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Why Queen Elizabeth and Kate Middleton Just Made Their First Solo Appearance Together

Her Majesty was sending a very clear message.

It's hard to believe it took this long given Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011, but this week marked the first solo joint engagement for Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of Cambridge outside of the palace. The two women visited King's College in London, where they reopened the newly renovated, Grade II listed Bush House. In the past, Kate has been among other royals who appeared at official engagements with the Queen, but this was her inaugural outing as the Queen's only companion.

Palace insiders say the timing of Kate's day out with the Queen was no accident.

"Her Majesty is aware of all the attention her relationship with the Duchess of Sussex has gotten and all the media attention she is receiving surrounding her pregnancy," my source told me. "The Queen thought this would be a good time to offer the Duchess of Cambridge a public show of support. She is very fond of her."

Eagle-eyed royal watchers also noted that Kate and the Queen shared a light blue blanket in the back of their Rolls-Royce as they pulled up at King's College. "There is great affection between them."

As the wife of the future King, Kate is preparing for her eventual role as Queen Consort and, as such, is a careful follower of protocol and royal tradition. "The Queen is very pleased by the way in which Catherine conducts herself, supports William, and is wonderful with their young children. She never seeks to be the center of attention which is something Her Majesty admires about her."

Kate, who is always impeccably dressed, wore an understated grey Catherine Walker coat, black tights and heels and carried black Mulberry clutch for the occasion. In what is believed to have been a show of respect to the Queen, she also wore a hat—the same one she wore when she accompanied the Queen and Prince Philip on a trip to Leicester, in 2012, as part of the Diamond Jubilee tour.

In contrast, Meghan Markle made her first solo appearance with the Queen in June 2018, less than one month after her wedding to Prince Harry. While the new duchess stumbled a bit with royal protocol (she was unsure about who got into the car first and found herself dealing with her windblown tresses when she didn't wear a hat—but did wear pantyhose), the Queen appeared to have very much enjoyed her new granddaughter-in-law's company.

"There was a lot of talk in the press about Meghan being 'the favorite,' which is nonsense," said the insider. "Meghan and Catherine are very different women with very different roles within the family. There is no comparison."

In recent months, Kate has been "dragged into" stories of a feud with Meghan, which my sources have told me "upset her because she's never put a foot wrong since marrying into the family and hates drama of any kind."

While speculation swirls around whether it was Kate and Meghan who weren't getting along—or was it a rift between their husbands—the Queen realizes these stories "have made it is difficult for all concerned."

Meghan and Harry recently raised eyebrows inside the Palace when they reportedly asked to run their own charity brand outside the royal family and were promptly told "no" by the Queen and Prince Charles. Instead, they were given their own household and separate office staff—who will work at Buckingham Palace overseen by the Queen's own office. "There are some indications that it's time to rein things in a bit," said my source. "Showing support to the Duchess of Cambridge at this time might have been a very calculated move on the part of the Queen's schedulers."

Her Majesty realizes the media needs to sell newspapers," said my source. "Catherine occupies a very important role in the family. No amount of tabloid press is going to change that." And for more up-to-the-minute news about the royal family, see How Friends Say Kate Is Handling the Meghan "Feud" Drama.

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

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