Lessons from a Duchess. How does Kate do it?
It was 2003 the first time we heard the name Kate Middleton, and much like her future mother-in-law, Lady Diana Spencer, as soon as we found out she was dating the future King of England we couldn’t get enough of her. The poor girl was hounded!
I adore everything about her, she is the English Rose personified, charming, intelligent, elegant (so refreshing), conservative (ironically, somewhat shocking in today’s society), and for all intents and purposes the girl that achieved my ultimate dream - she married a prince! What isn’t to like?
While she may not be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey, you cannot deny that there are many things women could be learning from her example today. In my humble opinion we have been long overdue a role model like Kate.
Let the royal lessons begin…
It pays to wait (and be spotless of character)
When you find what is good for you, wait for it. The world called her “Waity Katie” in the years preceding her engagement to William, and the media made a mockery of the fact that she and William spent time getting to know one another before they wed. Is this not a model relationship? So many of us do the “dating dance”, essentially striking marks on the bedpost, and worst of all on our hearts. No future queen could ever have a controversial sexual history, so why should we? Kate has the last laugh. It’s very queenly to wait for the best, and is most becoming of a lady. I think more young women need the confidence to treat themselves like treasure to be earned, as Kate has.
- When you know what you want, and know it’s worth waiting for, do it. Despite what the world says.
- Keep focussed on your goals. Trends come and go, fashions change and seasons come and go but steadfast determination and patience win in the end.
- Ask yourself “is it worth it?”. If you have worked really hard to achieve a goal, be it earning a degree, saving for a house, planning a wedding after a long engagement, or throwing in the towel on a lifestyle change that will make a difference to your health - ask yourself if giving up is worth risking the investment of time.
- It’s actually rather sexy to be conservative and dignified - men rarely treat with respect the kind of girls who give themselves away too easily to any boy who pays them attention.
- Remember that the best things come to those who wait. True love waits. Never settle for less.
- Let the fruits of the spirit be what people notice about you above all things. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is what sets a lady apart and wins hearts. Having this type of countenance raises your self image to royal heights.
Classy wins every time, it’s a simple fact. While other women may grab headlines by posing in skin-tight black dresses with champagne glasses balanced precariously on their bottoms, they grab them for all the wrong reasons. Kate has blossomed into a swan, not everyone is entirely enamoured with her outfit choices but at least they never make the wrong statement. Conservatism wins when you trade on charm and natural appeal rather than how much you can “show off”. To take inspiration from Kate’s closet you only need to follow these rules.
- Keep fabrics natural and high quality. Favour wool, linen, silk and cotton. If it’s made by a local designer or manufactured in your home country then all the better.
- Buy items that won’t date. Those funky shoes with glitter and tassels may be fun, but honestly - how many times will you actually wear them?
- Make like The Queen and wear block colour. It exudes confidence and makes you stand out for the right reasons. A single tone outfit in a flattering colour is far more appealing and “regal” than resembling a rainbow.
- Avoid wearing trousers and jeans on social occasions past 6pm. Ladies can wear skirts and dresses - embrace it! Add more skirts and dresses to your wardrobe full stop.
- Tights and stockings are always appropriate - they keep you warm, preserve your modesty and make legs look flawless. Learn to embrace the things you once thought “old-fashioned”. They’ve stood the test of time for a reason.
- Keep yourself covered. No-one needs to see your shoulders in church or your thighs and midriff anywhere but the beach. Modesty is key when dressing like a duchess.
- Keep it appropriate (and ideally festive) at all times. Dress for the occasion and embrace the seasonality of fashion available to ladies. Summer whites, winter wools, festive reds, and fun florals in spring. Have fun with accessories and colour to show a nod to the event. Kate will often wear the national colour of the flag or accessories gifted to the royal family from that country.
- With that in mind - shop for new pieces from local designers and manufacturers when travelling. Kilts and tartan in Scotland, linen and lace from France, sari’s in India, beadwork from Africa, stetsons from America. It’ll add more meaning and authenticity to your wardrobe.
- Accessorise plainly. Build a simple, tasteful, and quality capsule wardrobe of accessories rather than taking the more-is-more approach.
- Don’t be afraid to have a “signature look”. While it’s fun to have fun with fashion, don’t let it become fickle. Choose quality over quantity every time.
There is strength in silence
In today’s world it seems we all like to be heard (myself included), and many of us like to make as much noise as possible both online and in the presence of others. Beautiful things don’t ask for attention and Kate knows this. Moderate your social media, know when to shut your mouth and most importantly - never use hate words. Compliments are queenly and anything but will stick like glue. Employers and beau’s (and their parents) can seek you out and everything you post on the internet before they’ve even met you. What are you saying about you? What judgements can be made about you without you knowing? Guard your privacy like a tiger. You only need to show the world what you wish them to see. Exclusivity is elegant.
- Edit your social media feeds - delete all that is negative, hateful, and potentially offensive.
- Guard your heart and your mouth - think before you speak and type. What you say demonstrates more about you than it does about the subject you are discussing.
- Curate your circle of friends. Can they be trusted? If not, release them.
- Show one great picture that sums up an event rather than splashing it all over the internet. Some things are best kept secret to make them special.
- Keep a little mystery.
Family comes first
Being in “The Firm” means that Kate is in a very unique situation. There is a heritage with her new family, a hierarchy that cannot be messed with, and as such - she knows her place. This should be the same for all of us. Families work when everyone shows respect for their parents, siblings and children and while we may not all be able to be born into or marry into a stable environment there is no reason why we cannot make an effort to create it.
- Make your home a haven. It is where you spend time with your family and should be as peaceful as possible. Create traditions and keep it clean. Disrespect for your nest demonstrates that you don’t care for those who share it with you. Clean up!
- Respect the structure of the family. You may not agree with everything, and you don’t have to - but you should respect it. People are different.
- Build and maintain a name you can be proud of. Your surname links you to your own mini tribe. Cambridge, Middleton, Smith, Jones, Pettitt, or Matthews. What will people think of your clan when they hear your name being called? Be proud to uphold your family’s brand name.
- One day you’ll be (or already are) in charge of owning the title of “Mrs”. Be it marrying into the Royal family or to your dream spouse (for Kate the two are interlinked) - regardless of obtaining a royal title, if you want to be a wife your husband will be proud of, your work starts right now. Respect yourself, keep your name clean. If you respect you, so will he.
- Start a family when the time is right for you. Not when society, your family, or friends dictate.
- Be a model to your peers and especially your children, you are their first and their last example. Make it a good one. People become the average of who they spend the most time with - you can make a difference to that average. Raise the quality. Be the change.
- Support your spouse, always. Until death do you part. Even if they are irritating you today, remember your vows now bind you and the mirror always reflects back. Give them grace because you’ll never know when you might need some in return.
Predictability breeds comfort
If the Royal family are anything, it is reliable. They are hardworking, steadfast and always on time. We have enough flakiness in this world and real ladies are never lazy. Time-keeping and respect for other people’s schedules shows good manners. Who can rely on you to show up?
Responsibility is the epitome of achievement. Predictability is in itself a responsibility. One day, when William is king, Catherine will have the greatest responsibility on her shoulders that most of us couldn’t bear. She will be a wife to a monarch, scrutinised more than ever, have to uphold all that is traditional and expected of a member of a royal household, continue to raise and support her growing children (and potentially by then, grandchildren), all the while doing her “job” as an ambassador to the Commonwealth and still looking beautiful and pleasing to all that come into contact with her. Romanticism of the “job” of being a princess aside – do you think you could uphold all of the grace that the Duchess of Cambridge embodies? While we may not endure as much scrutiny as Catherine, there are many things we can learn from her sense of responsibility.
- Be available. Think of those around you and their needs before you own. This can mean as little as serving them a drink before yourself. On a larger scale, who might need your help this week? From helping a friend move house to raising some public awareness of something good they are doing?
- Do not let your emotions rule you. No one likes to keep the company of an emotional hothead. While emotions are very valid, is it appropriate to bring them into the office, or throw an unconsidered ‘emotional load’ on your spouse or children? Sometimes forcing yourself to wear a ready smile can be enough to help you put things into perspective. Does it really matter that much? Who may be having a worse day than you?
- Be supportive. This doesn’t mean you have to wade in and try and “fix” everything for everyone, but words of wisdom always go far (note, there is a big difference in wisdom and opinion). The simple act of lending a listening ear is always welcome. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
- Stand for something. Find a cause that you connect with and help to raise awareness - life has more meaning when you do things beyond simply trying to meet your own selfish needs. Working to pay the rent and after that putting Jimmy Choo’s on your feet becomes rather meaningless in the long run. What do you care about?
There are no ceilings
She married a prince for goodness sake, something most of us dreamed of as little girls. Remember your dreams, work towards them and stay steadfast. Giving up at the first hurdle is not the answer.
- Educate yourself on the things that matter. We may not all be good at algebra, we weren’t meant to be. However what the world needs more of are people who are emotionally and socially intelligent. Learn to give, share, and help. Learn to put other people’s needs before your own.
- You can be anything you want to be. Be that a duchess (ok, that may be tricky but you can be worthy of the standard), a doctor, baker, artist, mother, nurse, teacher or ballerina. No doors are closed to you. Act like it.
- Don’t forget your trade - your ability to show kindness. It’s a long way down when you reach the top. Make like Kate and be pleasant to everyone you meet and need along the way. Today’s office cleaner may be tomorrow’s CEO. Have people remember you for the right reasons.
Wake up lady! You don’t know what you are missing
Lastly, you have to be “wide awake” at all times. Drifting off isn’t an option, you need to be in the moment and thinking about every element of the situation you are in every single day. This needn’t feel as stiff as it sounds, it is simply a matter of good manners. Is your language appropriate, are you listening intently, are you including everyone in the conversation?
- Respect yourself first. Learn the truth of who you are and what your purpose is as a woman.
- Do you have good manners? What do you still need to learn regarding social etiquette?
- Are your standards high enough? Be honest.
- Be a lady at all times, it isn’t hard to do - reading books written on the subject is the first step.
- Find a mentor and learn about them, what did they do to get where they are today and what effort and tactics can you apply to your own life or daily routine?
- Remember that every day is a fresh start. Who you were yesterday doesn’t have to define who you are today.
- Having fun, spending time with those you love and knowing who you are is the key to “making it” in life. Nothing more.
If all else fails and you find it too much effort to write your own fairytale, you can of course forget the Cinderella story altogether and live life as an ugly step-sister. It’s a comfortable existence but one that will never win the heart of a prince.
Some of us never really grow out of our childhood fantasies, and why should we when it was so much fun? I found a mentor in Kate Middleton and it has changed my life. I’m so thankful we have such a positive role model to take the place of all the cheap substitutes we are spoon-fed by the media. You can read about my journey to becoming a “daily duchess” and the lessons I learned along the way in “Ladies Like Us’, available now on Amazon.
Did you know?
It may sound silly, but I consider April 29th, 2011 as one of the best days of my life, the public jubilation was palpable, and I witnessed a fairytale with my own eyes. The Duchess of Cambridge was such an inspiration to me from that moment on, she is the reason I put pen to paper and wrote ‘Ladies Like Us’. Catherine is mentioned in a few chapters, and when it was first published, I sent a copy to Kensington Palace. I’m ever hopeful that she read it!
The British Royal Family themselves also influenced my second book, ‘English Etiquette’, I do hope you enjoy reading them.
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