If you were already exhausted with what you’ve heard about the duties of a senior royal, you’re not going to like this news one bit. In new royals tell-all book Battle of Brothers, British historian Robert Lacey unpacks the first few encounters that royal wives Princess Diana and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge had with the royal family, and how exactly they were deemed suitable to join the firm. We know the royal family likes their wives to be accommodating, supportive of their men, and frankly, somewhat submissive — requirements with which both Diana and Meghan Markle struggled. But the details of Diana’s early days getting to know Prince Charles and the family reveal another surprising requirement the royal family had for those who married into it — one that makes perfect sense when you think about Kate.
When Diana was 19 years old (the same year Charles proposed to her), Queen Elizabeth II invited her to Balmoral to get to know her better — and see whether her son’s new girlfriend was a good fit for the family. Author Lacey describes her as passing with “flying colors,” noting this anecdote from a fellow guest.
“‘We went stalking together,’ remembered fellow guest Patti Palmer-Tomkinson. ‘We got hot, we got tired, she fell into a bog, she got covered in mud, laughed her head off, got puce in the face, her hair glued to her forehead because it was pouring with rain…She was a sort of wonderful English schoolgirl who was game for anything.’”
Ah yes, the sort of wonderful English schoolgirl who doesn’t mind getting covered in mud — and then, of course, spending six hours washing it out of her hair for a royal photo op. Count me out. But one doesn’t have to look far for this description of a game, athletic, up-for-anything royal woman to hit home.
Did you know that 20-year-old Diana married Prince Charles after two other women said no? https://t.co/cnPblnsavP
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Kate, who studied at Marlborough College and then St. Andrews alongside William, was quite literally the perfect English schoolgirl, and her training hasn’t forsaken her in her tenure as a royal. We’ve seen the Duchess practicing her sprints, competing against William in a sailing competition, and even taking young George out hunting.
Not only does Kate’s athletic side resemble what was praised about Diana, but it mimics Prince Charles’ relationship with current wife Camilla (née Shand). Describing what first drew them to each other in their youth, Lacey writes: “Along with the shared silliness went a mutual delight in country pursuits. Charles and Camilla were both devotees of huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ — seldom happier than when decked out in their Barbours, tweeds and welly boots.”
Kate Middleton is just like us "regular" moms! https://t.co/XaUqK0rb2B
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Finally, there’s that implicit meaning in Palmer-Tomkinson’s initial comment about Diana that Kate too embodies so well — the idea that she was “game for anything.”
In an early description of Kate, then living with William at school, Lacey says “she has all the attributes of the perfect flatmate — steady and reliable, clean and tidy, good company but not too gossipy, smiling and upbeat, and a fluent but not over-chatty conversationalist who could be relied upon to invite her attractive friends to your joint parties. She would never be too loud over breakfast next morning — and she was always good for the rent.”
In other words: the seemingly light observation of “game for anything” in fact means both willing and able to adjust yourself perfectly no matter the given circumstances, without complaint, and in possession of the social skills and standing to be able to carry out the desired role. Kate matched it perfectly, and went into her marriage with William with open eyes about his expectations.
In the case of Diana, we wonder again if she would have taken up the role of Charles’ wife quite so gamely if she truly knew what it would entail.
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