For the past eight years, the Duchess of Cambridge has walked around with that honking huge diamond and sapphire engagement ring on her left hand, a ceaseless, priceless, hefty reminder of her tragic mother-in-law.
Now, sadly, she has been lumped with another unfortunate link Diana: Experiencing just how brutally the press can change its tune. Goodbye cheerful fashion updates, hello to a veritable orgy of negative press.
Over the weekend, a story appeared in London’s The Times which dubbed Kate the “Vaporiser-In-Chief” and focused on her alleged falling out with her Norfolk neighbour, Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley. “No one wins against Kate,” we are told and that “Meghan, of course, is the next person Kate will eliminate.”
This depiction of Kate is one of a woman who is crafty and who cruelly amputates friends when she decides they are persona non grata. That image is galaxies apart from the carefully honed construct of bland perfection we have been fed for years.
We will likely never know if there is any truth in The Times piece but what is apparent is just how dramatically the narrative about the future Queen has changed in less than a year.
For nearly a decade, Kate has enjoyed being the subject of a steady stream of (mostly) glowing reports. The stories rarely deviated from an inoffensive and limited set of topics — her relationship with Wills, her fashion choices and her pregnancies (both real and those born of the feverish minds of magazine editors desperate for a sales bump).
Her meticulously crafted image was of a dutiful and lovely picture of wifeliness and motherhood, not a woman who could feel spite or anger or who would wilt in the face of an (alleged) rival.
She smiled, looked nice, boosted the British economy by billions and stayed cunningly silent. She was, to a large extent, a perfectly turned out, nude tights-loving enigma.
Unfortunately like Diana nearly four decades before her, Kate has now learnt that there is a sad inevitability to the media’s ability to capriciously and dramatically change course. All it took was the introduction of a supposed rival to the cast of characters who live behind Palace gates and ta-da! The media finally had a foolproof foil to pit Perfect Kate against.
Within days of Prince Harry announcing he had proposed to Suits star Meghan Markle, claims that the two women were feuding had broken.
In the months since then, the flood of tawdry stories about Meghan and Kate has become a roaring river: They were “Duelling Duchesses,” there were “Fights, Lies and Tears At The Palace” and the royal wives were embroiled in a “tit-for-tat war” behind the Kensington Palace curtains.
Kate is now either presented as a victim or a villain. Her consciously bland-but-sweet image has vanished and we are now left with a version of Kate that swerves from martyr to master manipulator depending on the day and the publication.
Last week we were introduced to a new guest star in this grubby but captivating royal reality show, a glamorous Marchioness with the hint of a racy past and a rich, older husband. (Jackie Collins, RIP, couldn’t make this stuff up).
Kate, the reports claimed, has decided to “phase out” poor Rose for some unspecified sin. (Maybe she borrowed Kate’s Hunter wellies and never returned them?) Then, a report in the Daily Mail suggested that the whole situation was untrue and the story was simply the product of a nasty anti-Kate smear campaign.
Princess Diana was barely back from her actual honeymoon when the press tide turned on her. In some ways, Kate has been incredibly lucky to have enjoyed this extended idyll for as long as she did. The only comforting thing must be knowing that the pendulum can easily swing back the other way, and fast.
Kate hasn’t thrived in the royal goldfish bowl for so long without picking up a keen sense of how to control her image.
And, nothing would do that faster than say, popping out baby number four. Just a thought.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and freelance writer. Continue the conversation @DanielaElser