The vaccination photo of Kate Middleton demonstrates how much she has changed.
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years, and a new photograph demonstrates just how dramatic the transformation has been.
Today’s central issue in the royal world is not a dyspeptic adult prince, nor is it the multimillion-dollar maneuvering of a duke and duchess, nor is it even remotely related to Oprah Winfrey.
No, the question today is: Who the hell knew Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, could be quite so… seductive?
Are you poised? Certain. Is it lovely? Naturally. Are you the embodiment of ladylike grace? That is self-evident.
However, substituting a figure-hugging, short-sleeved tee for her signature belted and buttoned coats? Oh my, we’re about to enter some very unfamiliar and intriguing territory here.
On Saturday, Kensington Palace released an image of the 39-year-old receiving her covid vaccine, but what was remarkable was that Kate rolled up in a casual white H&M top and some particularly on-trend mum jeans for her date with modern science and history. (I imagine that as I type, a smouldering pile of redundant Zara skinny jeans is making its way to meet their high-street maker in the Kensington Palace garden.)
With what appeared to be a broad grin hidden behind her mask, the shot is a far cry from the staged, stuffy portraits of the future Queen we have come to know and dislike.
At least temporarily, a woman whose sartorial maturity is typically comparable to Margaret Thatcher during her Downing Street years was gone, with not a sensible neckline, shoe, or button-up floral shirt in sight.
And this is critical.
Because Kate does not simply throw on whatever she can find on her Persian rug-carpeted Kensington Palace floor, zip out for her vaccination, and have her assistant snap a quick photo with their iPhone.
Outings and appearances are planned with the military precision that one would associate with a Shonda Rhimes television production or a Middle Eastern ground invasion.
That this new image of her – relaxed and genuinely at ease – perfectly encapsulates the subtle but profound transformation Kate has undergone in recent years.
While the world’s attention was riveted on the ongoing Sussex drama, while we all stood transfixed as Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s fairytale crumbled, Kate was quietly undergoing a profound personal transformation.
To fully appreciate how far she has come, it’s necessary to go back to May 2011, when newlyweds William and Kate were summoned to perform diplomatic duties and to welcome then-President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to the palace.
Looking at the images of that Kate now, she resembles any person who is tentatively navigating their way through a new job after only a few weeks – on edge and perpetually unsure of where the loo might be.
While those nerves appeared to gradually morph into a less acute form of low-lying unease, Kate never appeared completely at ease. She didn’t appear to be treading carefully as much as she appeared to be tiptoeing along in a perpetual state of vague apprehension.
Being the Duchess of Cambridge appeared to be a nerve-wracking position.
However, over the last few years, that slightly jittery, underlying tension has gradually dissipated, and a new Kate has emerged, a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and confident in her work.
The duchess’s new image is similar to her husband Prince William’s recent covid vaccination photo, which revealed that, far from resembling a suet pudding in line to the throne, the future king secretly possesses some impressively buff arms.
Following the image’s release, the United Kingdom grappled with an unusual and novel thought: Could William actually be dishonest?
Again, none of this, I believe, is coincidental, coming less than a month after the couple launched their gleaming new YouTube channel.
They launched in early May and have since amassed over 550,000 subscribers and established themselves as adept quasi-Millennial content creators, amassing millions of views with their heartfelt video offerings.
In March of this year, Kate made her most overtly radical move as a member of the royal family in a decade by paying an unannounced visit to the memorial for murder victim Sarah Everard.
It was a watershed moment for Kate, with the perpetually measured HRH dabbling in the political fray that erupted in the aftermath of Everard’s assassination, very clearly putting her sense of justice ahead of dogmatic adherence to the royal status quo.
It was a delectable and very promising indication of her rebelliousness.
All of this – the social media push, the casual new images, the new-found assurance – would be noteworthy at any point in time; however, the fact that they accomplished all of this while the royal family is mired in one of the most turbulent and damaging periods since Diana, Princess of Wales’s death, makes their accomplishments all the more impressive.
Buckingham Palace has barely survived the drama and strife of the last 18 months, from Prince Andrew’s cataclysmic BBC interview to Harry and Meghan’s agonizing exit and the now-Stateside couple’s recent penchant for blistering television tell-alls.
By contrast, William and Kate have not only emerged relatively unscathed, but have risen from the ashes, like two Marks & Spencer-obsessed phoenixes, and thrown themselves into their royal roles with renewed zeal and vigour.
Consider as well that the Cambridges have just returned from a highly successful tour of Scotland, which will earn them an abundance of gold stars and additional pieces of congratulatory shortbread the next time they visit Buckingham Palace.
Then there’s the fact that they’ve engaged in 174 engagements so far this year, according to The Telegraph, compared to 93 runs at this point in 2020. True, last year was far from average, and for the majority of that time, they were confined to their ten-bedroom Norfolk mansion, Anmer Hall. Nonetheless, the dramatic increase in their numbers suggests that something more is happening behind the scenes.
This is a far cry from just a few years ago, when the British press continued to portray the Cambridges as work-shy HRHs more interested in skiing in Courchevel or sunbathing in Mustique than in putting in the arduous but necessary regal hard yards.
(In March 2017, the prince drew the ire of Fleet Street by skipping the Commonwealth Day ceremony at Westminster Abbey in favor of the Swiss ski slopes.)
It is not simply that they have committed themselves fully to the royal grind; they have truly found their stride.
What is frequently overlooked is that Kate is, by all accounts, an inherently shy person; not only has she overcome her timidity, but she now appears to be enjoying her royal duties.
What distinguishes this new Kate is not simply that she has overcome her shyness, but that we are finally witnessing genuine confidence and joy in her.
Thus, Kate, Duchess of Denim, is invited to the party. We’ve waited a decade to meet you.