Kate’s very public power move



When the history comes to be written of Queen Catherine I, much will be made of her coronation.

There will be the breathless recounting of her poise and much banging on about her beauty, and the fact she managed to get through the length ceremony without nodding off thus sending her State Crown skittering along the tiled Westminster Abbey floor.

But the truth of the matter is, the day Kate truly ascended and became the UK's next Queen didn't take place in the nearly 1000-year-old abbey, but on a sparkling day in April in Windsor with nary a tiara or ermine cloak in sight.

Over the weekend Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen's husband of 73 years was laid to rest in a subdued, military funeral that saw the duke's fractured family come together, united in grief, in a show which could be categorised as 'Everyone is on their best behaviour'.

It was a day that was always going to be fraught with peril, with the ever-present possibility that things could go spectacularly off the rails thanks to the combustible combination of estranged family members being forced to reunite in front of live TV cameras (Andy Cohen and reality TV producers of the world, eat your heart out).

And there was one person, and one person only, who clearly understood keenly what was at stake and then took charge - Kate.

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was the first person to talk to Harry following Prince Philip’s funeral. Picture: BBC
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was the first person to talk to Harry following Prince Philip’s funeral. Picture: BBC

In the wake of the weekend's events and her decisive role in them, the 39-year-old has very publicly been anointed as the heir apparent in terms of the title, Queen.

Because, it was the Duchess of Cambridge whose intervention and actions prevented the Queen from having the funeral of her "liege man of life and limb" engulfed by family drama and the ensuing tabloid frenzy.

A quick recap in case you had better things to do with your weekend than watch a midnight broadcast.

Saturday marked not only the passing of Philip but the return of Prince Harry to the royal flock after more than a year living in the US, an outing that was always going to be a dicey, dangerous PR highwire act for the palace.

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As the Duke of Edinburgh's children and grandsons took their place behind the bespoke Land Rover bearing his body for the funeral procession, you could have cut the tension with one of Queen Victoria's favourite gold-plated butter knives.

Harry appeared tightly coiled, roiling emotion seemingly just below the surface; William, his jaw set and eyes facing resolutely straight ahead, and all the while their cousin Peter Phillips awkwardly wedged between them looking like he would have prefered to be mucking out his mum Princess Anne's stables rather than acting as an official fraternal buffer.

The eight-minute walk from Windsor Castle to St George's Chapel was never going to be the pivotal moment in terms of whether the Harry dramaaahhhh overtook the somber dignity of the day.

No, the crucial juncture was always going to be afterwards when the family would mingle while the world watched.

The possibility of Harry, newbie Californian and royal black sheep, being left isolated and ignored by his family was all too real.

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Kate, William and Harry seen together after the funeral of Prince Philip. Picture: BBC
Kate, William and Harry seen together after the funeral of Prince Philip. Picture: BBC

It would have been easy - and understandable - if Kate and William had moved off after the service and left it to their cousins princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, or Peter or Zara (and their suitably royal house-trained partners) to step into the gap and to speak to Harry.

After all, deciding to go on the tele and lay into one's family (and one's family's business) has consequences.

Instead, it was Kate who stepped into the breach and broke the ice, chatting to Harry before they were joined by her husband Prince William. As the trio made their way back up the hill towards the Queen's private Windsor Castle apartments, they were seen in conversation before Kate moved off to speak to Sophie, Countess of Wessex, leaving the two men to speak to one another.

The whole scene might have played out in less than three minutes but, make no mistake, there was a hell of a lot riding on this brief public interlude; rather, Kate's diplomatic intervention saved the day and prevented the mournful outing being thoroughly derailed.

The explosive Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah Winfrey was just six weeks before Prince Philip’s death. Picture: CBS
The explosive Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah Winfrey was just six weeks before Prince Philip’s death. Picture: CBS

Don't lose sight of the fact here that only six weeks ago, Harry sat by while his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex told the world that Kate had made her cry, essentially tarring and feathering the mum-of-three while 50 million people globally watched on.

Despite this, Kate showed true leadership, putting whatever her own personal feelings aside for the better of the Crown and the family at a critical moment.

Like the Queen Mother during the London Blitz, that selflessness will go a long way to garnering public respect and to adding a much-needed modicum of dignity to proceedings after the grubby ructions of the last couple of years.


If there was any doubt about the Queen's feelings about her granddaughter-in-law, then the four-strand diamond-clasped pearl choker and diamond earrings which were worn by Kate and lent to her by Her Majesty, served as a priceless seal of regal approval.

(The choker was commissioned by the Queen in the '70s and in 1982 Diana, Princess of Wales, donned the piece for a banquet for the Dutch royal family.)

The events of this weekend were a milestone moment.

While technically Prince Charles's wife Camillla, Duchess of Cornwall will be the UK's - and the Commonwealth's - next regal consort, it was first announced ahead of their 2005 wedding and then reaffirmed last year that when Charles, the world's oldest apprentice finally gets the job he has waited a good five decades for, she will only be known as Princess Consort.

Beyond that, while Camilla's hard work and dedication since becoming a member of the royal family more than 15 years ago has earned her grudging respect and seen her public standing greatly improve, the 73-year-old, will never truly be seen, or accepted, as a Queen.

Prince Charles with Camilla, who will never truly be seen as a queen. Picture: Darren England
Prince Charles with Camilla, who will never truly be seen as a queen. Picture: Darren England

Rather, when the current 94-year-old monarch passes away, it will be Kate who will step into the queenly role, both practically and in terms of the public imagination.

(It doesn't hurt here that the former accessories buyer and art history graduate looks like a small child's idealised rendering of a princess or a queen.

She has the bearing, the doe-eyed good looks and the outward docility such that Cinderella would be jealous.)

While the Queen will never follow in the footsteps of her Dutch counterpart Queen Beatrix and step down in favour of her panting-at-the-regnal-bit son, she has handed over key duties to not only Charles but William in recent years.

For example, since 2017, it has been the Prince of Wales, and not his mother, who lays a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, a key event on the royal calendar.

It would make sense therefore if we saw Kate assume more responsibility and to take on a more prominent role in the near future.

It has previously been reported the Queen will host US President Joe Biden and other world leaders at Buckingham Palace in June this year ahead of the G7 summit.

While no further details have been unveiled, if the proposed charm offensive goes ahead (that pesky Brexit business having taken its toll) it will be fascinating to see what sort of role Kate will be asked to play.

Similarly, the Telegraph has reported Charles and William will lead a royal summit with nothing less than the future of the monarchy on the table.

With the number of working members of the royal family dwindling with the loss of Prince Andrew and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from their ranks, and the median age of those left officially representing the Queen now nearly 70, the fretful question is who will shoulder the workload in the coming decades. (Andrew and the Sussexes undertook a combined 558 engagements in 2019.)

Again, will we see them settle on an expanded role for Kate?

If there is one thing that Kate demonstrated above all else on Saturday, it is her dependability to swoop in and save the whole lot of Windsors - and the Queen - in a crisis.

So, you know what? Kate isn't the Cinderella in this story; no, after this weekend, she's the royal family's dashing saviour no white stead required. One day she will wear a crown and rightly bloody so.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.


Originally published as Kate's very public power move