Kate Middleton stuns at the No Time To Die premiere with Prince William, Charles and Camilla. Video / Twitter
In 2017, in what will ultimately prove to be his last official engagement before stepping down from official duty, Prince Philip joked that he was “the world’s most experienced plate revealer”.
Like the best jokes, this one contained a grain of savage truth: The day-to-day lives of many active royals have not changed significantly since Philip joined the company in 1947. Shake, shake hands, pull Go back a little velvet curtain, go back to Bentley. Repeat endlessly.
He was a role model that was never going to work for Diana, Princess of Wales, who saw the potential to play a much more engaged and deeply human role in public life than being another extraordinary plaque revealer.
What Diana pioneered, aside from the ruffle necklaces and the royal television revealer, was a version of the job to help society’s most marginalized and forgotten people, turning the embrace into a power movement. along the way.
If ever there was a question of whether this legacy lives on, then look no further than the overnight events in London where her stepdaughter Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave a landmark address on drug addiction.
Standing at the desk, dressed in bright red, the resemblance to her stepmother has never been so pronounced.
“No one chooses to become a drug addict, but it can happen to any of us,” the 39-year-old told the audience, saying she wanted to break the “taboo and shame” surrounding the problem. in a positively dianesque way. turn.
Later, in an unscripted moment, the royal came face-to-face with TV hosts I’m a Celebrity Ant and Dec at Bafta HQ where the trio had a bareback conversation.
“The more you talk to everyone… and hear some of their stories today… once you start sharing your story, there are so many people who have experienced it themselves or have known someone. “Kate said.
Ant, who has struggled with drug and alcohol issues in the past, told the royal he “had felt this myself. By the time I asked for help, it was bad. But as soon as I asked for help, it was bad. as you open up to people… the problems start to go away. It gets better. “
The fact that the next UK Queen was standing in a hallway with such a deeply personal tête-à-tête on such a deeply personal issue shows just how powerful Diana’s impact on the Royal Household is to this day.
Diana’s career has been characterized by a stubborn commitment to bringing to light ostensibly unpleasant and embarrassing subjects. She naturally understood that the lofty heights of royalty provided the perfect perch to engage in a place of anti-social stigma.
An HRH, according to Diana, could be best used by helping the most marginalized, shaking hands and hugs with AIDS and leprosy patients, visiting homeless shelters with her sons, the princes William and Harry, on eating disorders.
This lesson is one that Kate very clearly paid attention to.
While his early years as a member of the House of Windsor were marked by what strangely resembled a certain indifference to the rise and gloom of royal life, what we have seen recently is that the Duchess really thrives and uses her platform. powerful effect.
Never have so many floral dresses and nude pumps given so much.
Over the past 24 months, Kate has designed a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show with the aim of encouraging parents and children to go out; launched its landmark early childhood survey, Big 5, in which over 500,000 UK parents participated, and established a heartwarming and ubiquitous Zoom presence during the pandemic.
We have also seen her appear – and speak – much more frequently in public.
What has become increasingly clear, and especially in recent weeks, is that while Kate may have taken her time to find her feet as an active HRH (and perhaps too many of trips to Mosquito), she is now creating her own agenda.
Kate’s bouncy brushing and big smiles belies that behind the scenes she’s up to something more ambitious and with far greater societal weight than just being a fragrant, photogenic addition to the Windsor home.
However, this is where Kate’s story jumps from Diana’s.
What is fascinating is that in retrospect, everything the Princess has accomplished has been despite the disapproval of the royal household who viewed her popularity and radically human approach as a direct threat to the monarchy.
Instead, Kate managed to accomplish, right before our eyes, something that Diana never could: She managed to build her own power base without disrupting the palace ecosystem. Somehow, she established a constituency without anyone rubbing their eyebrows.
What makes Kate such a formidable figure in the future is not only that she clearly has the same fire and willingness to help those less fortunate as Diana, but that she does so with the support from the top.
(There’s a reason the Queen bestowed her daughter-in-law with the honor of making her a Lady Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Victoria for services rendered to the Sovereign in recognition of her work. well, and producing an heir and two suitable spare parts maybe too …)
The timing of Kate’s speech is also important, coming on the same day the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William welcomed 120 world leaders to Windsor Castle. This overlap would not have happened if Her Majesty and the Powers That Be had not approved.
Diana may have essentially staged a stealth coup, redefining and broadening the scope of what an active member of the Royal Family could talk about in the public sphere, but all the surly courtiers who were perpetually vexed by the intractable youngster princess moxie and dedication to uncomfortable causes.
Kate may have inherited various priceless items from Diana, like her Ballon Bleu Cartier watch and enough sapphire jewelry to make Cartier jealous, but the most treasured legacy could be the one we see the Duchess embracing right now.
Thanks to the princess, being a future queen now comes with the possibility of playing an active role in public life and without a plaque in sight.
• Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of major Australian media titles.