Kate photographing Camilla for the cover of Country Life magazine. Photo/Twitter
A rare new image of the Duchess of Cambridge has exposed a very powerful alliance forming within the royal house.
Just call it the Double Duchess Dawn of the Day.
On Tuesday, the UK’s pre-eminent source on composting and conservatory renovations, Country Life magazine, revealed the cover of its latest issue, a guest-edited edition by none other than future queen and eternal wellington wearer Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Wearing a blue dress and cardigan and sitting on a wooden bench, her makeup almost non-existent, Camilla looks happy as a Cornish clam to be strolling through her garden and not having to entertain an Azerbaijani cultural delegation or retrieve a priceless diamond earring from the mouth of a Jack Russell.
But news.com.au doesn’t really cover Camilla because well… there aren’t many people besides me who are really interested in her.
No, why the Duchess’s cover photo is worth talking about today is not because of what the image shows, but because of who took it.
Enter Duchess Number Two, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
At the same time as Country Life revealed its cover, the magazine also released a behind-the-scenes image from the photo shoot, showing Camilla posing in the garden of her private home in Wiltshire, Ray Mill House, with Kate in snapper mode.
As the magazine’s editor, Mark Hedges, told the Telegraph when discussing the shoot with Camilla: “She immediately replied, ‘Oh, I wish Catherine would do it.'”
“I spent the next three or four minutes desperately racking my brain trying to think of a professional photographer named Catherine.
“Then suddenly I understood what he meant: one of the most amazing things that could happen.
“I don’t think anyone else would have made her feel so relaxed.
“They didn’t bother too much with the hair and makeup, they just bought some flowers from the garden and got to work.”
On paper, the two women don’t have much in common other than having caught the eye of future kings.
Camilla’s life, before the royal marriage, was like a poster child for some sort of bucolic upper-class existence, a whirlwind of muddy horses and dinners cooked on the Aga.
Kate, for her part, came from a stolid good family, had a college degree, a couple of part-time jobs, and seemed to enjoy nothing more than endlessly hanging around Chelsea’s mid-priced boutiques with her sister Pippa, the odd club. Mayfair night. she from time to time she also takes a look.
While Camilla was seen having lunch with Kate before the latter’s wedding in 2011, giving her some friendly advice, they never seemed particularly close. Kate probably never spent an hour wondering how to get rid of rose blight or what to do with a lame mare and Camilla has probably never walked into a Zara outpost in her life or spent the summer in Mustique.
But something in recent times has very clearly changed on this front, and somehow Camilla and Kate have become a formidable and very friendly power couple.
Most obviously, they seem to get along like a house on fire.
In February, Charles, Camilla and the Cambridges undertook a highly unusual joint engagement to visit a project run by the Prince’s Trust. Cue lots of big friendly smiles.
During Trooping the Colour, Camilla and Kate shared a carriage, waving to the crowd as a double act.
There, the two duchesses attended the Order of the Garter ceremony in Windsor last month, as a Grade II listed house went up in flames during the carriage procession.
What makes this newly discovered, or at least recently revealed, bond so remarkable isn’t that they seem so friendly (although I’d like to imagine they occasionally spend Friday nights in twos with a mug of Harvey Wallbangers watching Love Island), but what an abject departure this is in real history.
In each photo of the previous two women to marry at the House of Windsor, the Queen Mother and Queen Mary of Teck, they look eternally miserable for being so close. (Want to know what kind of person Mary was? She sent her epileptic four-year-old son, Prince John, away from her to live with her nanny and died at his Norfolk country house at 13 years).
The point is that never before have we seen an alliance like this of Kate and Camilla, two women who grew up without titles or noble lineages, and yet in whose hands the future of the monarchy now rests.
And thank God for that.
As the sad but inevitable death of the Queen arrives, the coronation of Queen Camilla and later the arrival of the new Princess of Wales will herald a new era in which the two most powerful women in the monarchy are closely aligned.
Having a Queenly coalition not only willing but happy to work together will have implications for The Firm as a family and as an institution.
Without a doubt, after years of the words ‘breakup’ and ‘fight’ making royal headlines with overwhelming ubiquity, a bit of charming unity and harmony will be just what you need. Imagine: a royal family that really likes each other. Quite a PR palate cleanser.
So on a practical level, a real house that can function as a cohesive and functional business will simply do a better job. If egos, agendas, schedules and colliding causes can be minimized and it’s all just a better oiled, more rationally functioning beast, then it will only benefit the institution.
However, the real sticky news doesn’t stop there today.
In London on Tuesday, Kate, in her guise as Patron of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club which runs Wimbledon, returned to her job, which appears to consist largely of wearing sundresses and clapping her hands together.
Notably, she made her debut at this year’s tournament alone, as she often does.
What would stand out better with a $2,665 ($2,938) Alessandra Rich dress, which vaguely resembled something one might have bought for ten pounds at the Dynasty wardrobe sale, and pearl earrings that her husband by her side ?
William stood next to Kate, first in the royal box watching Novak Djokovic play a quarter-final match before changing courts to watch British player Cameron Norrie progress to the next round.
Interesting. Very interesting.
Look, even though William usually attends the tournament with Kate, for at least the last four years he’s only trotted to the finals, and yet here he was five days earlier.
Then there’s what the Cambridge duo did during their day. They laughed, smiled adoringly at each other, and joked around. In fact, the couple looked more like newly enamored lovebirds who had just met on some dating app for European royalty (Monarchy Match?) than a couple who’s been married for 11 years, has a horde of staff, three children, which will soon be three houses, two royal foundations and a dog in their names.
Look, it’s all really lovely and so…unexpected.
To the yonks, when out in public, the Cambridges adopted a much more reserved attitude toward each other, as if they were practicing some marital social distancing years before it was cool.
But in recent months, the pair have laughed, joked, and been tactile in a way that’s a beautiful break from their old quasi-Mormon modus operandi.
Perhaps this could have something to do with the fact that the years of sleepless nights, feedings, diapers, and that seemingly endless series of family scandals and crises are behind us, at least for now.
Still, in much the same way as Kate’s partnership with Camilla, this warm and fuzzy new phase is just welcome news for anyone with any kind of vested interest in the future of the whole monarchy thing.
Who thought that the house of Windsor would end up in such good hands? Especially a set with a lot of dirt under the nails?
Daniela Elser is a real expert and writer with over 15 years experience working with several of Australia’s leading media outlets.