The royal history buff in me sometimes can’t help but think about what moments and images from the day-to-day church of engagements will permeate the biographies a few decades from now. Realistically speaking, very few ever will. The major “firsts” will, of course, but when you consider a royal career as a whole, it becomes less about the daily/weekly work, and more about the scandals, the dynastic moments, and major state occasions.
But the engagements that eventually fade into the background as the news cycle go on do serve a purpose. Not only are they the actual execution of royal patronage and promotion, but they are each a distinct piece of the puzzle of a royal’s “brand,” to put it bluntly. When I think back on Diana, Princess of Wales, there are a few key image groupings that come to mind – her looking sad next to the Prince of Wales, her at hospital bedsides, her carrying out her landmine work, and her walking into events wearing very glamorous 80s/90s gowns. That is reductive, yes, but it hits what are in my opinion the most important takeaways from her royal life: She was unhappily married in a way that impacted the Royal Family, she was an incredible and natural caregiver, she broke new ground on what it meant to do royal work, and she was a fashion icon.
This hit me when I reviewed the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement on February 12 in what was otherwise a run-of-the-mill visit to the Ark Open Farm on behalf of her “Five Big Question” national survey. This not the first, nor will it be the last, engagement in which Kate is dressed down, surrounded by children, and outdoors. She’s clearly in her element in this setting, and while I think it’s fair to say Kate’s confidence has grown exponentially in her public role over the last two years, there’s a distinct and natural happiness that emerges when she’s doing hands-on work like this.
These moments, in my opinion, are likely the closest insight we receive into what Kate is like at home, and what life is like for the Cambridges behind closed doors. I think she’s a woman who truly blossomed and found new purpose in motherhood. I think she is incredibly committed to providing her children a childhood that is akin to that which she enjoyed, and which is an important antidote to the more unnatural aspects of life within the Royal Family. And I think that now that she’s in her 30s, she is more at peace in the countryside maintaining an active lifestyle.
I think, when we look back on Kate’s career as the DoC, understanding that things may start to look different when she’s Princess of Wales and later queen, what we’ll remember most are the images of her in skinny jeans, engaging directly with children, outside, and being active. It’s a natural extension of a woman who benefits from a happy home life, and one for whom the more glamorous trapping of royalty I think rest somewhat uneasily. Kate is of course well-dressed and has her own style, but she’s never going to be a fashion icon – she “experiments” as you or I would, but with perhaps a larger budget, and her primary goals are the same as yours and mine: to look polished and be dressed practically for an occasion. I don’t know about you, but when I see Kate in a gown and a tiara, I detect just a hint of irony in how she carries herself, and I think she’s always maintained a sense of how surreal aspects of her married life are.
So, anyway, Feb. 12. The Ark Open Farm is located in Northern Ireland, marking off yet another region that Kate has hit as part of her domestic tour for her national survey. Nearly all of her engagements as part of this initiative have involved children and having the chance to speak candidly with parents, and this day was no exception.
Part Two of her day saw her move over to Aberdeen, Scotland where the Duchess visited the Social Bite cafe, an organization focused on addressing Scotland’s homeless population. If the goal is to spend more time moving through the UK, then this day certainly helped do just that.
On the fashion front, Kate dusted off her trusty Barbour jacket and Penelope Chivers boots. These pieces were styled with a pair of black skinny jeans a baby blue turtleneck. It was a functional look, and it worked for me. Very Kate, and very on-brand 🙂