From shy student to future queen: how the Duchess of Cambridge became a force to reckon with

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Having started out as a royal ‘plus-one’ when she married Prince William in 2011, Kate has spent the past decade carving out a solo role. Although not as charismatic as Diana, or as self-assured as Meghan, in her own quietly confident way, the Duchess has gained a formidable reputation as one of the monarchy’s safest pairs of hands.

From her serious work on early-years development to her ease when calling the bingo numbers for care-home residents over Zoom during the pandemic, there is a very clear sense that Kate is more comfortable with her unique type of celebrity than ever.

Of course, it hasn’t always been the case. Despite her HM-like reputation for never putting a foot wrong, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the woman at one time cruelly dubbed ‘Waity Katie’ by the press.

Once likened to wisteria for being ‘fragrant with a ferocious ability to climb’, the former Marlborough College pupil, who met the second in line to the throne at St Andrews University in 2001, initially appeared rather unsure of herself. Not always perfectly poised, photographs of her dressed in Day-Glo colours and taking a tumble at a roller disco in 2008 will forever haunt her.

Besieged by paparazzi outside her London home and place of work when she was dating William (for almost a decade), it is perhaps no wonder she initially refused to make eye contact with photographers. 

A combination of genuine wariness, a lack of confidence and an unwillingness to let the media control her as they did Diana initially made Kate a rather hesitant and uncertain royal.

It certainly didn’t help that the couple’s first years of marriage, on the island of Anglesey in north Wales, where William was based as a RAF search and rescue pilot, attracted accusations that she was work-shy.

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