Why The Palace Is Worried About William and Kate
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge want to return to center stage.
Ever since they announced their engagement in November 2017, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been the stars of the British royal family. The "rock star royals," as they are referred to in certain circles, have all but eclipsed Prince William and Kate Middleton in the media, which is causing some concern in the Palace.
According to one insider, "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have become a worldwide phenomenon. There is some concern that they have overshadowed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and are undermining their popularity. It's all gotten a bit out of control."
The breathless news reports in the weeks leading up to the birth of Harry and Meghan's son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, "set some nerves on edge," reveals my source. "It was complicated by the Duke and Duchess [of Sussex] insisting on doing things quite differently. The decision to keep details about the birth secret only intensified media interest." So much so that when Harry summoned an ITV reporter to Windsor Castle on Monday, May 6th without offering any explanation, the channel was forced to interrupt its regular programming with the live interview where the prince announced the birth of his son.
"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge do not have the same freedom afforded to Meghan and Harry," said the insider. "They are constrained by a different set of rules which, by comparison, can make them seem less interesting. Nothing could be further from the truth. William is the future King."
With Meghan tucked away at Frogmore Cottage with the new baby and Harry finally retreating from the media spotlight, William and Kate have once again returned to center stage. On Tuesday, the couple accompanied Queen Elizabeth at the annual Garden Party at Buckingham Palace attended by 8,000 people. Kate dazzled in a pink Alexander McQueen coat dress and matching Juliette Botterill hat. Last year, when Kate was on maternity leave, Harry and Meghan attended the fête.
"It's all worked out quite well. While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex won't be seen together for some time except perhaps at Trooping the Colour [the Queen's official birthday celebration next month], the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can restore balance with the proper amount of attention being paid to them," said my source.
On Tuesday, William and their three children—Prince George, Princess Charlotte and one-year old Prince Louis—were front and center when Kate unveiled her charming "Back to Nature" garden for the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show on Saturday. The duchess collaborated with landscape architects Andree Davies and Adam White, as well as the Royal Horticultural Society on the project. Kate has been quietly working on the project for months. It's designed to encourage families with children to spend more time together outdoors. The duchess is a tireless champion of the mental and physical benefits that being surrounded by nature offers babies and children.
When William and Kate brought their children to explore the family-friendly green space last weekend, there was plenty for the media to report, including Louis walking for the first time in public. While Charlotte and Louis were photographed exploring the garden, George was spotted swinging on a rope swing (the same one Kate had been photographed on days earlier). William was overheard asking George "how many marks" he would score his mother's garden on a scale of "one to 10—10 being the highest." The five year-old prince enthusiastically gave it a 20. His father concurred. "I think Mummy's done well," he said. The adorable exchange was captured on video and then posted to the Cambridge's Instagram, @KensingtonRoyal, along with several other images, including ones with Kate and William showing a clearly pleased Queen around the leafy enclave.
While William and Kate frequently bring their children on royal tours and official engagements, their recent appearance gave royal watchers more accessibility to the family. William and Kate have seemingly taken a page from Harry and Meghan, who have used their new Instagram, @SussexRoyal, to brilliant effect. "Let's just say everyone is realizing how essential it is to have a strong presence that sends the right message right now," said my source. "William and Catherine's children are growing up. There is tremendous interest in their family and they know that."
When Kate's "Back to Nature" garden was nearly overshadowed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, even though the couple has not appeared at the show, the Palace reportedly stepped in. An African garden created by the charity Camfed—which aims to educate girls in rural Africa and is one of a handful of organizations Harry and Meghan support—is set just steps away from Kate's garden. According to a report in Daily Express, Camfed was instructed not to use Harry's image to promote the garden while Kate's photo is featured prominently in an article on the RHS website about the "Back to Nature" garden. A source at Camfed told Express: "It's because the Duchess of Cambridge is co-designing a garden, so we can't use the photo."
"There is a system in place to ensure the diaries and events of each member of the royal family do not conflict with one another," said my source. "This is simply the Palace wanting to make sure the Duchess of Cambridge's efforts are properly acknowledged." And for more on the different standards for Meghan and Harry, check out This Is Why Meghan Markle Can Upend Royal Tradition With her Private Birth.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.
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