There’s an old adage among the British upper classes that you can never be too rich or too thin. Judging by her recent appearances, it’s a theory that the Duchess of Cambridge seems to subscribe to.
Eating disorders are an explosive subject in the royal family, but questions about Kate’s weight, which began to surface in earnest toward the end of last year as she appeared to shed pounds on weekly basis, just won’t go away.
Sensitivity about food issues in royal circles goes back to when Princess Diana told interviewer Martin Bashir, in a sensational 1995 BBC broadcast, that she suffered from bulimia and made herself sick after eating. Bashir asked her what the royal family made of it.
"They thought it was a waste of food," the doe-eyed Diana replied, and a nation gasped at its television sets as the calcified and barely beating heart of the British monarchy was held up for all to see.
It was just one of many shocking revelations that Diana made in the interview. She also said there were attempts to brand her insane and she memorably remarked of her husband’s adulterous affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."
The Diana interview represented one of many lows in the British monarchy’s relationship with its subjects back in the bad old days pre-Kate, but whilst many of the other issues raised by the interview have been swept under the carpet or simply forgotten in an amazing act of collective amnesia by the Brits—Charles subsequently married Camilla for example, and has made no secret of his wish for her to be declared queen when he ascends to the throne—the ghosts of Diana’s eating disorder refuse to be so easily quieted.
And now they are gathering again. For amidst all the glowing commentary in broadsheets and tabloids about how fabulous Kate looks in her latest high street bargains—and the girl sure can work a frock or a pair of J-brands like no-one else—it is getting increasingly hard to ignore the elephant in the room: that Kate Middleton seems to be getting skinnier and skinnier with each passing day.
Cameras add pounds, but in the most recent set of pictures, taken last week when she played hockey with the British women’s team, it is quite plain to see how thin Kate’s arms are, even under the long-sleeved tops she seems to wear with increasing frequency. Of course, as someone who is photographed thousands of times a day, and has become famous for never taking a bad picture, Kate is under extraordinary pressure to appear svelte and lithe.
Comparing Kate with Diana is usually a fruitless task, not least because Kate was 10 years older than Diana when she became queen-apparent, and had lived with her boyfriend at university. But Kate is, however, facing many of the same pressures that Diana blamed for driving her into food addiction.
"We were a newly married couple," said Diana in that pivotal Panorama interview, "So obviously we had those pressures too, and we had the media, who were completely fascinated by everything we did. And it was difficult to share that load, because I was the one who was always pitched out front, whether it was my clothes, what I said, what my hair was doing, everything—which was a pretty dull subject, actually, and it's been exhausted over the years—when actually what we wanted to be, what we wanted supported was our work."
It would be unsurprising if Kate did not have at least some of the same feelings, especially given the fact that just nine months into the most high-profile marriage of the century, she has been left on her own for six weeks with nothing but a new puppy and a set of in-laws for company, while her husband is whiling away empty hours in an army men’s dorm on a rocky outcrop on the far side of the world.
Kate told a group of schoolchildren who asked about her absent husband that she was "missing him desperately." In between her hectic schedule of official engagements, she has taken to walking her dog alone (bar the ever-present protection officer) in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, a stark and somewhat forlorn contrast to when she and William were pictured arm-in-arm on a Welsh Beach with Lupo after Christmas.
While William has been away in the Falklands, Kate has been working hard to cement her status as an independent working royal. Undoubtedly, it’s been an extremely stressful experience, and she appears to have lost weight steadily over the past six weeks. People who have spent time up close and personal with Kate on her public engagements in recent weeks use words like, “seriously skinny” and, “tiny” without prompting.
Last week a report in the British gossip magazine Now said that Kate’s mother, Carole, had become concerned by Kate’s slender frame, and was encouraging her to eat more. The magazine estimated she had gone from a U.K. size 8 to a size 6. Looking at pictures, it is hard to disagree with that estimation.
Quoting a friend of Carole, Now magazine reported: "Kate comes from a slim-built family but her mum looks at how skinny she’s become and is telling her to eat more. She worries that Kate’s pushing herself too hard and not looking after herself by eating balanced meals."
Royal insiders with connections to Kate simply won’t talk about the apparent reduction in Kate’s weight. They loyally insist that she is “fine,” although they do concede that Kate has found it pretty miserable being separated from William for the past six weeks, and that she can’t wait for her husband to get home from the Falklands, which is due to happen any day now.
When William returns, Kate plans to retreat significantly from her royal duties according to insiders, and hole up in the Welsh farmhouse the couple rent in Anglesea. Some believe that she will concentrate on trying to gain enough weight to enable her to get pregnant easily once the bulk of the Jubilee celebrations are out of the way in June.
Sixty years and hardly a slip.