christenings, Kate wore cream-colored Alexander McQueen, though we didn’t get a good look at it thanks to Louis’s christening gown – an exact replica of the one used by all of Queen Victoria’s children in the 1840s and 1850s.
Wimbledon, finally, gave us the moment many of us (myself included) had been waiting for – a solo jaunt for Kate and Meghan. The two took in a tennis match together and photographs analyzed their every movement while they sat in the stands. Some noted that they felt there were moments of awkwardness, but my main takeaway from reviewing the images then and now is that it all seemed perfectly friendly and the two got on. As we came to find out, there was more to the story.
The next day, she appeared again with William and look absolutely gorgeous in a yellow Dolce & Gabbana dress. Fashion-wise, this was one of her strongest looks for me in 2018.
This is usually a dead month for the BRF, and this year was particularly true for Kate. More than a month after Wimbledon, we finally got a shot of her riding in a car with the Queen while visiting Balmoral. She looked decidedly more done up than she usually does during this more private moments.
Most of us assumed Kate would return to work in September, which marked the 3-4 month mark following Louis’s birth. In fact, we saw nary an official glimpse of Kate for the entire month, though she know she took the odd meeting behind closed doors and she did attend a friend’s wedding. There was definitely some angst, but Meghan started carrying out solo engagements and all eyes were mostly trained on the upcoming Oceania tour she and Harry were due to undertake in October.
Kate’s return in October brought seven public appearances for the month, though not all were formal engagements. The month was completely overshadowed by the wedding of Princess Eugenie followed by the start of the Sussexes’ Oceania tour and Meghan’s pregnancy announcement, and so Kate’s engagements were slotted around and in-between.
She recycled a lilac Emilia Wickstead dress first debuted in Hamburg last summer – the look was one of my least favorite from the tour, but from a distance I think that has more to do with how strong her showing was that tour. Considered alone and Kate really does look gorgeous in this number – its stock has risen for me.
Erdem made a return with a bateau-necked grey tweed dress that Kate wore as she carried out her first engagement as patron of the V&A. I liked, but didn’t love, this look, and it was perfectly autumnal change of pace for HRH.
Finally, Kate attended a state banquet at Buckingham Palace towards the end of the month in honor of the King and Queen of the Netherlands state visit. the ruched blue taffeta gown by Alexander McQueen felt like an ’80s prom dress to me, but it was definitely a moment.
One more repeat should get a shout out – Kate wore the blue Jenny Packham she wore to arrive for the 2016 Canada tour. With her hair down and sans a hat, the structure of the dress was really underscored for me and I really loved this. This shade really is striking on her and it was a big win.
The big sartorial moment for the month may well be Kate recycling the teal Jenny Packham gown she first debuted during the London Olympics in 2012. It’s definitely a fan favorite, though not one of mine. As I noted at the time, the color has always struck me as a little juvenile, though the gown itself is gorgeous.
For Remembrance ceremonies, Kate wore a black Roland Mouret sheath and a military-style Alexander McQueen coat. The latter was definitely not one of my faves.
This month saw a slew of recycles, from the teal Emilia Wickstead to the burgundy Paule Ka skirt suit to blue Eponine coat dress. The big moment was the glamorous glimpse we saw of Kate on her way to the Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday party in a one-shouldered pink gown, statement earrings and an up-do.
Or perhaps it was the photos released of the entire Wales family, including all three Cambridge children. Definitely one for the books.
Personally, my favorite was Kate showing up to an engagement in this gorgeous grey Smythe blazer with a velvet collar over an all black ensemble.
And finally, December. The big fashion highlight for me was the red plaid Emilia Wickstead skirt paired with the Brora cashmere cardigan that she wore to the RAF Christmas party. I loved everything about this and was even willing to overlook my abhorrence of boots with long skirts.
An honorable mention must then be offered to the Jigsaw trousers she wore the next day during a day-trip to Cyrpus – Kate doesn’t often wear trousers, and when she does they are nearly always skinny. Many are saying this is Meghan’s influence, and that’s certainly possible, but it’s a trend that she folded in neatly to her own aesthetic, of which the green Smythe blazer epitomizes.
The last shout out must go to the Jenny Packham gown debuted at the Diplomatic Reception. It’s far too twee for me, but it is very Kate and appropriately princess-y.
This was an interesting royal year in which quite a bit happened, but only a small fraction of it was centered around the Cambridges. The arrival of Meghan on the scene eased some of the pressure off of Kate’s shoulders in terms of public scrutiny, and almost certainly allowed her to take a longer maternity leave with Louis. However, that’s only part of the picture – Kate is also no longer the new kid on the block. Seven years into her royal career, a mother of three and a full-time royal, she is no longer learning the ropes or gingerly feeling out what her role is or could be.
More and more I think we are seeing Kate prepare herself for the role of future queen consort. We see this from her sidestepping politics at the BAFTAs, from the trips to Essex, Sunderland and Coventry (among others) and her quiet, but growing, confidence as she takes her place alongside other members of the BRF. Kate is never going to be the loudest girl in the room, but she is carving out a public role for herself.
We haven’t touched on engagement numbers yet, though I will later this week in another post that covers the entire family. It wasn’t her busiest year thanks to six-and-half months of maternity leave, but it was a turning point, I think.
Best Debut Ensemble
This surprises even me a bit, but I adored this grey Smythe blazer with the velvet collar over the black turtleneck skinnies. It was striking and even prompted me to momentarily weigh adding the blazer to my Christmas wish list. There were a few looks that rose to the top for me, but it was to this one I kept coming back. It wins the crown this year.
Best Maternity Ensemble
This goes to the red and white checked Catherine Walker coat that Kate wore on her second day in Stockholm. Wedged between two controversial Erdem dresses, this coat was all but ignored by everyone during the tour, but I loved its slightly vintage vibe and how perfectly bright and still wintry it was.
Best Repeat Ensemble
I’m giving this to the blue Jenny Packham first seen when the Cambridges touched down in Canada in 2016. Sans the fascinator and up-do, I loved the more relaxed vibe Kate went with this time around. The structure of the dress is stunning and the color is very classic DoC.
I’m giving this to the pink Alexander McQueen worn in Oslo. It was equal parts princess-y and Jackie Kennedy and I liked that it just a slight step outside of Kate’s favored silhouette.