Why Kate Middleton Is the Royal Family's "Secret Weapon" in 2020

After a scandal-plagued year, Kate Middleton has emerged as the saving grace of the royal family in 2020.

The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton attends the launch of the National Emergencies Trust at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London in Nov 2019
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It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when Buckingham Palace insiders fretted that Kate Middleton was "too common" to marry into the royal family. Nearly nine years later, the woman the British tabloids once dubbed "Waity Kaity" (for dating Prince William for seven years before getting engaged) has emerged as a shining star within the royal family in 2020, especially after so many reputations were tarnished in the scandal-plagued 2019. "Catherine has quietly and consistently grown more comfortable in her royal role," one Palace insider told me. "At a time of so much upheaval and controversy within the family, the Duchess of Cambridge has become one of its greatest assets for her ability to be both an accessible and aspirational figure. She's become Princess Diana without the drama."

Last year, while Prince Andrew was effectively de-royaled by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle caused a major PR headache with their emotional ITV interview, Kate was the central figure in the family who kept calm and carried on. "She's become something of a secret weapon within the Palace," said my source. "Amid all the drama, Catherine went out and performed her duties representing the very best of the family."

Since giving birth to her third child, Prince Louis, in 2018, royals watchers noted a growing confidence in Kate, evidenced by her stunning, more modern wardrobe choices and her more relaxed demeanor during official engagements. "Catherine has never been comfortable as the center of attention, but she's managed to overcome her shyness with a naturalness and authenticity that draws people to her—especially children—during official engagements," the insider said. "She has a natural star quality that never seems forced."

Every inch the regal duchess on last year's highly successful royal tour of Pakistan with William—where she offered a touching tribute to Diana—Kate has also proven herself to be very relatable. She was spotted buying Halloween costumes at a local supermarket with Prince George and Prince Charlotte and reportedly attended a night out at a London pub with parents from her children's school.

All of this has certainly not been lost on the Queen, who awarded her granddaughter-in-law the Royal Family Order, the highest honor the monarch can bestow on a female member of the family. On Kate and William's wedding anniversary in Apr. 2018, Her Majesty made Kate a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, which is the equivalent of a Knight. Then, in Dec. 2019, after 65 years as patron of the Family Action charity, the Queen turned the reigns over to the Duchess.

"Her Majesty recognizes Catherine has all the qualities that will make her a wonderful Queen Consort," said the insider. "Catherine has truly come into her own as a senior member of the royal family and it could not have happened at a more critical time."

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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