Prince William and Kate Middleton were always considered far more formal than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
As the future king and queen consort of England, the Cambridges will always have a different set of rules and expectations than Harry and Markle ever did as senior royals. But Eric Schiffer, an expert on celebrity brand management, told Insider that when it came to the couple’s public-relations strategy, Middleton and William took “little risk” before Markle and Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March.
“They were manicured to the nth degree,” he said, “and played their public persona with a Buckingham Palace excellence, out of the playbook that’s been mastered for centuries.”
Before the pandemic, William and Middleton almost never posted videos on their official Instagram page. If they did, it was usually a slideshow of photos or a clip played over one of the prince’s formal speeches.
Schiffer told Insider that the interview released a “giant smoke bomb” that affected the royal family’s reputation while boosting Markle and Harry’s global image, helping them connect “with people’s humanity and their own struggles.”
“It created this contrast, and Harry and Meghan’s PR strategy, in essence, is to be the unanointed modern-day royals of the populace,” he said. “This is a populist strategy.”
Days after the Oprah interview, William and Middleton shared personal family photos on their official Instagram page.
On March 14, Mother’s Day in the UK, the couple posted pictures of cards and a cake they said their children — Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis — had made to remember Princess Diana.
“For those experiencing bereavement, today may be particularly challenging,” one of the captions said. “Each year on Mother’s Day, George, Charlotte and Louis make cards remembering their Granny, Diana, for William.”
That week, Middleton visited children at a school in London that had reopened after the UK eased lockdown restrictions.
“That was a revolutionary moment in Europe when all sorts of monarchies were being overturned,” McHugh said. “They had to find a way to make the monarchy seem more appealing so that it would stick around.
“So they fought back by showing, oh, no, the monarchy is just like you,” she added. “They showcased their children much more than any monarch had done before.”
On March 23, Middleton and William visited Westminster Abbey, where they tied the knot in 2011.
Middleton appeared to pay tribute to the church’s history by sporting a white knee-length coat. The couple also walked down the same aisle that they walked down on their wedding day.
On April 27, Middleton and William played with children and animals at a farm in Durham, England.
Middleton and William were photographed having a blast during their visit to Manor Farm. Middleton learned how to drive a tractor and was seen happily petting a lamb with one of the farmer’s daughters.
It would be just one of many visits where the couple engaged with children and animals as they ramped up their public appearances in April and May after the UK eased lockdown restrictions.
That day, Middleton was photographed laughing as she played golf with children in Durham.
Middleton and William met with children supported by the Cheesy Waffles Project, a charity for youth and adults with additional needs across Durham.
The Cambridges were also seen laughing and bantering during the outing.
William and Middleton had been quite formal with each other in public. But in recent months they’ve been far more affectionate.
On April 28, Middleton and William released anniversary portraits that showed them in a far less formal light.
The couple ditched their traditional poses from previous years’ photos and even wore more casual clothes.
Their poses seemed partially inspired by Markle and Harry’s intimate engagement photos from 2017.
In one of the photos, Middleton’s elbow rests on William’s leg as they hold hands. As Insider’s Talia Lakritz pointed out, the pose is nearly identical to one of Markle and Harry’s engagement pictures.
On May 5, William and Middleton revealed that they were launching a YouTube channel.
The couple announced their channel with a 30-second clip that featured the duke and duchess bantering and showed scenes set to upbeat music.
Many people were shocked that the Cambridges were embracing YouTube, but a source close to the prince told Vanity Fair that William was “more relaxed” about the press and more willing to embrace social media.
William played soccer with a group of kids during a visit to The Way Youth Zone on May 13 in Wolverhampton, England.
Middleton and William were also photographed playing table tennis against each other with some of the children.
During that visit, the couple were seen laughing together as they took part in a gardening session.
William appeared to be goofing around — much to Middleton’s amusement — during the session.
That day, the royal couple sat on beanbag chairs as they spoke to kids at Loxdale Primary School in Wolverhampton.
Middleton played with Milly the rabbit as the couple spoke about mental-health awareness.
On May 26, the Cambridges competed on a land-yachting course at the University of St. Andrews, where they first met and fell in love.
Middleton was photographed laughing as she tried to beat her husband on the course.
One news outlet said the couple were “smiling lovingly and laughing” during the outing.
The story also said William “even affectionately put his hand on Kate’s back in a tender moment we don’t often see from the perfectly poised heir.”
That day, Middleton and William hosted a drive-in movie night for National Health Service workers at the Queen’s palace in Edinburgh.
“The royals are very active at the moment to try and reach a wider generation,” Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal historian, told Insider. “They interact a great deal more with the public. There’s an approachability. There’s a friendliness. Kate radiates confidence.
“There’s a feeling that unquestionably they’ve not only got it together, but also as a couple they interact with such tremendous confidence and charm,” he added.
Middleton was pictured talking with a group of girls as she visited local fishermen and their families during her and William’s weeklong Scotland trip.
The Duchess of Cambridge traded her usual stiletto heels for a pair of sneakers during the visit.
On May 27, the Cambridges were once again photographed playing sports with children.
Middleton and William were all smiles as they played tennis with schoolchildren who were part of the Lawn Tennis Association youth program in Edinburgh.
A post shared by Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@dukeandduchessofcambridge)
William and Middleton have shared videos of many of their recent public engagements, including this one, on their Instagram. Gone are the overly formal slideshows with William’s speeches. Now we’re seeing the duke and duchess laughing with each other and the public in their social-media clips.
“It’s very interesting to me that in the wake of the Oprah interview they have really adjusted their style,” McHugh said. “They realized if they don’t, they’ll be overshadowed by this couple living in California, so they have to show themselves. They have to reveal who they are more, because that’s the currency now. So they let the anniversary film out, and they have YouTube, and they make jokes. It’s a new world.”
That day, the Cambridges met with a young girl with cancer at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Mila is featured in Middleton’s “Hold Still” photography project, which showcases how people across the UK got through the early days of the pandemic.
“Through Hold Still, I wanted to use the power of photography to create a lasting record of what we were all experiencing — to capture individuals’ stories and document significant moments for families and communities as we lived through the pandemic,” Middleton wrote in an Instagram post announcing the project.
On June 11, Middleton laughed as the Queen cut a cake with a ceremonial sword during the G7 summit in Cornwall, England.
The humorous moment seemed to indicate that it isn’t just Middleton and William who are trying to help change the royal family’s image.
On June 18, Middleton made a splash with a bright rainbow umbrella as she launched the Royal Foundation Center for Early Childhood.
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On June 22, Middleton brought some of her homemade honey while visiting the UrbanNature Project at the Natural History Museum in London.
The Duchess of Cambridge made headlines as it was revealed that she enjoys beekeeping.
Reporters noted that Middleton went up to the children and offered them some of the honey, asking: “See if it tastes the same as home. Does it taste like honey from the shops? Does it taste like flowers?”
Middleton then told the children to “say thank you” every time they see a bee “because they make delicious honey.”
On June 29, the Cambridges sported some patriotic fits as they cheered England on during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championships.
The couple brought their son Prince George to the match for a rare public appearance, and royal fans loved that the 8-year-old and Prince William wore matching suits and ties.
Middleton wore a bright-red blazer for the game against Germany. On July 11, the final match between England and Italy, she wore a white blazer and $US90 ($AU120) earrings by the jewelry brand Blaiz.
Stephanie Margaronis Mordehachvili, the brand’s founder, told Insider’s Mikhaila Friel that she believes the earrings made a “strong patriotic” statement at the match.
On July 10, Middleton and Prince William laughed up a storm with each other during the women’s final at Wimbledon.