It has been quite a month for Kate Middleton. And it has also been quite a month for her mum, Carole. From the very first day of Princess Charlotte’s return home, when Carole and Pippa Middleton were the first guests to call on the new baby at Kensington Palace, it has been made abundantly clear that it is the Middletons, not her Royal relatives, who are the most important grandparents in Charlotte’s life.
In many ways, the arrival of the Middletons crib-side was an action replay of the birth of Prince George, when it was Carole and Mike who were first in the doors at the Lindo Wing after the birth.
We can be sure that there was nothing in the least accidental about these finely-timed appearances.
If there is one thing the royals understand it is the signifying importance of official visits. And the Middleton mission to Kensington Palace was just one part of a carefully semaphored message to the rest of their family from William and Kate that it is Middletons first, Windsors second when it comes to which family’s influence is to be more significant in the very youngest of royal lives.
Charles may complain he is being shut out of his grandson George’s life, but few people of their own age will blame William and Kate for looking to the easy middle-class competence and practicality of the Middleton way of life rather than the outdated Royal one, whatever the older, more traditional courtiers might think.
Since the baby was born, Carole has been staying at Anmer Hall, William and Kate’s palatial home on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, almost without interruption. With William now back at work, helicoptering air ambulance patients to hospital, Carole has become the helicopter mother-in-law, constantly hovering overhead, making sure every little detail of life at Anmer Hall runs smoothly.
She is now expected to stay on there on a full-time basis for at least another month, cementing her position as the de facto matriarch of the new Cambridge clan. Regular visits from Kate’s sister Pippa and brother James complete the sense that this is now the seat of the Middletons.
The Daily Mail has even claimed that Carole “has been considering retaining the services of a discreet estate agent to find a country home within easy reach of Anmer Hall, so she, Pippa and James can stay nearby without disturbing the Cambridges’ family life.”
This would certainly be an unmistakable statement of intent.
Prince Charles, meanwhile, has been far from involved in Princess Charlotte’s first few weeks on the planet. Indeed, it is believed he has not seen his granddaughter again since his visit to Kensington Palace the day after the birth.
Undeniably, he has been absent from grandfatherly duty for all the right reasons—his historic visit to Ireland, where he shook hands with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and visited Mullaghmore, the scene of the IRA murder of his uncle Mountbatten sent a powerful message of peace and reconciliation—but that does not change the fact that it is Carole’s feet which are very much under the table at Anmer, and that she has been quietly masterminding a Royal revolution on the home front.
In short, the atmosphere at Anmer Hall is very much more middle class than would ever have been imaginable in a royal home just a decade ago. This is how Kate wants it. And William—although far from being the pushover he is sometimes portrayed as—is wise enough to want what Kate wants. William is more willing to embrace the middle-class values of the Middletons than he is to try to impose his own upper-class way of doing things on them.
Although George was brought up exclusively by family for the first six months of his life, there is now a full-time nanny, Maria Borrallo, on the Cambridge payroll. But she is operating under a very different set of principles of royal nurses of the past. Back then it was starched uniforms and ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. It’s a much more informal arrangement these days, says one source.
Once again, there is a sense that Kate and William are ringing the changes.
“It’s strictly first-name terms at Anmer Hall,” says one source of the triangular relationship between Kate, her mother, and the nanny. “It’s all very relaxed and self-consciously ‘normal.’”
In the four years since she married William, Kate has completely transformed the next generation of the British Royal family from being an upper-class one into a middle-class one. And Carole’s near-constant presence at Anmer Hall is simply the latest proof of that remarkable fact.