From an outsider’s perspective, Kate Middleton transitioned seamlessly to royal life.
On April 29, 2011, she walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey a private citizen and returned as the Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of a prince and Britain’s future Queen.
Prince William and Kate first met at university in 2001 and followed a ten-year road to the altar, which included a lifetime of lessons on how to act as a member of the Royal Family.
Eleven years after the wedding of the century and three children later, Kate has taken on more duties and has spoken out on important issues like children’s development.
It’s hard to remember the shy new royal who seemed to avoid public speaking, prompting concerns – apparently even from the Queen herself – that she lacked her own identity.
Get the news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for a Mirror newsletter here
Described as a “natural introvert” by those close to her, the Duchess’ evolution to one of the most influential royals has been monumental.
As well as mastering the art of becoming the perfect princess, the Duchess had to gain the confidence of the Queen, the Royal Family and the public, while also figuring out her own place within The Firm.
We’ve taken a look back at the Duchess of Cambridge’s introduction to royal life – from “princess school” to forming family alliances and her first meeting with Her Majesty the Queen.
Meeting the Queen and first impressions
Although Prince William’s romance with Kate blossomed during their university days, it wasn’t until years later that Kate officially met the Monarch for the first time.
The long-awaited first meet was in 2008 at the wedding of William’s cousin Peter Phillips to his now ex-wife Autumn.
Recalling the introduction during an interview to mark her engagement to Prince William, Kate said: “It was in amongst a lot of other guests and she was very friendly.”
But despite the warm greeting, the Queen reportedly did have her reservations about Kate as a future wife for her grandson.
John Stillwell/PA Wire)
Royal expert Katie Nicholl claims the Queen always liked Kate but was worried she didn’t have an identity of her own before she married into the Royal Family.
In her book, The Making of a Royal Romance, Katie writes: “Privately she had serious concerns and believed that Kate needed to have a job and an identity in her own right before an engagement was announced.”
However, it seems the Queen’s doubts were short-lived and, before marrying William, Kate was invited to spend some time at the Queen’s Scottish retreat Balmoral.
Keen for Kate to feel welcome, the Monarch reportedly gave Kate a rare privilege by allowing her to take photos while at Balmoral, knowing how much she loved photography.
And the bond between the soon-to-be in-laws continued to blossom.
In a sign of her approval, Her Majesty allowed Kate to wear her Cartier Halo tiara on her wedding day.
According to royal author Victoria Murphy, the Duchess and the Queen actually have very similar personalities.
She told Yahoo UK: “I’ve always thought that Kate has more in common personality-wise with the Queen – not an extrovert, but quietly self-assured with a love of the outdoors and the ability to compartmentalise.”
Learning to be the perfect princess
Kate Middleton didn’t come from a royal or high society background, so she had a lot to learn in the run up to her wedding.
According to the 2017 Amazon Prime documentary, Kate Middleton: Working Class to Windsor, Kate took private lessons with the Queen herself on “how to be a royal wife” before the big day.
“From the beginning, Kate Middleton had a great deal of support from the Royal Family which was really instructed by the Queen,” journalist Ashley Pearson explained in the documentary.
“This was to make sure she knew as much as she could possibly know and what to do in every situation – bearing in mind, of course, that she didn’t grow up in this world.”
As for what Kate’s secret princess lessons involved, Ashley revealed: “There were things like learning how to get out of a carriage without exposing your modesty and learning how to bend down to get flowers from a young girl without exposing your modesty.
“Things that you would never think you’d have to learn but, of course, a woman in her position would certainly need to know.
“There were all kinds of small details and little bits of etiquette – how to sit, who to curtsy to, who not to curtsy to, what fork to use and whatever else they felt she needed to know.”
Kate was reportedly careful from the get-go not to upstage senior members of the family and showed a willingness to remain in the background.
She also stuck to a key rule the family lives by – never complain, never explain – the idea being that members of The Firm keep quiet on their personal matters.
Royal commentator Ingrid Seward recently shared her thoughts on Kate’s transition from nervous new royal to accomplished duchess.
“She has learned to overcome her shyness,” said Ingrid. “Ella She is patient, and she has the ability to listen. And she has discovered she has this ability with people, she is very good with the very young and the very old. That is like ella Diana was.”
Kate was widely accepted into the Royal Family from the outset and her close bonds with certain family members undoubtedly helped to ease her adjustment to public life.
One of the most seemingly-natural relationships she formed was with Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
Despite the pair’s 17-year age gap, a fun and relaxed friendship bloomed, with the two often seen chatting away and giggling at events.
As Sophie married into the Royal Family 12 years before Kate, it appears she was happy to show her the ropes of royal life.
And this has been evident on the rare occasions that the two women have carried out engagements together, according to body language expert Judi James.
She told the Express: “Sophie’s formula does appear to have been copied by Kate too as, so far, she has managed to tread the very fine line of creating interest that is positive but not unmanageable.
“Many of the poses of the two women together show Sophie face-checking Kate with quite strong bouts of watchful-looking eye contact to suggest she’s taking a semi-maternal approach.”
AFP via Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge found another supportive figure in the Duchess of Cornwall.
It was Camilla who reached out to Kate to offer her future step-daughter-in-law some words of advice in the lead up to her wedding.
In his book, Battle of Brothers, royal expert and biography Robert Lacey writes: “Camilla had confided to Kate the secret of hanging on to a busy prince: fit your timetable – well, basically your whole life – around his.”
However, despite Camilla’s advice, Lacey claims that this wasn’t really possible for Kate as William’s diary was “un-fit-roundable”.
Years later, according to the Daily Mail, Camilla was spotted having a long lunch with Kate and her sister Pippa as well as Camilla’s daughter Laura just weeks before the big day.
A fellow diner, sitting just two tables away, told the paper: “I heard Camilla saying ‘if I can give you one bit of advice’ – Kate was really enjoying the moment.”
Kate’s special bond with Camilla was also provided when the Duchess of Cornwall gifted her a personalized gold bracelet.
The bracelet is thought to have been given as a wedding gift and featured a charm etched with Kate and Camilla’s monogram.
First royal duties
After the royal wedding, the next nerve-wracking event for Kate was her first official duties as duchess.
After the big day, Kate and William took a whole month away from the spotlight, but their first engagement together was a high profile one.
The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met the then-President of the United States, Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle, when they came to London.
The couples met at Buckingham Palace on May 24, 2011 during the President’s state visit to Britain.
From June 30 to July 8 that year, newlyweds William and Kate traveled to Canada for their first royal tour.
Many considered Kate to be shy on early engagements during her first year of royal life, however her arrival at each stop was widely welcomed by the crowds.
The years that followed would see Kate catapulted into the limelight – from the London Olympics to the Queen’s jubilee and the announcement that she and Prince Willian were expecting their first child, Prince George.
Kate also developed her royal passions, including an important early-years initiative and co-creating the royal foundation.
Over a decade into her royal role, Kate has blossomed into a confident senior member of The Firm – but royal expert Phil Dampier says “the best is yet to come.”
He told the Daily Mail: “When Kate first became a royal she was incredibly nervous. I remember talking to her at a reception on a tour of Canada in 2012 and she just gabbled and didn’t make any sense at all.
“Ten years on she has become an accomplished public speaker and is full of confidence.
“With Harry and Meghan off the scene and Andrew out in the cold, as well as Charles and Camilla and Anne in they seventies, the whole future rests with William and Kate. Fortunately they look up to the task and I’m sure her best is yet to come.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.