Monday marked an important moment in the history of the Royal Family.
Not just because it was the day the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed a new addition to their family, but also because it was the day we finally saw the kind of woman the girl once disparagingly dismissed as ‘Waity Katie’ has become.
And, wow, what a woman. Just five hours after giving birth, when most of us would be shuffling around in slippers trying to remember our own name, Kate was coiffed and ready for her close-up, introducing her new baby to the world on the hospital steps, not an eyelash out of place. She made delivering 8lb 7oz of strapping baby boy look about as taxing as a bikini wax. Possibly less so.
Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge pose for a photo with their newborn baby son
Even the staunchest republican could not deny that she has style. In fact, style, determination — and something more unexpected, too. Character traits only those who know her best appreciate, and that belie her ever-smiling, seemingly compliant girl-next-door image.
What we’ve learned this week is that Kate — like her mother, Carole — has a core of steel, an unwavering focus and a burning ambition that may yet surprise all of us. It’s not just that she understands the importance of her role as royal consort and takes it incredibly seriously, fulfilling her duty with diligence and grace.
Nor is it the fact that she has succeeded in keeping her own identity despite the inevitable tensions of her role, remaining respectful of royal convention while at the same time gently, but firmly, ploughing her own furrow.
Mirror image: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge yesterday on the steps on the Lindo Wing and Princess Diana (1961 – 1997) and Prince Charles leaving St Mary’s Hospital, London with their new-born son Prince Harry
Nor even is it the way she provides unwavering support to her husband, enabling him to flourish both as a Prince and a father without crowding him out or competing for the limelight.
No, the truly remarkable thing about Kate is the way she has quietly, with steady focus, manoeuvred herself into the unassailable position of royal matriarch, the fulcrum around which the next generation of young royals revolves and in whose hands the future of the monarchy ultimately rests.
Let’s face it, she didn’t need to have a third child. In fact, given the serious health problems she faces during the early stages of every pregnancy — suffering from crippling morning sickness that confines her to bed — one might have thought her slightly nuts to want to go through it all again.
But Kate clearly isn’t a woman to let trivial matters like agonising illness get in her way.
Even — or perhaps that should be especially — if it means establishing the grip of the younger generation on Palace power.
Thanks to Kate, Prince Andrew is now so far down the pecking order in the succession to the throne he no longer has to ask the sovereign’s permission to marry. One more baby and the Queen’s youngest, Prince Edward, will be out of the top ten altogether.
The Duchess of Cambridge leaves the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital with her newborn baby son accompanied by Prince William
It would be easy to dismiss this as mere coincidence. But since William made that documentary about his late mother last year, commemorating 20 years since Diana’s untimely death, it’s become increasingly clear that Princes William and Harry — along with Kate and Meghan — want to be the royal modernisers their mother hoped, but never had the chance, to be.
William remains meticulously respectful of his father’s position, of course, but he also comes across as frustrated, impatient. That is why he has cast his charity work and wider ambitions as part and parcel of keeping his mother’s legacy alive.
But there is also something else — something perhaps less visible, yet more visceral — at work here too: his desire to vindicate her. As his loyal, perceptive wife, Kate must feel this keenly. Which perhaps goes some way towards explaining her sartorial choice for the photocall on Monday.
Kate waves to the sky as she stands holding her newborn baby
The red dress with its Peter Pan collar was almost identical to the outfit worn by Princess Diana in 1984 after she gave birth to Harry.
Of course, Diana herself was no stranger to a bit of sartorial signalling (remember the famous ‘revenge’ dress?), but this was remarkable in its boldness and the associations it sparked.
It also spoke volumes not only about how Kate sees herself in relation to her royal status, but also about her relationship with William himself.
Put it this way, if Sigmund Freud were alive today, he would have his work cut out unravelling that particular Oedipal tangle. William’s wife, perfectly mirroring his late mother. Move along now, nothing to see here. Except, of course, the ghost of a woman who, more than 20 years after her death, is finally levelling the score via her heirs.
Kate is central to that mission. Without her strength and loyalty, William might not have the confidence or conviction to be as assertive as he increasingly is.
And now that Meghan Markle is about to join the clan, the royal tectonic plates will shift still further. After she and Harry walk down the aisle next month and settle into Kensington Palace, this vibrant, youthful new royal power base will be firmly established.
In fact, it’s already happening: the royal baby was due on Friday but failed to show up until Monday, thus eclipsing ITV’s documentary about Camilla, in which the Duchess of Cornwall came across as she really is — a genuinely warm, funny, kind woman who has, in many ways, been the salvation of Prince Charles.
This ought to have been a golden opportunity to consolidate themselves in the affections of the nation. Instead, Monday turned into the Kate show.
And this is only the beginning. Soon Kensington Palace will be oozing Hollywood glamour and, one assumes, teeming with yet more photogenic baby royals. And Kate will be at the heart of it all. Consort, confidante, counsellor — and Queen Bee.
There was a time when Kate’s only ambition seemed to be to marry a prince. But over the years it has become clear that she desires so much more. Quite what that means for the future of the monarchy remains to be seen.
Either way, congratulations and hats off to her. It just goes to show: never underestimate a Middleton woman.
STOP STIGMATISING CAESAREAN BIRTH
Kate makes it look easy, but for many women a natural birth is impossible. Which is why the news that one-in-four hospitals are denying expectant mothers elective Caesareans is deeply worrying.
There are many reasons why women ask for Caesareans, from psychological trauma following a difficult previous birth to concerns about the size of their baby. Yet still society — and sections of midwifery — seeks to stigmatise them as lazy and cowardly and force them to undergo a process that may cause lasting physical and mental damage.
When women’s rights have never been championed more loudly, it beggars belief that some mothers are treated this way. But that is what you get if you fail to subscribe to the fashionable view that Caesareans are unnatural and costly. The former may be true — though no one would apply the principle to fixing a broken limb.
The latter is a myth: according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the medium-term cost of a planned Caesarean is less than £100 more than for a vaginal delivery.
With childbirth, there is no right or wrong way, just what works best for the individual. Medical staff should respect that — and allow women the right to choose.
Delighted to see a woman finally joining the ranks of great men in Parliament Square. But while the Mayor of London trumpets his involvement in the new statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett, might he spare a thought for the two young girls who were stabbed just around the corner from me in West London on Monday night — two more to add to the grim toll of knife crime gripping the capital under his watch.
Less virtue signalling and self-promotion, Mr Khan, and more action please.
Amber Rudd was pilloried last week for suggesting that civil service incompetence may have had some bearing on the Windrush issue.
Rightly so: a minister bears responsibility no matter what the circumstances of the mistake. But it may be worth noting that a chap called Sir Simon McDonald posted a picture on Twitter in which he described the Golden Temple in Amritsar — one of the most revered spiritual sites of Sikhism — as a ‘mosque’.
Sir Simon is Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office — and its most senior civil servant. If that’s the level of cultural insensitivity at the top, imagine the rest…