Saturday, 8 January 2022

Happy 40th Kate: Stunning New Portraits & Past Decade in 40 Photos

Hello, dear readers and a very Happy 2022 to all of you! It's a very significant weekend for the Duchess of Cambridge as you all know. Kate celebrates her 40th birthday tomorrow and to celebrate the landmark occasion Kensington Palace shared gorgeous new photographs.

The striking images were taken by Italian fashion photographer Paolo Roversi at Kew Gardens in November, and will enter the permanent collection of Kate's patronage the National Portrait Gallery. Kensington Palace said: "Ahead of the gallery’s re-opening in 2023, the photographs will feature as part of its 'Coming Home' project, a nationwide initiative which sees portraits of well-known individuals being sent to locations which they are closely associated with. The project has enabled works from the National Portrait Gallery’s national collection to travel to towns and cities across the UK, providing communities with the opportunity to see famous works locally." Throughout the year they will be displayed in places which hold special meaning for the Duchess, including Berkshire, St Andrews and Anglesey.

The black and white images were chosen with the historical value of these photos in mind and references to previous generations of the Royal family.

The Telegraph reports:

'Taking influence from the work of era-defining royal photographers such as Cecil Beaton, the Duchess has also channelled her admiration for Victorian photography for a series of three very different images.

One, in which the Duchess is captured in profile, is reminiscent of the young Queen Victoria and shows the modern mother-of-three in regal serenity.

A second, also in sepia tones, is more intimate, seeing her look directly at the camera with a beaming smile in a pose echoing Diana, Princess of Wales in her Mario Testino photoshoots.

The photographs are the most heavily symbolic of any taken of the Duchess in her royal life so far.

They are intended to capture the family and creative influences in her life, paying tribute to the taste of the young Queen and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, whose image was so often captured by Beaton in a similar style.'

Below, two of Cecil Beaton's iconic images of the Queen and Princess Margaret.

Hello! reports: "The Duchess and Paolo drew inspiration from 19th century photography, which was the focus of Kate's undergraduate thesis." It is thought the work of German painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter served as inspiration. Below an 1864 portrait of Queen Alexandra when she was Princess of Wales. Considered something of a fashion icon, Alexandra held the title of Princess of Wales longer than anyone else (1863-1901). 

Globally renowned photographer Roversi spoke with the Duchess via video call before the photoshoot and was chosen following conversations between Kate and the gallery. Roversi has led advertising campaigns for (most recently) Alexander McQueen, Cerruti, Comme des Garçons, Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Valentino and features in a number of fashion publications including Vogue. Speaking about the experience he described as "profound and rich", Paolo said: "I was moved by her warmth and friendly welcome and enchanted by her shining eyes that reflected the loveliness of her soul and her smile showing the generosity of her heart. I have met a wonderful person, a person who, with her positive energy, can bring hope to the whole world."

The Duchess selected gowns by her favoured fashion house of the past decade -- Alexander McQueen. Kate's striking red gown is a bespoke version of McQueen's Asymmetric Draped Sleeve Gown (with thanks to Innominate).

The original design is described as: "Asymetric draped sleever Anemone print flower dress in rose gold polyfaille."

The Duchess accessorised with the Queen's Diamond Frame earrings which have been on loan to her for years. Her Majesty last wore them for the 2012 State Opening of Parliament. Her Majesty's Jewel Vault reports: "This pair of diamond pendant earrings includes a pendant of separate stones hanging within a diamond frame. These appeared at the 2012 State Opening of Parliament, but have no publicly known provenance as of yet."

The Telegraph notes the other dresses incorporate silk jacquard, organza tulle repurposed from previous collections in order to create the pieces with sustainability in mind. Kate wore Diana's Collingwood pearl earrings to complete the timeless looks on the left.

The UFO No More team suggest the ruffled gown on the right may be McQueen's One Shoulder Ruffle Gown from the Resort 2022 Collection inspired by English poet William Blake.

How will the Duchess mark her birthday? The Cambridges have been at Anmer Hall since mid-December. It's been reported she will be joined by family and close friends (the continuation of a tradition started in Norfolk) for a quiet and relaxed weekend before the children return to school on Tuesday. According to various reports, plans for a larger gathering were shelved due to the high level of Covid cases. The Mirror revealed plans for joint celebrations to take part over the summer for William and Kate. It's thought the Queen may be planning to throw a party for William over the summer and that will now take shape to include Kate's birthday.

Over Christmas I received several splendid suggestions on marking the occasion with a special post. I concluded highlighting the past decade in 40 photos offered the perfect way to do just that.


A decade ago, Kate was enjoying newlywed life in idyllic Anglesey. The year began with an important announcement -- confirmation Kate had chosen her first four patronages: the Art Room, the National Portrait Gallery, Action on Addiction, and East Anglia's Children's Hospices. Kate reached her decision following a series of private visits to charities, and while in Anglesey the Duchess would volunteer privately with UK Scouting. It was a time when things were very much in flux. In February, the Cambridges enjoyed a vacation with the Middleton family in Mustique. Upon their return, Prince William was deployed to the Falklands as part of a four-man Search and Rescue crew. Flight Lieutenant Wales' tour of duty lasted six weeks. William's deployment proved something of a learning curve for Kate who performed her first solo engagement, visiting the Lucian Freud Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Kate made her first official speech during a visit to her patronage, East Anglia's Children Hospices, where she formerly opened the Treehouse Hospice in Ipswich. During her speech Kate said, "First of all, I'd like to say thank you. Thank you for not only accepting me as your patron but thank you also for inviting me here today. You have all made me feel so welcome and I feel hugely honoured to be here to see this wonderful centre. I am only sorry that William can't be here today; he would love it here. A view if his -- that I share -- is that through teamwork, so much can be achieved. What you have all achieved here is extraordinary."

The summer of 2012 was a momentous time in London for many reasons -- none more fondly remembered than the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. The Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend officially kicked off in June with a wonderful display at the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Over one thousand boats mustered on the River Thames from the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world. Crowds lined fourteen miles to catch a glimpse of the royals. When the Duchess arrived, wearing red Alexander McQueen, she was heard describing the event as "so exciting". It was a time of one fabulous event after another, engagements with the Queen, and a tour of Southeast Asia.

As London 2012 ambassadors, the young royals led the nation in welcoming athletes from all over the world and honouring the incredible and inspiring talent across the UK. In an iconic fashion moment, the Duchess sported a teal Jenny Packham gown for the fundraising gala 'Our Greatest Team Rises'.

The year drew to a close with the wonderful news Kate was expecting a baby. Sadly, Kate was hospitalised for three days at the King Edward VII hospital in London with Hyperemesis gravidarum, an acute form of morning sickness which can lead to dehydration. When Kate was discharged she said she was "feeling much better".


Following a quiet Christmas with the Middletons, the Cambridges were first publicly seen in 2013 sitting in the audience at Cirque du Soleil, which they attended with the Middletons and friends for Kate's 31st birthday. The night offered an opportunity for Kate to not only celebrate her birthday, but to unwind and enjoy a relaxing evening with family and friends. Kate had been very poorly, particularly in the early months of her pregnancy. William and Kate's first engagement of the year was a visit to the National Portrait Gallery, where they viewed Kate's first official portrait, by artist Paul Emsley. The divisive portrait received very harsh criticism with many stating it made the Duchess look older and failed to capture her sparkle. Nine years on, have your views on the portrait changed?

During her pregnancy, I remember Kate wearing a much-loved Hobbs London coat as she paid a solo visit to the seaside town of Grimsby where she revealed the baby was kicking. There were many memorable moments from the visit, most notably when Kate made an unscheduled stop at St Andrew's Hospice, where she met ten patients. One of the elderly patients said, "I'm waiting for you to be Queen." Kate laughed and said, "You might be waiting a long time!" Also on this visit, a local thought the Duchess had accidentally let slip she was expecting a girl. Of course, we now know with certainty the onlooker was mistaken :)

On 23 July, proud parents William and Kate introduced their son to the world. Kate said, "It's been very emotional. It's very special. Any parent will know what this feeling is like." While Prince William revealed: "He's a big boy, quite heavy. We're still working on a name. He has a pair of lungs on him that's for sure." Within a couple of days the baby boy's name and style was revealed -- His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

At the end of August, Kate returned to public engagements to bid farewell to Anglesey with William at the Ring O' Fire Marathon. It was a poignant day for the couple who loved their time on the island, where they enjoyed privacy and normality. There was a great deal of speculation at the time on plans for the future and assuming greater royal roles. William decided to work with the East Anglian Air Ambulance and the family made plans to base their lives in Norfolk.


Looking tanned and relaxed following a trip to Mustique, Kate began official engagements for 2014 on 11 February when she attended the Portrait Gala at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The Duchess made a short but endearing speech in which she praised the work of the gallery. Kate wore her much-loved Jenny Packham silk tulle gown with a dazzling necklace on loan from the Queen. The priceless piece was given to Her Majesty as a wedding gift in 1947 by the Nizam of Hyderabad. It was a memorable night for Kate and the debut of perhaps the most substantial pieces of jewellery from the royal vault she had worn up to that point.

April was the month of the royal tour and what a memorable one it was. From the moment the Cambridges left London, media and royal fans were waiting to see William and Kate arrive with Prince George -- one of the few glimpses of the young Prince we had seen at that time. The highly-anticipated tour offered a wide array of engagements over a three-week period which saw William and Kate meet as many people and take in as much of both countries as their schedule allowed, whilst spending as much time as possible with George. The little prince stole the show at each appearance he was involved in.

Supporting causes close to their hearts was also on the agenda. When Kate visited Bear Cottage Hospice with William she said, "To be here together as a family has been very special and we will always remember it with fond and happy memories."

2014 also brought delightful news the Duchess was expecting again. You'll all remember the Cambridges' whirlwind visit to New York later in the year. The Duchess undertook a variety of engagements, including a visit to Northside Child Development Centre, and receptions where she met everyone from Sir Ben Kingsley to Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. The Cambridges attended their first NBA game where they met Beyoncé and Jay Z. Kate gave a nod to her host country in the Tory Burch metallic tweed 'Bettina' coat and J Crew black skinny jeans.


In 2015, Kate was chic in a baby blue Séraphine maternity coat for a day of engagements in Kensington which saw her attend a coffee morning at Family Friends, a voluntary organisation providing befriending and mentoring services. When asked about the baby, Kate said, "It's moving all the time. I can feel it kicking now." The Duchess also opened Kensington Aldridge Academy and a new leisure centre. I loved this look, and it was perhaps my favourite of the maternity styles she chose throughout her second pregnancy. The coat was beautifully tailored and the colour had us all speculating Kate might have been expecting another boy :)

One of the most anticipated appearances of the year was Kate's visit to the set of Downton Abbey. William and Kate have long been fans of the show and the cast were tickled pink to meet the Duchess.  Kate had a ball as she watched a scene being filmed and met the cast who shared many memorable quotes afterwards. Michelle Dockery, who plays 'Lady Mary', recently revealed the Duchess "smelled like roses".

On Sunday, 2nd May, I awoke to news the Duchess had been admitted to St. Mary's Hospital in the early stages of labour. In the following hours it was announced Kate had given birth to a daughter. Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk in July. I loved the Norfolk christening -- the appearance was the perfect time for the first photos of the family of four.

On the 20th October, it was time for William and Kate's first State banquet. We had been awaiting the white-tie appearance since the couple got married and it certainly didn't disappoint. Kate was the picture of elegance in a bespoke red Jenny Packham cap sleeve gown as she took centre stage, seated beside President Xi of China. As you all know, I do love a tiara appearance and was thrilled to see Kate in the late Queen Mother's Papyrus/Lotus Flower tiara. With a chic updo, the piece looked fabulous and added a regal sparkle to the look. There was plenty of chatter over the other jewels Kate wore too, most notably two beautiful bracelets loaned to Kate by Her Majesty. One in particular is without question a very special piece in particular. It was in fact a wedding gift from Prince Philip, made with diamonds from a tiara belonging to his mother. The other, a choker worn by Queen Mary c. 1920, and later converted to a bracelet worn by the late Queen Mother.


2016 was a significant year when the royals collective focus on mental health came to the fore with Kate's brainchild Heads Together. During a joint speech to mark the launch Kate said, "Too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of judgment stops people from getting the help they need, which can destroy families and end lives. Heads Together wants to help everyone feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing, and to have the practical tools to support their friends and family."

We know the Duchess is a keen photographer, but how does she feel about being on the other side of the lens? As one of the most photographed women in the world, HRH is used to the glare of the camera. Kate has been asked to do a shoot for countless publications and British Vogue was no exception. I think we were all quite surprised when the Duchess was unveiled as British Vogue's centenary issue cover star in June 2016. Much like her portrait, we saw a very informal Kate which was something she wanted. Vogue reported: "Having participated in choosing not only the clothes worn in the shoot and the locations used as a backdrop, but also the photographer who captured the images, the Duchess was pleased with the resulting feeling of informality in the final shots." Kensington Palace said: "The Duchess had never taken part in a photography shoot like this before. She hopes that people appreciate the portraits with the sense of relaxed fun with which they were taken." Kate worked closely with Josh Olins to convey a casual look opting to eschew a glamorous photo shoot at the Palace with gowns and jewels in favour of an outdoorsy spread at Anmer Hall, with her favourite stripey tops and jeans. Again, this is another stellar example of Kate using art to convey a message.

The Duchess was regal in Catherine Walker for the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen at St Paul's Cathedral. Another wonderful look and perfect for the occasion. Below, we see Kate curtsying to the Queen. In 2016, we saw Kate participate in her first documentary, Our Queen at 90. Kate discussed motherhood and praised the Queen's sense of duty and commitment: "Being a mother and new in my job as well, I have no idea how the Queen has managed to do it with four children as well of her own. To manage all those elements of your life, from the family as well as to the work, to the national importance of her role, I think it's extraordinary and also for so long as well. All the time William and I are so struck by the Queen's sense of duty and commitment and I think to do that by yourself would be a very lonely place to be, but I think to have the support of your husband there by your side on those occasions, and behind closed doors as well, I think is very special." Kate continued: "William and I have got quite a long way to go but it really is fantastic and to see and experience as much as they have together. It's very special."

It was a year of milestones, and notable to see overseas engagements accounted for almost half of Kate's overall tally in 2016 (61 out of 140 to be precise). It was a year of firsts, too: the first year the Cambridges undertook two full scale tours; Kate made her first solo overseas visit to the Netherlands; and there was a trip to France for Somme commemorations. If I'm not mistaken it remains the most prominent year for Kate in terms of overseas work.


A key focus for William, Kate and Harry in 2017 was their mental health campaign Heads Together. The trio spoke at a briefing at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Carlton House Terrace to outline the next phase as efforts intensified to create conversations around the world to break the stigma surrounding mental health. The Duchess said, "We have heard time and time again in the course of our work how talking can help heal the hidden challenges we can’t deal with alone, so the question that William, Harry and I have asked ourselves is, how we can get more people to start talking?" This was a fabulous look, featuring the Erdem Evita dress and that hairstyle.

A very stylish moment at the BAFTAs in McQueen.

A number of engagements culminated in a London Marathon with a difference for Heads Together. Efforts supporting William, Kate and Harry's Heads Together initiative had all been leading up to that day. More than 700 Heads Together runners took part in that year's London Marathon, raising money and awareness to change the national conversation around mental health. All 39,000+ runners in the event were given a Heads Together blue headband to help make 2017 the 'mental health marathon'. It is believed the event raised millions for mental health charities.

Unusually, the Cambridges did not visit a Commonwealth country in 2017. Instead, the Foreign Office had one firm focus on their mind: Brexit. The Royal couple were deployed on several visits across Europe in what was described as a "soft power diplomatic charm offensive". William and Kate's first trip as goodwill ambassadors saw them undertake a two-day visit to Paris to bolster Anglo-French relations as Britain prepared to exit the European Union. This stunning Packham number is affectionately remembered as the 'Elsa Gown'.


2018 was an exciting year for the Duchess who was expecting Prince Louis. Below Kate during a visit to the Wimbledon Junior Tennis Initiative. Kate was in her element during tennis exercises; she adores the sport. There was a very sweet moment before she left when the pupils assembled in a uniform line to shake her hand, and one by one a row of little girls hugged Kate instead.

As January drew to a close, the Cambridges began a four-day visit to Sweden and Norway. The European trip was one of a number designed to bolster relations and deploy a touch of soft diplomacy as Brexit unfolded. The tour began in Stockholm with a very fun bandy hockey event at Vasaparken, an outdoor ice-skating venue. This was an incredibly fun photo garnering many a 'photo-caption'.

On 23rd April, Prince Louis Arthur Charles of Cambridge arrived to a delighted Kate.

It was a sparkling appearance for the Duchess at the glittering State banquet in honour of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima's visit. Kate was draped in jewels including the Lover's Knot Tiara, Diana's Collingwood pearls, a stunning pearl necklace from the Queen's vault and shimmering bracelet. The story from the night was news Kate had received the Royal Family Order from the Queen. Traditionally the order was made of ivory, but we knew we wouldn't see the Duchess wearing the material and instead Kate's was created with glass. The Order is awarded by the Sovereign of the United Kingdom to female members of the Royal family as they typically do not wear the commemorative medals men do. The order is a personal memento rather than a State decoration.


Now to 2019...

It was a night of glamour as the Duchess donned a beautiful one-shoulder McQueen gown for the annual BAFTA awards at the Royal Albert Hall. Sarah Burton outdid herself with the design which featured a whimsical flowing skirt and floral detailing on the shoulder. Statement earrings and glittering Jimmy Choo pumps completed the look.

I remember May as the month of 'Back to Nature' and the many appearances we saw during the week the garden was unveiled. Kate shared a preview of the garden with a group of schoolchildren, saying, "I really hope this woodland we've created, in a huge collaboration, really inspires families and kids and communities in general to get outside, enjoy nature, enjoy the outdoors, and really spend quality time together." At the preview in the evening, the Queen joined William and Kate for a tour. Kate incorporated memories from the Queen's life "including carrots and beetroot which she remembers planting as a girl". HM was overheard saying, "Very interesting." Kate replied, "Thank you very much, Your Majesty. We will see you later."

The couple's trip to Pakistan was a highlight of the year. In Lahore, there was a spot of cricket before William and Kate visited SOS Children's Villages -- the largest independent, non-profit development organisation operating across the world. The villages provide alternative families to children without proper parental care. Typically, children of all ages live together in a house with a 'mother' who is responsible for meeting the children's physical needs. During a speech, the Duchess said, "Being here in Pakistan this week, William and I have seen on several occasions how family is at the heart of your culture. Parents, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents all play important roles - you have reminded us exactly what family means. You have shown us too that it is not simply a term that describes the relationship between blood relatives. You have created a home, where children are given the love, protection, and support that will enable them to have a fairer chance in life. Here, women who were once vulnerable, now play the most vital of roles as mothers and it is most heartening to see that you are not doing this alone."


Before 2020 changed our lives in ways we could never have imagined, the year began very much business as usual with the launch of Kate's survey, 5 Big Questions. The Duchess gave her first podcast interview to Giovanna Fletcher of Happy Mum, Happy Baby. Speaking about the survey during the conversation, the Duchess said, "I think ultimately if you look at who’s caring and looking after and nurturing children in the most vital period from pregnancy all the way to the age of five, you know parents and carers are right at the heart of that, and families are right at the heart of that, and although I’ve spoken to the scientists and the service providers, it’s so important to listen to families. What is it that they aspire to? What are their challenges? What we’re doing with the survey is asking people – what is it that matters for them in raising their children today. It’s going to take a long time – I’m talking about a generational change – but hopefully this is the first small step: to start a conversation around the importance of Early Childhood development. It’s not just about happy, healthy children. This is for lifelong consequences and outcomes."

To mark Kate's birthday, KP shared a lovely informal photo by Matt Porteous.

As Covid-19 patient numbers began to sky rocket and the NHS came under colossal strain, the Royal family began to disperse. Before the Cambridges decamped to Anmer Hall with the children, the 'virtual engagement' became a part of the royal schedule.

Adjusting to the new normal meant altering goals and changing plans and priorities, too. In collaboration with her patronage the National Portrait Gallery, the Duchess of Cambridge launched a new photography project to reflect the sense of community, acts of bravery and kindness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement about the Hold Still effort, the Duchess said, "We’ve all been struck by some of the incredible images we’ve seen which have given us an insight into the experiences and stories of people across the country. Some desperately sad images showing the human tragedy of this pandemic and other uplifting pictures showing people coming together to support those more vulnerable." The project became a huge success and leaves a poignant reminder of a year like no other.


We know the centre of Kate's world is her family, and with that in mind, images from 2021 were chosen to reflect that. To mark their tenth wedding anniversary, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared two new images taken by celebrated British photographer Chris Floyd at Kensington Palace. The very sweet picture below of the couple embracing each other is a terrific shot.

Accompanying a message of thanks for ten years of support, the Duke and Duchess also shared a family video filmed in Norfolk last autumn by filmmaker Will Warr.

For their Christmas card -- a family snap taken on holiday in Jordan.

Sending the Duchess warmest wishes for an amazing birthday!

Kate's Favourites