- Kate Middleton appears to be withdrawing from one of the royal family’s oldest traditions, “never complain, never explain.”
- The mantra was first introduced by the Queen Mother in 1936 and has been largely followed by the current Queen Elizabeth II.
- While the Duchess of Cambridge rarely comments on press stories, she made an exception to respond to a Tatler article that questioned her relationship with her sister-in-law Meghan Markle.
- “This story contains a swathe of inaccuracies and false misrepresentations which were not put to Kensington Palace prior to publication,” a spokesperson for the duchess said in a statement.
- Insider spoke to royal experts, who debated whether Middleton could be dropping the tradition like Markle and Prince Harry have already done so.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Duchess of Cambridge could be joining the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in abandoning the famous royal family mantra, “never complain, never explain.”
The saying was first adopted by the Queen Mother when she became Queen Consort in 1936, and passed on to her own daughter – the current Queen Elizabeth II – who appears to have followed the rule almost unflinchingly during her reign.
After Meghan Markle and Prince Harry wrote explosive letters condemning four British tabloids earlier this year, it’s clear the couple don’t wish to follow this tradition.
And now, it seems, Kate Middleton might not want to either.
Tatler confirmed on Monday that Middleton’s lawyers had sent legal letters to the publication in response to their profile of the duchess, “Catherine the Great.”
The profile, which featured interviews with anonymous sources who claimed to be family friends of the Cambridges’, made numerous claims about the duchess’ relationship with Meghan Markle and said she was “furious” about the increased royal duties that resulted from “Megxit.”
“We can confirm we have received correspondence from lawyers acting for the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge and believe it has no merit,” a spokesperson for Tatler told Insider.
The duke and duchess have previously taken legal action in only the most extreme cases, such as when a French magazine published topless photos of Middleton.
However, it’s not only Middleton who could be dropping the mantra. In recent years, the Queen has relaxed her approach too.
Insider spoke to experts about how the Duchess of Cambridge and the rest of the royal family could be changing their relationship with the press.
Middleton has sent out a ‘warning shot to the media’
Kensington Palace has not publicly commented on the claims about legal action.
However, a palace spokesperson previously said of the article: “This story contains a swathe of inaccuracies and false misrepresentations which were not put to Kensington Palace prior to publication.”
Vanity Fair royal correspondent Katie Nicholl told Insider that the statement was a “warning shot to the media.”
“It is unusual for Kensington Palace to comment on a specific article but not unheard of,” said Nicholl, author of “Kate: The future Queen.”
“When they feel that something is inaccurate and potentially damaging, they will refute it. The suggestion that Kate is exhausted and feels trapped and is unhappy about her workload is at the nub of the complaint,” she added.
“She is working harder than ever at her request, so the idea she resents the workload isn’t the case.
“I think it’s a warning shot to the media that the palace won’t tolerate certain allegations.”
It’s now becoming more common for members of the royal family to speak out against the media; one of the most notable examples being Prince Harry’s statement on the Mail on Sunday last year.
Before resigning from the royal family, the Duke of Sussex confirmed Markle would take legal action against the Mail on Sunday after it published excerpts from a private letter she wrote to her father after the royal wedding.
“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife fall victim to the same powerful forces,” Harry said.
Since resigning from their royal roles, the duke and duchess have taken further measures by stepping back from the “royal rota” and cutting off all contact with journalists from The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Express, and The Daily Mirror.
However, royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams believes Middleton’s relationship with the media is entirely different from the Sussexes’.
“Unlike Harry and Meghan who abandoned it and are having ‘zero engagement’ with certain tabloid newspapers, the royal rota remains safe with William and Kate,” Fitzwilliams told Insider.
“Kate’s contributions during the pandemic have, as expected, received substantial coverage, all of it (to my knowledge) favourable.
“Nothing sells newspapers like royal stories and anyone who looks on Twitter can see the passions that are aroused over royal matters.”
However, he added that the Cambridges “obviously cherish privacy” and “we know how strongly William detests what he sees as press intrusion after Diana’s tragic fate.”
The Queen gave an employee her blessing to write a tell-all book last year
The Queen has never given an official interview during her 68 years on the throne.
She gave her first televised exchange with a journalist for a documentary in 2018 – but even then, he reportedly wasn’t allowed to ask her any questions.
However, recent developments – including a tell-all book written by the Queen’s designer, which is the first of its kind to be approved by Her Majesty – could suggest the rest of the royal family are actually on the same page as Harry and Markle.
Angela Kelly’s 2019 book, “The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe,” details her close working relationship with the monarch, first as her senior dresser and then later as Her Majesty’s personal advisor, curator, and in-house designer.
“In ‘The Other Side of the Coin’, The Queen has personally given Angela her blessing to share their extraordinary bond with the world,” the book’s synopsis reads.
“Whether it’s preparing for a formal occasion or brightening Her Majesty’s day with a playful joke, Angela’s priority is to serve and support.”
Kelly uses the book to clear up rumours that the Queen broke protocol by embracing Michelle Obama during her State Visit in 2009, writing: “In reality, it was a natural instinct for the Queen to show affection and respect for another great woman, and really there is no protocol that must be adhered to.”
With multiple headlines written about the Queen daily – many of them exaggerated or false – it’s interesting that she chose to speak on something Her Majesty was criticised for 10 years ago. Since the monarch personally approved the book, it’s evident that this is something she felt should be included, too.
This is a stark contrast from the mantra the monarch has abided by during her entire reign.
As the world’s longest-reigning monarch, Her Majesty has only taken part in one documentary – “The Coronation”– a 2018 BBC documentary showing the behind-the-scenes aspect of royal life.
For the special program, Her Majesty gave her first and only televised exchange with a journalist.
The journalist, Alastair Bruce, reportedly wasn’t allowed to ask interview-style questions, but was to simply engage Her Majesty in conversation instead.
The documentary took place just months before Markle married into the family later that same year.
Other members of the royal family have been relaxing the rules for years
“This may be a rare book by a serving member of royal staff, but for a long time people such as the Prince of Wales have cooperated with official biographies and lots of TV documentaries,” Joe Little, managing editor at Majesty magazine, previously told Insider of Kelly’s book.
“From that perspective, nothing has really changed.”
The most well-known example of a royal breaking this tradition was Princess Diana, who famously spoke about Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles on BBC’s Panorama in 1995, saying: “There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
“The most daunting aspect was the media attention, because my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn’t,” she said.
“And then when we were married they said it would go quietly and it didn’t; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop.”
Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that when Diana gave this interview, she was in the process of separating from the Prince of Wales, and hence separating from her position within the royal family.
Therefore, we should consider this recent withdrawal from “never complain, never explain” something which has been done knowingly as senior royals continue to shape their roles within the family.
If Middleton continues to follow Harry and Markle’s example – with the seeming support of Queen Elizabeth – this certainly has the potential to change the way the royal family operates – or at least, her relationship with the media moving forward.
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