Royal insiders told WHO this week that the Queen and her senior courtiers now see the couple as the monarchy’s saviours. “They are so impressive,” one palace insider tells us. “They work tirelessly, and never complain. Both of them understand what is expected and you only have to watch themworking a room to see how effortlessly they charm people and earn their respect. By contrast, Harry is seen as petulant and unpredictable.”
A good example was the annual Buckingham Palace Diplomatic Reception just before Christmas. Think of it as the ultimate office party: 1000 guests, all dressed to impress and awaiting an audience with The Boss, aka The Queen.
The royal family entered the ballroom in order of importance – Her Majesty came in first to the sound of trumpets, followed by Prince Charles and Camilla, and then William and Kate. For thenext 90 minutes, the Cambridges spoke expertly to as many partygoers as they could.
“They are gracious and natural, and able to really connect,” says a diplomatic source who attended the party. “They have reinvented the art ofsmall talk. They found something tosay about each country as they chatted.” And with each careful step, the husband and wife of eight years worked in subtle unison. “They combine grace and regal presence with alovely human touch,” says the guest. “It really does feel like they’re a team.”
Behind raising their children, the job of supporting the Queen, 93, is the most important one the couple hold – and they’re doing so with the kind of smooth assurance that only comes from years of study. “On that evening, they were literally following the Queen,” says the guest. “They are learning on the job and it sort of seepsin, like osmosis.”
The training is constant and ever evolving. “They are being prepared every day,” says royal author Ingrid Seward. “There was no school for princesses when Princess Di was around, and there’s no school today for monarchs. They learn by experience.”
As talk resurfaces of the Queen stepping aside in favour of Charles, 71, the couple are attending more events on her behalf, and areat the heart of the inner circle. William had a big say on the Queen’s decision to strip Andrew of his royal duties. “He is one of the decision makers in the family,” says another well-placed source. “He’s a thinker.”
In many ways, William was given a stronger foundation than his father. Charles grew up distant from his mother, and found himself in an unhappy marriage to Diana by the time he was William’s age. By contrast, even in the midst of his parents’ split, William had a nurturing childhood, and is treated like a much-loved son by Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.
“He is better set and better grounded than any predecessor one can remember,” says royal historian Robert Lacey. He also has a strong partner, whose unwavering poise and calm balances her husband’s more intense side. He is known to be devastated that his relationship with Harry has broken down. Reports have surfaced that William advised his brother against marrying Meghan, something Harry still resents.
As the feud bubbled away, it was Kate who went into overdrive to support her husband. “She is therock he can always rely on,” a friend told WHO this week. “They look after each other, but in different ways. Some might say it’s an old-fashioned marriage, but it works.”
Are they equals in the marriage? “Yes and no – I think in a very traditional, British kind of way, yes,” says the friend. “They have different roles but come together as a team.”
That teamwork was on display on the couple’s triumphant tour of Pakistan last year. “They’re a great double act,” the friend adds. “People make much of William, but Kate is there too, asking questions of presidents and entertaining their wives.”
The British Foreign Office, which decides where royals travel, sees the couple as a massive asset. At least two major overseas tours are already in the works for this year. The couple have also adopted a divide-and-conquer strategy, with Kate’s blossoming confidence allowing her to go her own way – as was the case on December 3, when she attended a NATO reception at Buckingham Palace while William completed a solo tour of Kuwait and Oman.
“Kate is in her element right now,” says the friend. “She knows the importance of the institution and her responsibilities within itand has more confidence than ever to gradually modernise it from within.”
As they near 40, both are keenly aware ofhow much closer they are getting to the throne. “The monarchy is approaching a very challenging period of change,” says Lacey. “Charles is going to have his work cut out coping with the transitions. It’s good to have that reassurance in the new generation that there is someone stepping up to the plate.”