With a new royal baby on everyone’s minds, it seems a good time to take a closer look at the mother of an heir whose birth marks a historic change in the rules of succession to the British Crown.
Kate Middleton was the first person for 350 years to marry an heir to the throne without possessing a drop of aristocratic blood… and her child, girl or boy, will one day be monarch.
So what do we know about her? Despite being an ‘item’ in the life of Prince William for eight years before they married in 2011 and now one of the most photographed women in the world, Kate has remained something of an enigma.
This is probably because the much-admired and captivating Duchess of Cambridge is essentially a very private person whose public ease, amiability and confidence belies a nature that is more naturally shy and reserved.
However, unlike Princess Diana, the mother-in-law she never knew, this royal bride was older, more circumspect and, most importantly, more worldly wise when she stepped into the maelstrom of the British royal family.
Former royal correspondent for OK! Magazine, Marcia Moody’s charming biography is not a repository of scandal and salacious tittle tattle but a warm, well-judged and informed account of a woman whose ‘ordinariness’ and natural composure has made her eminently suited to her royal role.
Moody’s excellent knowledge of the protocol, military life and social scene of the younger royals allows her to take us inside the protected circle in which the relationship between Kate and Prince William developed.
She also uncovers some quirky facts about the royal couple, not least the discovery that Kate and William are distantly related... in an ironic twist of fate, they are cousins 15 times removed, both descended from Sir Thomas Fairfax, enemy of the royals and parliamentary commander-in-chief during the English Civil War.
From the young Catherine Elizabeth Middleton’s birth on a freezing day in January 1982 through her happy, stable early years with her family, her meeting with Prince William at St Andrews University, their romance, wedding and her pregnancy, this is a story of a love that survived trial, tribulation and public exposure.
The eldest child of Michael and Carole Middleton, a couple whose hard work turned a small online party accessories venture into a multi-million pound business, Kate’s upbringing was privileged but still a long way from Prince William’s protocol-bound early years.
When the two met at St Andrews, it wasn’t love at first sight but there was an instant empathy and the joy of sharing ‘a naughty sense of humour.’ Apart from his student room with a specially reinforced en-suite bathroom that could be used as a bunker and a ring-fence of security, Prince William tried hard to be just another student.
But for Kate, the highly unconventional relationship spelled the end of life as she had known it. From their first public photograph together at a rugby match in 2003, she became prey for the paparazzi and a target for royal watchers all around the world.
Together, they survived a brief, unhappy split in 2007, family bereavements and caustic comments about Kate from Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel to become torch bearers for a new generation of royals.
Moody’s fully illustrated book is must-reading for all royal fans and a fascinating account of an intelligent, level-headed woman dedicated to her demanding role but still determined to remain true to herself.
(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £20)