Long before Prince Harry had even heard of Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton was the charismatic commoner whose easy-going charm and modern sense of style breathed new life into the British royal family.
Now one of the most popular members of “The Firm” since marrying Prince William nearly seven years ago, Catherine (as she now prefers to be called) is both wife and mother to the future kings of England—and the undisputed Queen of keeping calm and carrying on. In celebration of her 36th birthday today, here are 36 reasons why we think Kate is cool. And for more on the royal fam, be sure to watch the 8 Best Movies About British Royals.
On her wedding day, she acted more royal than The Royals.
More than 2 billion people worldwide watched Catherine Elizabeth Middleton marry Prince William. When the 29 year-old bride stepped out of the car in front of Westminster Abbey she looked every inch the future queen in her Alexander McQueen dress and gave a flawless royal wave. One for the books. And for more on British regal processions, read up on the 30 Fascinating Facts About British Royal Weddings.
She’s mastered the art of aspirational accessibility.
Kate lives in a palace, has a killer wardrobe and jewelry collection, gets to wear tiaras and travels the world on the royal jets—and she somehow manages to appear down to earth eliciting admiration, not envy.
Her in-laws respect her.
By all accounts, Prince Charles loves her. Prince William has said, “I would love [Princess Diana] to have met Catherine.” Despite early reported rumors, Camilla thought Kate wasn’t posh enough to marry into the royal family (pot meet kettle!), she’s now #TeamKate all the way.
She’s made sure to stay close to her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.
In royal circles, spouses traditionally get absorbed into the family while edging their own parents out of the picture, but Kate has made sure her parents have remained close. She and William alternate spending the holidays with the Middletons and Kate’s mother, Carole (left), is a constant presence through much of her pregnancies. She’s also the favorite babysitter.
She’s been very supportive of her sister.
Who else would give their sister a scene-stealing dress to wear as a bridesmaid?
Kate has celebrated her birthday privately for many years and is never spotted in London with any kind of an entourage.
Her sense of style is flawless—and her own.
Kate knows what looks good on her—classic, structured clothes in pretty colors—and wears everything with confidence. If we could have anyone’s closet, it would be hers.
She’s mastered the art of diplomatic dressing.
Like her mother-in-law before her, Kate always makes sure to wearing styles that honor the countries she’s visiting, whether it’s a crimson hat adorned with maple leaves in Canada or a Diane Von Furstenberg dress when she visited California.
She’s a fashion fan, not a victim—and she recycles.
Kate wears her favorite LK Bennett nude pumps, Hobbs coats, and ten year-old Penelope Chilvers boots over and over again. She’s also not afraid to be photographed in the same dress over a period of years (!). She actually shops her closet.
She somehow made it okay to wear hosiery again.
Meghan may go bare legged, but Kate’s love of sheer hosiery made sales for the previously discarded style go through the roof.
She loves shoes—and can play sports in heels.
An inning of Cricket in heels? No problem.
She’s low maintenance, but not frumpy.
The duchess does her own makeup (even on her wedding day!) and chose not to have any ladies in waiting to attend to her every need but somehow always manages to look flawless.
No matter what she does with it, Kate’s long, glossy locks make news. When she decided to get bangs, it made the front pages in Britain.
She can talk to her kids through her teeth without looking like a madwoman.
On those royal tours, Prince George and Princess Charlotte can be a handful. Kate artfully gets down to their eye-level and ever so subtly lets the royal heirs who’s in charge. We are in awe.
Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Her manners are flawless.
She always remembers personal touches and is reportedly a dutiful thank you-note writer.
She has a crush on Justin Trudeau just like the rest of the women in the world.
Sure, she married her prince, but the first time she met Justin Trudeau, she was clearly smitten. And to get yourself smitten with the Canadian Prime Minister, check out the 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Justin Trudeau.
She is really into Wimbledon.
The only time we’ve seen Kate come close to losing her cool is when she’s watching the matches. Her intense facial expressions over every point are priceless.
She can pull off pretty much any hat she’s tried—including a Stetson.
When Kate and William wore matching white cowboy hats on a royal tour of Calgary, it could have been a calamity, but she made it work.
Kate reportedly worked hard to lose her “middle class accent” and, according to British linguistic expert Johnnie Robinson, now speaks with a flawless cut-glass accent. “The Duchess of Cambridge is arguably posher than her husband … given that he is a royal and she isn’t, you would expect him to be posher, but I’m not sure he is.”
She comes from hardy stock.
Kate is no coddled aristocrat, her ancestors on her mother’s side were coal miners and her parents, who met while working at British Airways, are self-made millionaires who made their fortune from the mail-order party-supply company, Party Piece. As a child, Kate modeled for their catalog.
She can wear a tiara without looking like a Disney princess.
When the Queen offered Kate a choice of tiaras for her wedding, she chose the more understated Cartier Halo tiara and has been photographed in the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, a favorite of Princess Diana.
She’s a good pet parent.
Even with her all royal duties, Kate is frequently spotted out and about walking Lupo, the cocker spaniel she and William received as a wedding presenter from her brother James. For more on royal pets, check out the 15 Fascinating Facts About the Queen’s Corgis.
She takes some great photographs.
All those adorable “official” rosy-cheeked shots of George and Charlotte are taken by their mum. For more on this shot, check out The Behind-the-Scenes Look At Charlotte’s First Day of Nursery School.
Photo by Duchess of Cambridge via Getty Images
Her children are the best dressed kids on the planet.
We’re willing to bet Kate has never bought a glitter encrusted T-shirt for Charlotte. And never will. Bless her.
Photo by Chris Jackson/Kensington Palace/Getty Images
She loves adult coloring books.
According to author Johanna Basford, Kate enjoys coloring (in the lines, no doubt) in her book, the Secret Garden.
She never “puts a foot wrong.”
She never puts a foot wrong. We can’t think of one royal gaffe Kate’s committed.
She’s a scribe.
She writes everything down in notebooks. Kate takes her Smythson notepads everywhere—a habit she began when planning her wedding.
She’s the sister Prince Harry never had.
Kate is extremely close to Harry and loves to team up with him to tease William. Harry loves having her in his corner. “She’s fantastic,” he has said.
Her first Christmas with the royals, she gifted the Queen a jar of her homemade preserves.
She is one tough mother.
Kate has suffered extreme morning sickness with each of her three pregnancies, but the minutes she’s past the worst of it, she back out there shaking hands. And let’s not forget she was standing on the steps of the hospital in heels waving to well-wishers less than 24 hours after Princess Charlotte was born.
She doesn’t answer criticism.
Kate always stays above the fray. When her brother James’ now-defunct upscale cake company was criticized for putting Princess Diana’s face on a cake for Hello! Magazine’s anniversary and Pippa was bashed “cashing in” on her royal connections by writing a party-planning book a la Martha Stewart, Kate kept her lip zipped. Smart.
She doesn’t put on airs.
When she agreed to be photographed for 100th anniversary of British Vogue, she politely turned down the idea of wearing couture and instead posed in jeans and a plaid shirt. And she drove herself to the shoot.
She gives a good eye-roll.
When a bossy charity worker barked at her to “just keep wrapping” at a Harlem kids’ facility during a stateside trip in 2014, Kate got a taste of New York City charm and gave as good as she got. We loved her for it.
She never plays to the camera.
Kate’s uncanny ability to never look directly at the camera has been called “punk” by Tatler. And yet we’ve never seen a bad picture of her. It’s been reported she does that to avoid magazine’s getting shots that can be passed off as covers without her cooperation. Impressive.
Kate has broken down in tears, listening to women talk about losing a child and has been known to write to people she’s met at various charities who are struggling with different health issues. Issues concerning children and mental health are particularly important to her.
You know she’s the one who is showing Meghan the ropes.
Harry’s American fiancé is in unchartered territory and by all accounts, it’s Kate who is making sure the former actress gets all the help she needs settling in. Why are we not surprised? Still, the two have their differences. Need proof? Just read the 10 Ways Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle Are Absolutely Nothing Alike.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and the author of Imagining Diana: A Novel.
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