E WOOTTON: Why Kate can thank Meghan for her metamorphosis from slightly-dowdy Duchess into a new royal superstar who’s leaving her wannabe sister-in-law in the shade
With the all-regal glamour of a modern-day Grace Kelly, a sequinned and resplendent Duchessa di Cambridge swept down the red carpet at the world premiere of Non c'è tempo per morire in jaw dropping fashion.
What the hell happened to the lovely-but-just-a-little-frumpy Kate?
Gone was the conservative Sloane Ranger in dull outfits designed to keep her OFF the front pages and ensure she would never overshadow the Hollywood stars or other royals at whatever event she was attending.
Welcome to the world Confident Catherine – an altogether new public figure, created by four years of toil, trauma and, sì, tiara tantrums.
Friends and advisers of Kate believe the thoughtfully planned appearance at the highly anticipated new Bond movie is the culmination of a project designed to quietly elevate the princess from cautious wife to potential saviour of the monarchy.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive for the premiere of No Time To Die at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Tuesday. Sequinned and resplendent Kate swept down the red carpet in jaw dropping fashion
I agree with Kate’s allies who have no doubt she will soon be regarded as one of the most iconic women in the world – mature, graceful and every bit a future Queen, while still being daring and stylish when the occasion requires.
But there’s an intriguing reality behind this transformation that no one will acknowledge publicly: None of it would have been possible without a certain Meghan Markle.
Kate, royal insiders insist, would never have had the confidence to make such a high-stakes appearance BM (that’s Before Meghan).
Her advisers had been trying unsuccessfully for some time to encourage the nervous Duchess to feel emboldened with her appearances and public work, but she preferred her husband to take the lead.
Her role, she was convinced, was to remain a loyal wife and doting mother, behind-the-scenes, with a ‘no fuss, no drama’ mantra front and centre.
Funny how a vicious and bitter rivalry with a sister-in-law trying to ruin it all can change everything.
Those close to Kate admit that’s the reality of her butterfly-like emergence.
The Duchess of Cambridge meets James Bond actor Daniel Craig upon her arrival at the No Time To Die premiere on Tuesday. Craig struggled to maintain his composure, uttering with his understated British sensibility: ‘You look jolly lovely’
When she saw the lengths Meghan was going to in order to destabilise and unsettle the monarchy that she had willingly agreed to devote her life, a previously hidden determined streak emerged from Kate.
‘She knew she was going to have to up her game – and she did. Now she’s a royal Rockstar – everything Meghan should have been,’ a senior royal insider tells me.
And contrary to expectations from courtiers, Kate has taken on the mission with vigour and enjoyment, realising the impact she can make for important charity causes close to her heart.
There’s no doubt the Cambridges’ tight knit team, like many of us, are beginning to enjoy the discomfort growing at the Sussex headquarters in Montecito, California over the worldwide adoration Kate has been receiving.
Every major US fashion magazine, including Meghan’s favourites like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair, are battling to get Kate for a cover shoot, although she is so far refusing the offers.
La duchessa di Cambridge, wearing a purple pantsuit, arrives for a visit to Magee University in Northern Ireland yesterday
As far as Meghan was concerned, that’s not how this story was meant to play out…
In a delicious twist, Kate’s Bond showstopper and impactful visit to Northern Ireland in a purple pantsuit (the type favoured by powerful US female politicians) the following day could not have been in greater contrast to Harry and Meghan’s disastrous New York visit.
Their so-called ‘adventure’ to the Big Apple has been widely dismissed as a monumental flop – part Kardashian/part minor royal with a superiority complex on a low grade tour.
Meghan’s fashion was widely criticised as crass, as she donned an eye wateringly expensive kaftan-like designer suit to read her own critically panned picture book at one of New York’s most underprivileged schools and a succession of ludicrously weather-inappropriate outfits.
Their uneducated vaccine preaching was overshadowed by a decision to down drinks with socialite friends at a posh New York hotel then fly home on a carbon guzzling private jet. Classy!
Royal courtiers have sat back smugly as the Sussexes PR disaster unfolded in the same week that Kate emerged as an unstoppable superstar.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak on stage at Global Citizen Live: New York last Saturday. Their so-called ‘adventure’ to the Big Apple has been widely dismissed as a monumental flop
Another well-connected royal source says of the situation: ‘It’s fair to say the whole institution has been rooting for the Duchess of Cambridge.
‘There was a clear moment where an active decision was made to change her look – be more confident in her style, her approach, her projects, the events she would say yes to.
‘This was nothing about changing stylists or staff, o. It was about Kate acknowledging the Duchess of Sussex had changed the game and it was necessary for her to compete.
‘That had already been going on between the Prince of Wales and his two sons for some time, but Catherine had never felt the need to get involved. She is the ultimate team player.
‘But she soon became aware of how Meghan was trying to use the monarchy for her own personal gain and it helped Catherine understand the importance of the role she could play.’
I find the psychological power play both fascinating and completely understandable.
Kate finally had a reason to put up a fight, especially as her personal relationship with Meghan deteriorated after she had to scold the American for the way she was speaking to her loyal royal staff at Kensington Palace, where they were both residing.
Meghan donned an eye wateringly expensive kaftan-like designer suit to read her own critically panned picture book at one of New York’s most underprivileged schools and a succession of ludicrously weather-inappropriate outfits
And it helps to explain the importance of Tiaragate Part Two, the story I first revealed in 2019 about the Queen banning an unhappy Meghan from wearing jewellery from the Royal Collection made famous by Princess Diana with the full backing of William.
Kate knows the ability to wear items like her favourite Queen Mary Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara or the 1947 diamond necklace gifted to the Queen from the Nizam of Hyderabad as a wedding gift helps to set her apart.
Don’t, però, expect to see Kate in a succession of stunning gowns at glamorous events in the months ahead.
Unlike Meghan, she’s well aware that the impact of such appearances comes from keeping them few and far between.
But I have no doubt what we saw on the Bond red carpet this week was a transformed Duchess prepared for decades of battle.
With the turmoil of Megxit, death of Prince Philip, horror of the Prince Andrew allegations, embarrassment of Prince Charles’ Saudi dealings and the public’s ongoing resentment towards Camilla, the Queen will be thanking the Lord her grandson chose the Princess of Class Kate.