Kate's Obstacle Course
The future princess not only fulfilled Prince William’s requirements, she persuaded the queen her future granddaughter-in-law is nothing like Diana. Now all the royals have to do is make the wedding of the year look thrifty. Plus, full coverage of William & Kate— photos, videos, and more.
No one has put in harder training to become a royal bride than the glossy-haired Kate Middleton. The eight-year wait has been fraught with tests she had to pass.
First, discretion. Prince William’s smiling hostility toward the press is his non-negotiable core value. I am told he is so protective of his privacy he has been known to plant false tips with friends he distrusts and watch the media to see if they play out. William went ballistic at Christmas last year, when he suspected Kate might have been aware the tabloid snapper Niraj Tanna was lurking near a tennis court where she was playing on the Duchy of Cornwall estate, and that she graced the interloper with a camera-ready smile. Even her family has kept mum with no unruly relatives going rogue. The only telltale sign of possible impending nuptials has been Carole Middleton's sudden suspicious determination to shed poundage on a prawn and cottage cheese diet.
Second, virtue. The delicate issue of premarital experience has been managed by Kate with quiet dexterity. Her one known boyfriend before William at university, 22-year-old gifted cricketer Rupert Finch, never talked. Thirty years ago, Prince Charles had to go as young as 19 to find, in Lady Diana Spencer, something almost extinct in post-feminist times, a girl with a history and no past. But Diana’s shy virginity concealed a time bomb: her wounded, insatiable need for love. There is nothing wounded about Kate. She’s from wholesome middle-class stock. She’s great ballast for William who, beneath his royal aplomb, is wounded too. She’s mastered the art of being what seems a contradiction in terms—appropriately edgy; the odd flash of midriff or nocturnal thigh in a too-short skirt for a nightclub excursion sexy but solid; middlebrow, not elitist. The only controversial thing she has ever done is wear sequined hot-pants and take a spill with her legs in the air at a Day-Glo Midnight Roller Disco charity event in South London, for which she did about two years’ penance. In the couple’s wedding interview, you could see the outline of their successful dynamic. William said he tried to impress Kate with his cooking, but the food would start burning, and "Kate would come to the rescue and take charge."
• William & Kate: Photos, News, and MoreThird, patience. It’s taken close to a decade to reel William in. Kate has had to endure the ridicule of being Waity Katie even among the royals themselves. “They have been practicing long enough,” Prince Charles said heartily at Poundbury, his model village in Devon, where he was when the news broke. “It’s brilliant news. It has taken them a very long time,” commented Queen Elizabeth, who, in her business-like way had tried to get this over and done with last June before the impending calendar crush of Philip's 90th, her Diamond Jubilee, and the 2012 Olympics. In order not to fuel rumors as the perpetual princess in waiting, Kate rarely emerged with William in public of late unless it was one of those innumerable country weddings of all their mutual friends. What could she possibly have been doing all those years of trying to look busy? As she put it in the engagement interview, “working really hard” at the family business that sells children’s toys and paraphernalia based in Ashampstead, near their home in Berkshire. Now that she’s engaged to be married to the second in line to the throne, her life is about to get more boring still. The palace machine will take over. The portcullis will come down. William is a RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot at RAF Valley on the island of Anglesey, and the happy couple will live in a remote farmhouse in North Wales, where there is 33 inches of rain a year. There she can tend to the urgent priority of royal wife, the speedy manufacture of the heir and the spare.
Gallery: Photos of William and Kate in Public
But that's "appropriate" too. In the dire mood of the upcoming austerity cuts, England needs the joy of a royal wedding as badly as it did 30 years ago, when we watched enthralled as Charles and Di tied the knot. But she needs it on a budget. The fact that Kate’s a “commoner” is suddenly a PR boon for the royals. With an Old Etonian prime minister and a savage round of economic cutbacks, a pedigreed royal bride would be a hard message to sell to a grumpy press and parliament. Now all the royals have to do is make the wedding of the year look thrifty—perhaps the Guards’ Chapel, where William and Harry held a service to mark the 10th anniversary of their mother’s death, instead of Westminster Abbey?—and preferably green.
Now that she’s engaged to be married to the second in line to the throne, her life is about to get more boring still.
Most important still, Kate's perseverance and resilience has persuaded the queen that her future granddaughter-in-law is nothing at all like Her, like Diana, the golden-haired Rebecca of the Royal House of Windsor. When William chose to bestow on Kate his mother’s 18-carat oval blue sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring, it was not only a token of love but a thrilling gesture of confident daring. After Diana's death in 1997, the 15-year-old prince told his father he wanted the ring for his future engagement. He said Tuesday the ring represented a time his parents were happy. Now, after all the years the royal establishment have spent trying to erase that magical disruption known as Diana, England’s future king showed the world in the strongest, most personal way he knew how that he was determined to bring his mother back.
Tina Brown is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast. She is the author of the 2007 New York Times best seller The Diana Chronicles. Brown is the former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines and host of CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown.