Royal Corner

Katy Was Never "Waity"

How the Duchess of Cambridge proved she was never "Waity Katy", as she's voted the Nation's most popular Royal.

JULY 9th, 2020

The Duchess of Cambridge makes a toast on a tour of Norway in 2018 - © Getty Images


mblazoned across the centre spread of a newspaper, the headline ‘The Triumph of Waity Katy’ was placed beside a cut-out silhouette of a glamourous Kate Middleton. Dressed in a short shimmering dress, boots, and her iconic glossy hair; the young girlfriend of Prince William looked every inch the determined young woman looking to bag her future king. The article, written in 2008, painted the twenty-six-year-old as a determined woman whose only aim in life was to marry a future heir to the throne, and whose aspirations looked no further than the privileged life of royalty. More than a decade later, as she takes the crown as the Nation’s most popular Royal, the Duchess of Cambridge has proved she is far from the “Waity Katy” image forcibly placed upon her.

Upon the revelations of William and Catherine’s relationship in 2004, when pictures of the couple skiing were published, the world’s media quickly and relentlessly battled to discover every small detail of information about the woman who had captured the prince’s heart. From her family background, the course she was studying at St Andrew’s University, to what her favourite fashion brand was; overnight the life of Kate Middleton became the most interesting story within the world of royalty. Outside the apartment she shared with her sister in London, she was relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi, evoking the experiences of her boyfriend’s mother, Princess Diana. This middle-class woman, born to a British Airway’s pilot and a successful businesswoman, and without hereditary links to aristocracy, was suddenly the most lucrative commodity within the media.

"The Triumph of Waity Katy" article featured in The Daily Mail in 2008 - © Daily Mail

From here onwards, the coverage of Kate became distorted from who the future Duchess really was. Workshy, overly ambitious and described as someone whose aim in life was to “get married, have a nice house, a couple of dogs and go skiing every year”, were jibes constantly slung her way. One report, which mocked the 26-year-old as unable to hold down a job after she quit her role working for retailer Jigsaw as an assistant accessories’ buyer, stated that she felt she wasn’t cut out for “hard work”. The reality of Kate’s departure was vastly different. Every day, the future Duchess would be bombarded with photographers pursuing her to and from work. Waiting outside the company’s London offices, she felt that the situation wasn’t workable – not only for herself, but also for her fellow colleagues, as explained by Belle Robinson, who offered Kate the job.

“She was really devastated to leave, and we were sad to see her go,” she recalls. “I have to say I was so impressed by her. There were days when there were TV crews at the end of the drive. We’d say: ‘Listen, do you want to go out the back way?’

“And she’d say: ‘To be honest, they’re going to hound us until they’ve got the picture. So why don’t I just go, get the picture done, and then they’ll leave us alone.’

“She understood that her picture was going to be taken, but she always felt uncomfortable that those of us who worked with her would have ours taken too. She didn’t think it was fair to put us in that position.”

This image was further exemplified by the countless pictures of Kate partying with friends throughout Chelsea and Soho. Some within royal circles felt her actions were tainting the monarchy, and by extension Prince William. Ironically, friends of William’s have laughed at these assumptions, claiming that Kate was perhaps the most sensible one out of their group:

“It was William and the boys who would usually drink a little too much. And if the paparazzi appeared, the drink would give him Dutch courage to retort to the cameras. Kate was usually the one who would find the humour in the whole situation. She could instantly calm him down like no one else and would constantly remind him he was a young guy having fun with his friends. If anything, she was far from tainting William’s image, but protecting it.”

Royal Editor Russell Myers speaks to Lorraine Kelly over a recent poll in the Daily Mirror - © ITV/Lorraine

Most will look at the pictures of Kate partying with friends as far from controversial. She was young, beautiful and enjoying herself – actions which were far from a scandal. But then again, privately they would annoy her, leaving a feeling that they were painting her in a light which was untrue. She constantly refrained from hitting back, believing that any response would perpetuate the stories. Even after the brief breakup between Kate and William, journalists would contact her trying to get the inside scoop. She would always refuse, her loyalty to her then ex-boyfriend unwavering.

Against the public image of a young, partying Kate Middleton, unknown to the public and more so the press, was Catherine’s work away from the column inches.

She volunteered at Naomi’s House, a Children’s Hospice, visiting privately in 2008. She organised numerous benefactors and events to raise money for charity. One being for Tom’s Ward at the Children’s Hospital in Oxford, and also a small known charity which would eventually play a huge part in the future Duchess’ royal working life – Place2Be. Raising over £100,000, the roller disco, planned by Kate, has since provided some of the most iconic photos of the Duchess of Cambridge before her marriage. She utilised her Art History degree to create an inclusive photo exhibition, purposefully targeting those from unrepresented communities. Organised an auction for the Starlight Children's Foundation, and helped create the Boodles Boxing Ball – a society fight night which raised more than £200,000.

The public image painted by the media of a workshy future Duchess, were far from true. If anything, Kate was never frightened of getting stuck in, pulling her weight at Party Pieces, up until her engagement. Pulling twelve-hour shifts where she would assist in organising the catalogue design, marketing and photography, Kate worked hard without complaint.

After her and William’s spectacular wedding which captured the imaginations of a Nation, the newly anointed Duchess of Cambridge was looking at a whole new life. Although she had navigated the media’s obsession with her as a private citizen, as a public entity it would be completely different. Articles focusing on her weight, her fashion and her hair dominated newspapers. She was cruelly labelled a “plastic princess” by historian Hilary Mantel. “Irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character,” the historian would describe her as.

The Duchess of Cambridge takes a tumble at the Day-Glo Midnight Roller Disco charity event she helped organise - © Rex Features

The callousness of Mantel’s comments caused fury from the public, who felt that the Duchess was undeserving of such harsh taunts. And yet, there was no retort from Catherine or Kensington Palace. Numerous articles tore Kate’s quiet demeanour apart, wrongly claiming that it proved she had no personality. Yet, in response she simply continued her work with her charities and role as the next Princess of Wales and future Queen Consort. To Kate, her actions have always seemed to speak louder than her words. She has upheld this mantra right up until present day.

It isn’t until you look back at the Duchess’ pre royal life that you realise that the young woman from Berkshire hasn’t changed. Kate has been resolutely true to herself with or without a tiara. It shows in her attitude, marriage, parenting and work. More than a decade after first working with Place2Be, she is now their proud patron. Her love and skill for photography has developed into a wonderful campaign to capture the Nation’s story throughout the coronavirus pandemic. She has consistently worn Jigsaw’s clothing as a private nod to her former role as a buyer. She has successfully carried and adapted the private Kate into the world as a public Duchess.

The success of this has endeared her to the public, but also earned her respect. The Duchess has taken her time, slowly navigating her way through the rules and protocols of royal life. She has rarely complained nor sought the spotlight. Whatever engagement she fulfils, whether it be a glossy film premiere, the subdued commemoration of our war heroes, or a Zoom call with a primary school effected by the coronavirus pandemic, she has yet to put a foot wrong.

Those who have been critical of the Duchess of Cambridge would place this perceived perfection down to a clever and complex PR strategy. To infer this would be more than unfair. Of course, to an extent PR plays a part in any public figure’s life, but it is hard to feign genuine warmth and accessibility. One way or another, eventually the public see through any acting, no matter how good. So, if it was all down to PR, surely after a decade in the Royal Family, and as one of the world’s most famous women, Catherine’s mask would have slipped? Yet, after all this time, the public have realised that there is no mask, and it has led to the Duchess of Cambridge becoming the Nation’s most popular member of The Royal Family.

The Duchess' most recent engagement planting flowers at East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice - © Getty Images

Perhaps what makes this title all the more worthy for Catherine, is her disinterest in achieving it. Popularity doesn’t seem very high on the Duchess’ agenda, which has resulted in newfound confidence. Throughout the pandemic we have seen a more relaxed Kate, a woman content with her lot, who is in parts just like the rest of us. But perhaps her greatest achievement has gone grossly underreported.

For many across the country, their ability to speak out doesn’t come as confidently for them as it does for others, and the Duchess of Cambridge has unknowingly provided comfort. To those people, watching a public figure who holds one of the most powerful platforms, refraining from shouting from the rooftops, but instead taking her time and choosing her moments to speak, proves you need not be the loudest in the room to be heard. It's a tragically undervalued skill.

The Duchess of Cambridge is someone whose entire life and choices will be dissected. She will, as is expected, dominate the world of Royalty. But as you look back at her life, you realise that Kate Middleton was never “Waity Katy”. She never waited around for a Prince, but instead proved her value as an independent woman. So much so, that her now husband quickly realised how big of a mistake he had made in ending their relationship all those years ago. The Royal Family have a stable force in Catherine, one where the institution will reap the benefits, but so will the public. It therefore makes sense that the girl from Berkshire has grown into the Nation’s most Popular Royal.

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