What a weekend it has been for the Royal image makers.
First we were treated to a short video of Prince Harry chatting with his granny by a roaring fire in a private sitting room at Windsor Castle, before trash-talking with Obama and Michelle to promote the forthcoming Invictus Games, the Paralympic-style event for wounded veterans which has become one of Harry’s key projects.
In the video Harry and Obama both riffed on the mic drop gag (with which Obama—perhaps over-excited to have discovered a meme he can really get behind?—also finished his White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech).
Next up was a flurry of activity on Sunday afternoon as an email from the offices of British Vogue arrived in the inboxes of royal correspondents up and down the country, revealing that at 9 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) pictures of Kate’s first Vogue cover would be landing.
There was a coded warning in the email that the pictures were going to be as dull as we have come to expect everything Kate Middleton does to be—“the series of images capture The Duchess in casual clothes rather than adopting a more formal approach”—and lo and behold, a series of photographs of Kate in a $50 Breton top by Petit Bateau, leaning over a gate looking entirely inoffensive duly appeared.
Whilst there was respect to Vogue editor Alex Shulman, who said, “To be able to publish a photographic shoot with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge has been one of my greatest ambitions for the magazine,” for having landed Kate at all, rivals were quick to slam the cover and draw unflattering comparisons with Princess Diana.
One editor, speaking anonymously, told The Daily Beast, “I think it’s an atrocious cover—especially for one that should be celebrating a momentous anniversary. 100 years of Vogue—a magazine that has published some of greatest, most groundbreaking photography and they use a bland Kay’s catalogue image.”
Kate knew exactly what image she wanted to project in the Vogue shoot, and it is clear she took the reins in the project, making sure the magazine projected the image she wanted—normal middle-class mum—rather than what they wanted. Vogue would have had little chance but to acquiesce.
Kate was probably also savvy enough the pictures would be savaged by the Sunday papers and she would be crowned the Duchess of Dull.
By happy accident, she had a trick up her sleeve to make sure the Vogue story and images were quickly forgotten: releasing images of one of the only two people in the world who could knock her off the top of the news cycle; Princess Charlotte.
On Sunday morning, the Palace released cute pictures of Charlotte ahead of her first birthday today (Monday) taken by Kate.
They were, again, a composed study in classlessness and inoffensiveness. In one shot, Princess Charlotte wore blue, in another pink. The dress was bespoke, but her $50 cardigan was recycled from the Queen’s birthday shoot.
But it was what Princess Charlotte was pushing that really marked this out as a considered study in the middle-class dream.
Clutched in her ruddy fingers was the handlebar of a baby walker with alphabet blocks in the tray. There’s not a child in the land whose parents make more than £50,000 a year who hasn’t had one of these given to them.
Prince Harry and the Cambridges increasingly function as a royal trinity. But what this weekend’s powerful imagery made clear is that while Harry is happy to play up his regality, for Kate it’s all about demonstrating egalité.
That might annoy magazine editors, and it might not be what we would have imagined gets taught at Princess school.
Privately, the Cambridges live a life of incredible wealth and privilege, but, when Kate has anything to do with the imagery coming out of Kensington Palace, you’d be hard pressed to spot it.