Skip to content

Learn the Real Reason Kate Middleton Wasn't at Royal Ascot

No, it has nothing to do with Meghan Markle.

Every year, members of the royal family gather at Royal Ascot, one of Queen Elizabeth II's favorite events on her calendar. The annual horse-racing festival is considered a highlight of the annual British social season. A time-honored tradition since 1768, Royal Ascot is as well known for the sartorial splendor of its attendees as it is for its horse-racing. The senior royals who turned out this year and were to thrill dressed according to the event's strict dress code included Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Anne as well as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry were part of the royal procession and arrived in a carriage with Harry's uncle, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Noticeably absent were Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, who have attended Royal Ascot in previous years—and who always rank among the best-dressed of the posh attendees. In the royal enclosure, ladies' shoulders need to be covered, and hats are a must. Fascinators are not allowed. The only concession to the long-standing dress code was made in 2017, when women were allowed to wear jumpsuits for the first time. For men, full morning dress—including a top hat—is required, regardless of the temperature. The oddest thing of all, though: the royals, except from the Queen and Prince Philip, wear name tags.

Catherine stunned for her first appearance at Royal Ascot, in 2016, in an ivory lace Dolce & Gabbana dress which she paired with a cream headpiece by Jane Taylor. For her first appearance at this year's event, Meghan seemingly took her fashion cues from her sister-in-law and also opted for ivory. She choose a long button-front silk shirt dress with a handkerchief hem from her go-to design house, Givenchy. The duchess evoked images of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady with her black-and-white custom Philip Treacy hat.

"The Duchess is proceeding with great care with regards to appropriateness at official occasions," one palace insider told me. "She has found that simpler, pared-down shapes in neutral colors work best for her."

So why didn't Catherine join the rest of the family at such an important social occasion? Is it possible she wanted to give Meghan the opportunity to be the star of the show? "Catherine is still officially on maternity leave. She wants to spend as much time as possible with the children before resuming her royal duties. Right now, the timetable for her return is some time in September or October," said the insider. "That said, the Duchess is happy to cede the spotlight for the time being. She has been on the front line for seven years. She knows how taxing it can be."

Prince William was in Liverpool at the International Business Festival, one of the largest such festivals in the world. He was there to congratulate the event's thousands of delegates for their efforts in bringing together entrepreneurs and executives "to build networks and to share knowledge."

Royal watchers who were hoping for a fashion face-off between the two most stylish young royals will have to wait until Prince Louis' christening. The date has yet to be announced.

We can't wait.

And for more fashion from the exalted halls of royalty, check out Meghan Markle's 10 Favorite Brands That Became Instant Bestsellers.

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

To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!

Filed Under