It has been a long 10 years in Buckingham Palace since Prince William walked into Westminster Abbey, leaned over to his father-in-law Michael Middleton, and joked, “It was supposed to be a small family affair.”
As his bride made her way down the aisle, his brother Prince Harry whispered to him, “Wait till you see the dress.”
And on their way out, Kate, according to lip-readers, said to William, “I’m so happy.”
The bride and groom later emerged from the palace gates in a dark blue Aston Martin DB6 Mark 2 featuring the number plate “JU5T WED”.
It was the perfect common touch to end a very grand day.
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Since that joyous afternoon 10 years ago, much has changed, but, despite a sea of troubles, and unfounded rumors of an affair, the couple are still as happily married as ever. Indeed, see the pictures released via William and Kate’s social media late yesterday to celebrate their anniversary: outdoors, fresh-faced, holding each other, laughing and smiling, no black-and-white, moody theatrics, some low-key knitwear, and (of course!) excellent hair and dentistry.
“They just get on with it,” one friend told The Daily Beast. “Kate is amazing, really nice, very diplomatic. Everybody likes her and it’s all basically “no drama’.”
Their lives are, for the most part, shockingly dull, friends say. Occasional glamorous foreign holidays are a distant memory of pre-COVID times.
One or other does the school run from Kensington Palace to Battersea every day. (Prince George and Princess Charlotte both go to Thomas’s Battersea in South London, and Louis is expected to join them either this year or next.)
I have been told by a reliable source that Kate has always refused to have a full-time housekeeper, firmly insisting that George, Charlotte, and Louis should understand that William loads the dishwasher and makes his own toast (hot buttered toast is a weakness of William’s, friends say, although Catherine, as he always calls her, has successfully encouraged him to cut down on carbs.)
The engagements they uncomplainingly smile their way through as if they are having the best day of their lives are largely mind-numbing—on Tuesday, they spent a day at a farm. William drove a tractor and compared the GPS to the GPS in the rescue helicopters he used to fly for the RAF.
Two reasons often given by friends of the couple for the apparent ease with which they have coped with the travails of royal life are the fact that they had known each other for many years before getting married, and also their decision to maintain as low a profile as possible for the first couple of years of their marriage, when William got a job with the RAF flying search-and-rescue missions in Wales.
Catherine and Flight Lieutenant Wales spent 2011-2013 living far from the madding crowd in a remote farmhouse cottage on the Bodorgan Estate, paying £750 a month rent to their friend Gervis Meyrick, a niece of the Duke of Buccleuch (Scotland’s largest private landowner until he was topped by fashion king Anders Holch Povlsen).
Beginning their married lives in Anglesey, a remote peninsula off the North Coast of Wales, in a place so isolated that William’s security detail were able to spot paparazzi from a mile off, gave them an extraordinary foundation of bedrock on which to build their marriage.
They carried out almost no royal duties in those first years. They were assailed by the media for being lazy—but the graphics ordered up by angry picture desks denied what they had assumed would be a daily feeding frenzy of Kate pics meant little as the queen thoroughly approved of and strongly urged them to continue living off the royal grid for several years, just as she and Prince Philip had done in the early years of their marriage in Malta.
There are many BP insiders who consider that at least part of the reason why the Meghan and Harry royal story ended in such spectacular disaster was because they rushed straight into high-profile public life.
Much like Prince Harry in the army, who got a kick out of being plain old Harry Wales, judged on being a soldier like any other, William was treated as an equal and judged on his ability by the RAF. You can’t, after all, put someone up in a helicopter to pluck a seriously injured walker from a Welsh mountainside on the basis of their hereditary title.
After Anglesey, the couple moved full -ime for several years to Anmer Hall on the Sandringham estate and William got a job at the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Some years after he left the service, William spoke rather movingly about how traumatic the job at times could be as part of his and Kate’s mental health campaigning.
“I got very sad and very down about one particular family,” he told a conference, “I worked several times on very traumatic jobs involving children. After I had my own children, I think the relation between the job and the personal life was what really took me over the edge, and I started feeling things that I have never felt before. Talking was really important, but even that wasn't quite enough for one particular incident for me.”
One particular trigger for William and Kate’s rather sequestered life was the publication in the French magazine Closer of pictures of Kate sunbathing topless at a villa in the south of France in September 2012.
The couple were on a royal tour of the South Pacific when the pictures began to circulate around the world and William swiftly issued a furious response comparing the intrusion into his wife's privacy to the harassment his mother endured.
The couple had a strong legal case under French privacy laws, and sued. Five long years later in 2017, a French court declared that the photographs were unlawful and substantial damages had to be paid, but the experience was bruising for the couple and they have stayed out of court since, instead adopting the Queen’s well-worn mantra that it is futile to either complain or explain, when it comes to the voracious tabloid press.
The couple waited several years before getting pregnant, partly because they both insisted that gender discrimination baked into the law of succession should be removed before they got pregnant. Kate, with her husband's full support, would simply not accept that if her first child was a daughter and her second was a son the son would be monarch. Having waited to get the law changed, it was perhaps an inevitable expression of Sod’s Law that the first child was a boy, George.
When George was born, in 2014, British patriotic lunacy was on full display as crowds of thousands turned up and camped outside the London hospital Kate was due to give birth in for weeks before the event.
Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis followed in 2015 and 2018.
However it was in the disastrous collapse of the relationship with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry that William and Kate have experienced the greatest failure of their royal lives so far. (A spokesperson for Harry and Meghan told The Daily Beast that Harry and Meghan “privately congratulated” William and Kate on their anniversary.)
Harry and Meghan met in 2016, and after a whirlwind romance announced their engagement on Nov. 27, 2017.
However, according to the sympathetic biography of Harry and Megan, Finding Freedom, things had begun to go sour long before then. Harry is said to have responded negatively to an alleged statement by William advising him to, “take as long as you need to get to know this girl.” The book said that in the statement Harry inferred snobbery on William’s part.
Although they spent a happy Christmas together in 2017, by 2018 the cracks were beginning to show. By the time of Harry and Meghan's wedding, on May 19, 2018, Meghan and Kate had already had a massive showdown, which resulted in one of them making the other cry (the details are disputed).
It seems like things never really recovered from this point, culminating in the January 2020 decision by Harry and Meghan to leave the British royal family, with the enmity between the two parties only deepening when the couple gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey in which they said that a member of the royal family had asked questions about what color the child’s skin would be, and Harry specifically accused his brother of being, “trapped” in the royal family.
The drama of Meghan and Harry has forced the royals together, with reports that William, Charles and the Queen are co-operating more closely than ever before.
The fallout from the exodus to California has also been mitigated somewhat, or at least put into proportion, by the coronavirus pandemic. William and Kate, both at home with video calling, have related well to the public, sharing the joys and miseries of homeschooling with millions of other parents. That common touch again. Both William and his dad Prince Charles contracted the coronavirus.
The death of Prince Philip has of course brought into sharper focus the reality that the queen herself will likely pass away within the next few years. Charles is increasingly running the monarchy in all but name. Charles is, consequently, installing William as the effective custodian of the vast Duchy of Cornwall estate.
This is all behind the scenes, and it will be a strange moment for the national British psyche when the queen dies, and the curtain goes up on the newly renamed cast.
William will automatically become Prince of Wales when his father accedes to the throne and Kate will also inherit a new title, meaning that for the first time since the death of Diana we will have a Princess of Wales again. What will they be like? One thing we can say for sure is: very, very different in every way to Charles and Camilla.
Although people who work for and with Charles speak warmly of him, he is a haughty and proud man in a way that William actively tries not to be. For example, William and Kate are, to my knowledge, the only royals, senior or not, who tell all staff to address them by their first name—which in Kate’s case is Catherine.
That is one campaign with the public that the couple still have to win.
The marital craft of William and Kate has sailed mostly serenely on sometimes rough seas for the past decade. The next decade looks set to be one of seismic change: Kate and William’s all-smiles challenge will be to make the inevitable hurricanes seem nothing but storms in a teacup.