Princess of Wales: From commoner to future queen

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Catherine, Princess of Wales
Catherine, Princess of Wales
Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images
  • The Princess of Wales has proved a model royal since joining Britain's most famous family.
  • William's choice to marry a "commoner" after a live-in relationship sharply contrasted with his father in his marriage to 20-year-old aristocrat Diana Spencer.
  • Nevertheless, she has balanced royal duties with being a hands-on mum to her three children.


The Princess of Wales has proved a model royal since joining Britain's most famous family, making poised public appearances while avoiding the harsh criticism doled out to her sister-in-law Meghan.

Catherine, who married the now heir to the throne Prince William in 2011, stepped up appearances as his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II retreated from the public eye.

The couple, both 40, played a prominent role during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and have consistently been the most popular royals behind the late monarch in recent years.

She has balanced royal duties, which included a prominent role in Platinum Jubilee celebrations, with being a hands-on mum to her three children.

Catherine won plaudits for effortlessly comforting her youngest son Prince Louis when he became restless during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant earlier this year.

The former Kate Middleton is the daughter of businessman Michael and former air stewardess Carole Middleton.

She began dating William while studying history of art at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

The couple have been together ever since - bar a brief breakup in 2007 that Kate has said made her "a stronger person".

She worked briefly as a buyer at high-street fashion chain Jigsaw before her marriage at London's historic Westminster Abbey in 2011, where she wore a lace-sleeved gown by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton.

William's choice to marry a "commoner" after a live-in relationship sharply contrasted with his father, the now King Charles III, in his 1981 marriage to 20-year-old aristocrat Diana Spencer, when he was 12 years her senior.

Kate has since given little away about her experiences in joining the royal family, unlike her sister-in-law Meghan, who married William's younger brother, Prince Harry, in 2018.

Harry and Meghan sensationally quit frontline royal duties and moved to North America in March 2020, then spoke out about life behind the palace walls.

Meghan, an American former television actor, told Oprah Winfrey in a March 2021 interview that she had a frosty reception and catalogued her hounding by the tabloid press.

In the early days of her courtship, photographers tracked Kate's every move, too, drawing parallels to the media treatment of William's mother, who died in 1997.

There were also reports that William's friends mocked her mother's former profession and that courtiers said Carole Middleton used insufficiently "posh" phrases.

William, however, has spoken of his warm relationship with his wife's parents.

'Shop-window mannequin'

Kate has nonetheless provoked criticism from feminist commentators over her perfectly turned-out appearance, even just hours after giving birth.

To be sure, the fact she did not hide her post-partum bump was welcomed.

But British film star Keira Knightley said Kate's well-groomed look put pressure on women to "look beautiful" and "hide our pain".

The novelist Hilary Mantel even accused Kate of resembling a "shop-window mannequin with no personality of her own".

Kate comes across as passionate when talking about some issues, however, particularly children's development and early influences.

"Our early childhoods shape our adult lives," she said.

In July 2021, she launched a Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood.

She is also known as a keen amateur photographer, and has taken her own official photographs of her family in their house and garden.

During the pandemic, William - who caught Covid - and Kate publicly backed the vaccine rollout. They spoke to medical staff and those hesitant about getting the jab.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE