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Kate's Mother's Day Speech

Sunday, March 26, 2017

On Thursday, Kate gave a speech to promote mental health awareness for mothers and introduce the Out of the Blue film series of the same theme. Many have hailed it as her "meatiest" presentation yet, particularly applauding Kate's admission that she has found motherhood daunting at times. I was very moved by the mothers who commented on this blog attesting to how meaningful and supportive Kate's comments were to you. Those are the best accolades Kate's speech could get--feedback from real parents who felt uplifted and affirmed by her words.

On a secondary level, however, I was struck by a growing assertiveness from the duchess in this speech. Kate has been a predominantly silent figure in the decade she has spent in the spotlight. In the entire time she dated William, we only heard her voice once, and that was by chance. Kate has been something of an enigma, and inevitably we have all have projected a variety of assumptions and personal preferences onto her smiling image. Her early speeches and interviews have been scripted and sweet, further entrenching her cotton-candy image. But, as Kate speaks more, a window begins to crack open into her actual personality. Who she is and what she really thinks. 

In her Best Beginnings speech I heard support and encouragement, but I also heard a relatively private woman publicly stand her ground on a fundamental issue of contention between her choices and the public's complaints. It was just a hint of the "does Kate work enough" debate. Kate almost directly addressed the criticism that we often hear--that she can't claim to be a busy mom, because she has access to nannies and staff that many women cannot afford. Kate said:
Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience. However, at times it has also been a huge challenge-even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not.

I heard a lot of things in Kate's speech, but most of all I heard her claim the right to her role and reinforce that she isn't going to shift under pressure. She defined that primary role not as global ambassador or charity patron or even princess, but as mother:
You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost.
Kate's image has been sketched by her smiling still shots, which might have conveyed a more biddable personality than is the reality. Both in her choices on speech topics and even more in the candid conversations she has with fans, to which we are increasingly privy, a much stronger and self-directed persona is emerging.

For those who followed Kate when she was dating William, we already have had the hints of Kate's tough core, and certainly we have seen her presence and strength in the stressful and upsetting moments she has had to tough through in public, like the day she spent touring in South East Asia as topless photos of her were published in France. We have inferred this strength despite her silence, but with the Best Beginnings speech, I think we might start to see more of Kate asserting herself vocally. 

Kate's direction as a mother has been evident, too, in the way the Cambridges have raised their children. While Diana wanted to give her boys a normal upbringing, she didn't quite achieve her goal. For the moment, it seems that Kate is coming about as close as possible to an average childhood for her tykes. The couple's retreat to the country in the early days of their family life, Kate's strong bond with her family, and the average messy play days George clearly enjoys with his mother and grandmother, all attest to Kate's laser focus on providing a carefree and happy childhood to both her little ones. 

On Friday Kensington Palace made a surprising announcement. Prince George will not attend the prestigious Wetherby in London, where both his father and Prince Harry were pupils. The press and public alike were sure that George would begin at the newly opening Kensington location, but instead it has been released that he will attend Thomas's Battersea, a co-ed school that is a full half hour drive from KP. I am confident that this is due in large part to Kate's influence on the decision. 

Kate had to address her own advantages in her speech, but she didn't have to approach the speech in the way she did. She could have discussed the challenges of parenthood and highlighted the greater difficulty of those without nannies. Instead, she claimed equality with other parents, which is not to say she doesn't appreciate that she has more help than some, but that at a fundamental level being a mother cannot be outsourced. She has the same expectations and burdens as the next mom, and as much of a right to fulfill her role in the best and most involved way she can. Kate noted: 
Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother. It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together. 
Nannies can't take on those burdens of love and worry, joy and exhaustion for Kate. Only she can love George and Charlotte with the all-consuming passion of a mother. Only Kate can feel the complete pressure to shape and raise her little ones to their full potential. Motherhood at its fundamental level belongs to Kate just as much as it does to every other parent regardless of social class or privilege and she clearly has no intention of giving that up. 

A Happy Mothering Sunday to Kate and to all mothers. You are absolutely irreplaceable and very literally make the world go round. Thank you for all you do to raise up a strong and healthy society. 

Kate Recycles Eponine For Out of the Blue Screening

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Duchess of Cambridge arrived this morning at the Royal College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians looking radiant in a recycle. Today was an event that could be broadly characterized under Heads Together, the umbrella organization created by William, Harry, and Kate to promote discussions about mental health, but more particularly, Kate was appearing for partner charity Best Beginnings. 

In what will be a bitter-sweet point for long-time Kate followers, Kate was accompanied by Sophie Agnew rather than Rebecca Deacon. You can see her above exiting the car, and here below standing in the background.  No word has been given about Rebecca's successor, but this might be a hint of announcements to come.

Today, Kate was celebrating the launch of Out of the Blue, a series of educational films produced by Best Beginnings that revolve around maternity and the mental health issues that can arise from pregnancy and early child-rearing. Not only are the films meant to aid mothers, but also to support the "support team." The films are meant to educate dads and even kids about the invisible, but very real challenges, some women face during the sometimes taxing journey of motherhood.

Kate gave a brief address to the gathered health professionals and activists who had come for the launch. Her remarks have garnered quite a few headlines.  Not to be a tease, truly, but I have a few thoughts about Kate's comments today, and there are enough of them that I am saving them for a second post. Don't get mad at me, it is taking real discipline here to refrain.

I say I was particularly struck by Kate's increasing confidence as a public speaker. It is very easy to be an audience member and I think we forget how nerve-racking it is to get up in front of a crowd and talk! Certainly there are people who are old pros, but the majority, and at this early stage in her career as a royal Kate qualifies as a member of the majority, it just isn't that easy! Maybe because I am called upon at times to be a public speaker, I really scrutinize the details. Today, Kate had a podium that wasn't tall enough for her.  Rather than being able to rest her speech and her hands on a steadying surface, she had to hold it up just below the level of the microphone. Yet, she was focused and poised and passionate in her presentation. It is one small thing, but I am really impressed by how Kate has grown as a public speaker since we saw her first remarks at EACH five years ago.

Kate did watch one of the films before leaving the auditorium with that glow that comes after a successful public performance. She was then off to visit with mothers and fathers who have benefited from Best Beginnings work. 

Richard Palmer 

I love this video by Rebecca English of Kate joining a group of parents. She sits and settles in and her face says, "HEY guys!" and then it seems she remembers the cameras and her expressions changes to, "oops, I'm a princess, better sit up straight." So, she settles back and straightens her posture. We've all been there, maybe without the scrutiny of the cameras, but that self-correction moment...It is endearing.

And one more video from Rebecca showing Kate chatting. I like this one because it is fun to see Kate interacting, but also because her knees are so beautiful! Yes, Kate, I am talking about your knees. I know, the price of fame. 

I wonder if Kate's Yoga/Pilates trainer has come up with a new pose to make sure Kate keeps fit to drop low for the kids despite her heels. Based on today's ensemble I'd name this pose: crouching flamingo. I'm going to ask my Pilates instructor about it. 

Let's chat fashion. Kate recycled separates from Eponine London today. The Duchess first wore this ensemble in March of 2016 on a visit to XLP London with William. On the whole, my recollection is that the suit got pretty positive reviews from fans. I loved it on that occasion, particularly the detailing along the hips. Kate wore a second piece from Eponine in January of this year (I can't believe it is already MARCH!) on her first day of engagements for 2017. She kicked the day off solo on an Anna Freud event and then joined William for a visit to one of Child Bereavement UK's centers. 

Eponine London is a British label created by Jet Shenkman, a mother of four who designs form her home in Kensington and has built a boutique business that prides itself on detail, quality, and beauty. I was really taken by the image of her company when Kate debuted the first Eponine and shortly after I got a really sweet email from Jet that charmed me even more. It seems to me that the label doesn't just design clothes that fit Kate well, but that the entire company fits into her lifestyle profile: gracious and thoughtful toward the individual.

Kate wore her beautiful morganite drops from Kiki McDonough today, just as she did on this suit's first wear, but she switched up her accessories from the first wear, swapping the black accents for neutrals. Today, she wore her Praline pumps and carried the Nina clutch from L.K. Bennett.  

I have a feeling these neutrals are going to put Kate afoul of some people, but perhaps with my often skewed view of accessories (I am thinking of my pass for the burgundy/red combo ;)) I don't mind this. Maybe because it seems to me that the Praline color picks up some of the pinkish red of the gingham and blends, or because I think that neutral really goes with just about anything. I'm not sure, but I am fan. I definitely am glad to see this ensemble paired with a hue lighter than black, that is for sure!

The verdict is a win, obviously. :) Often with a recycle I wish Kate would wear her hair up, but today I was happy to see it down still. Those curls were perfect and worked well with the boat neck. It was fun to see this suit get a little more activity, too. The brand new, super pressed look has worn off a little, which gave us a better sense of the box pleats and the movement. Big win all around!

There has been much talk about the security concerns surrounding this engagement. The truth is that the security concerns were almost exactly equal to the normal threat of any engagement that Kate undertakes these days. Now, that's a significant security concern, Britain has been at "severe" level for some years, but Kate didn't take a heightened risk beyond that by appearing today. The Queen's engagement was cancelled primarily because of the location--Scotland Yard! You can imagine how busy the police are and it certainly isn't a day to take a break and give tours of the facility and hand out posies, not matter how illustrious the visitor. The Queen was wise to cancel, but I think her appearance has been spun just a little as a risky choice, which just wasn't the case. That being said, because the Queen did have to cancel, Kate was in some respects the face of the BRF, conveying the royals' prayers and good wishes personally, which was a bit of a unique moment for her. I am sure you will agree she represented her family well.   

The Possibility Project London

Certainly, my condolences to all of my UK readers and most especially the people of London whose world has been turned topsy-turvy by this unconscionable attack. The civilized world joins you in distress at these continued assaults on innocent men, women, and children.  One of my friends college, a wonderful man from Scotland, posted a picture of the terrorist on a stretcher and noted that we still extended treatment to this vicious man despite his depravity. I thought it was a good point. I pray that fidelity to our values will lead all our nations through this dark day and those to be revealed, back to a world of greater stability, peace, and safety for all. 

Au Revoir, Paris! Kate Wears Carolina for Rugby & Farewell

Saturday, March 18, 2017

At the conclusion of their event at the Trocadéro, William and Kate were driven back to the Ambassador's residence where they changed and made their farewells. The couple were headed to their final event of the visit, the Wales v. France rugby game at the Stade de France, but they would leave directly from the game to the airport. 

Tom13637 Instagram

The coupled thanked their hosts in the courtyard and Kate was given a little parting posy. I love the staff with the cameras in the background. No Carson around to frown. :)

Duchess Kate's Morning in Paris's 7th and 16th

The second day of William and Kate visit to Paris kicked off this morning with a number of stops at some of Paris's most popular and iconic destinations. For those who were concerned yesterday, Kate arrived at Les Invalides, their first stop this morning, wearing a Chanel suit, bag, and belt. France was very adequately represented. :)

Hôtel des Invalides 

Les Invalides is in the 7th and sits close to the Seine just south of Pont Alexandre III. Its golden dome is very photogenic when the sun is shining, but even on an overcast day like this morning, the building is an impressive and even imposing structure. 

Built in the 17th century by Louis XIV to care for veterans, it now also houses a number of museums, including Musée de l'Armée documenting some France's military artifacts, as well as the tomb of Napoleon, among other things.