Saturday, April 13, 2024

This Year, Kate Middleton Wrote Her Own Princess Diary

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As 2023 comes to a close, Allure dives into those moments when beauty took center stage this year: the trends, the people, and the technologies that filled our feeds and captured our imaginations. As always, we’re here to chronicle, to celebrate, and to make sense of it all — or at least try. Welcome to the Year in Beauty.

As history tells us, princess stories come with a lot of baggage. We often associate them with fairy tales, after all. And fairy tales tend to have a dark side. (Just watch season five of The Crown.) Despite all that, we’re perpetually obsessed with princesses and their seemingly-magical lives. We want to luxuriate in the fantasies of their jewels, their gowns, their unblemished skin, their silken hair, and their tiny feet. So it seems like a contradiction to see one as a hard-working senior member of a constitutional monarchy that goes back to William the Conqueror.

On September 22, 2022, the woman formerly known as Kate Middleton officially became the Princess of Wales, making 2023 her first full year in the role. Her title has been used by the monarchy since the 14th century to denote the wife of the Prince of Wales. (It boggles the mind what her social handles could be because she’s also the Duchess of Cambridge, Cornwall, and Rothesay, Countess of Chester and Carrick, and Baroness of Renfrew, not to mention a slew of military titles, including Colonel of the Irish Guards, which is why you might see her with a gold shamrock on her lapel at some events.) The Wales honor was last — and perhaps most famously — held by Princess Diana, but many women have historically been known by the title. Over the past year, Catherine has made the position her own.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she is the most effective Princess of Wales we’ve ever seen,” says Sally Bedell Smith, royal expert and author of George VI and Elizabeth: The Marriage That Saved the Monarchy. “Obviously, the standards for being a Princess of Wales now are very different from when Queen Mary [Prince William’s great great grandmother] was Princess of Wales. Diana was very high-profile and she embraced causes, like AIDS, that were taboo. She was very venturesome and bold. But what she did was eroded by the clear unhappiness and discord in the relationship she had with Charles. She was effective, but it was more sporadic and she certainly wasn’t disciplined.” That word may distinguish Catherine more than any other. Appearance discipline, message discipline, parenting discipline. Whatever you may think of the royals — and negative impressions abound both inside and outside the UK, especially in former colonies — few would deny that the current Princess of Wales takes her role very seriously. “Will and Kate are clearly a team and they are working together,” says Smith. “Kate is very aware of not overshadowing him. She’s very canny in the way she projects her image.”

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