A rare new image of the Duchess of Cambridge has revealed a very powerful alliance forming within the royal household.
Just call it the dawn of double duchess day.
Tuesday, the UK’s pre-eminent source on composting and conservatory renovations, country life magazine, has revealed the cover of its latest issue, a guest edition edited by none other than future queen and eternal boot-wearer Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Dressed in a blue dress and cardigan and sitting on a wooden bench, her makeup almost non-existent, Camilla looks happy as a Cornish clam tending to her garden and not having to entertain a Azerbaijani cultural delegation or to collect a priceless diamond earring. the mouth of a Jack Russell.
But news.com.au doesn’t really, if ever, cover Camilla because… few people other than me really care about her.
No – why the cover photo of the Duchess is worth talking about today isn’t because of what the image shows, but who took it.
Enter Duchess number two, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
At a time country life revealed on its cover, the magazine also released a behind-the-scenes image from the photo shoot, showing Camilla posing in the garden of her private Wiltshire Ray Mill House with Kate in snapper mode.
As the magazine’s editor, Mark Hedges, told Telegraph when discussing the shoot with Camilla: “She immediately replied, ‘Oh, I wish Catherine would.’
“I spent the next three or four minutes desperately racking my brain trying to think of a professional photographer named Catherine.
“Then I suddenly understood what she meant – one of the most amazing things that can happen.
“I don’t think anyone else would have made her feel so relaxed.
“They didn’t care too much about hair and makeup, they just took flowers from the garden and moved on.”
On paper, the two women don’t have much in common except that they caught the attention of future kings.
Camilla’s life, the pre-royal marriage, was like a poster for a certain sort of bucolic upper-crust existence, a horse-riding whirlwind of muddy breeches and Aga-cooked dinners.
Kate, for her part, came from a good solid background, had a college degree, a few part-time jobs and seemed to enjoy nothing more than endlessly haunting the mid-priced shops of Chelsea with her sister Pippa, the ‘odd Mayfair nightclub occasionally get a look-in too.
While Camilla was seen having lunch with Kate before the latter’s wedding in 2011, giving her some friendly advice, they never appeared particularly close. Kate probably never spent an hour wondering how to get rid of rose blight or what to do with a lame mare and Camilla probably never walked into a Zara outpost in her life or spent the summer at Mustique.
But something lately has very clearly changed on that front, and somehow Camilla and Kate have become a great – and very friendly – power couple.
Obviously, they really seem to be getting along like a house on fire.
In February, Charles, Camilla and the Cambridges embarked on a highly unusual joint engagement to visit a project run by the Prince’s Trust. Cue a lot of big smiles buddies.
During Trooping the Colour, Camilla and Kate shared a car, waving to the crowd in a double act.
There, the two Duchesses were at the Order of the Garter ceremony in Windsor last month, hearing each other as a Grade II listed house was on fire during the carriage procession.
What makes this newly discovered, or at least recently revealed, connection so remarkable isn’t that they seem so pale (although I’d like to imagine them occasionally spending a Friday night for two with a jug of Harvey Wallbangers to watch the island of love) but what an abject departure it is in royal history.
In every photo of the two previous women to marry in the House of Windsor, the Queen Mother and Queen Mary of Teck, they look eternally unhappy to be in such close proximity. (Want to know what kind of person Mary was? She sent her epileptic four-year-old son Prince John away from her to live with his nanny and he died in his Norfolk cottage aged 13. .)
The thing is, never before have we seen an alliance like this between Kate and Camilla, two women who grew up without titles or noble lines and yet in whose hands the future of the monarchy now rests.
And thank God for that.
When the sad but inevitable happens when the Queen dies, the coronation of Queen Camilla and later the arrival of the new Princess of Wales will represent a new era where the two most powerful women in the monarchy are closely aligned.
Having a Queenly coalition not only eager but happy to work alongside will have implications for The Firm as a family and as an institution.
Undoubtedly, after years of the words ‘rift’ and ‘feud’ appearing in royal headlines with overwhelming ubiquity, beautiful unity and harmony will be just the ticket. Imagine: a royal family that loves each other. Quite the PR palate cleanser.
Then, on a practical level, a royal house that can operate as a cohesive and functional business will simply do a better job. If the competing egos, agendas, schedules, and causes can be minimized and it’s all just a better-oiled, more rationally functioning beast, it will only benefit the institution.
The tricky royal news doesn’t stop there today.
In London on Tuesday, Kate, in her guise as patroness of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club which runs Wimbledon, was back to work which seems to consist largely of wearing sundresses and cheering enthusiastically.
Notably, she made her debut for this year’s tournament, as she often does.
What better way to show off a $2665 Alessandra Rich dress, which vaguely looked like something you could have bought for ten bucks at the Dynasty sale of wardrobe and pearl earrings that her husband by her side?
There William was alongside Kate, first in the royal box watching Novak Djokovic play a quarter-final match before changing grounds to see British player Cameron Norrie qualify for the next round.
Interesting. Very interesting.
You see, while William usually attends the tournament with Kate, for at least the last four years he’s only been trotting to the finals and yet he was here a good five days early.
Then there’s what the Cambridge duo did on their day. They were laughing, smiling adoringly at each other, and joking. In fact, the couple looked more like newly in love lovebirds who had just met on a dating app for European royalty (Monarchy Match?) than a couple who had been married for 11 years, with a horde of staff, three kids, soon three houses, two royal foundations and a dog in their names.
Look, it’s all really lovely and just so…unexpected.
For the yonks, when in public, the Cambridges adopted a much more reserved attitude towards each other, as if practicing a certain marital social distancing years before it became fashionable.
But over the past few months, the couple have been laughing, joking, and touching in a way that’s a nice break from their former quasi-Mormon MO.
Perhaps it could have something to do with the fact that the years of sleepless nights, feedings, diapers and this seemingly endless series of scandals and family crises are, at least for now, behind them.
Yet, much like Kate’s low partnership with Camilla, this warm and fuzzy new phase is nothing but good news for anyone with any vested interest in the future of the monarchy’s entire affairs.
Who would have thought that the Windsor house would end up in such good hands? Especially a set with a lot of dirt under the fingernails?
Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.
Originally published as Powerful detail in new photo of Kate Middleton