“Why Kate Middleton Is Eager to Be Back in the Royal Spotlight,” begins a well-meaning essay from E! News which posits that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is ready to resume her place in royal press coverage. Middleton took some time off from royal duties after the birth of her children, Princess Charlotte and Princes Louis and George, and her brother-in-law Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. The essay is careful to insist that any jealousy between the two duchesses is wishful thinking, but the subtext is obvious: Middleton is chafing at ceding her spotlight to Markle, the feminist American upstart.
It’s a narrative that has been playing out in headlines throughout the year. There are rumours of a chasm between the two couples, speculation that Markle is unwelcome at family events, presumptions of how Markle could teach Middleton a thing or two about being “modern.” This dynamic persists, in part, because of antiquated rules about royal etiquette: rules that are less about respect and more about dominance. There is a pecking order among the royals, but to foment palace intrigue via the press just continues a cycle that, frankly, Middleton and Markle seem to care little about. Yes, Middleton is going to be the Queen...eventually. But if Markle was jealous about it, she probably wouldn’t have married Prince Harry. And if Middleton is really that envious of the Markle’s ability to court the press, she sure isn’t acting like it.
It adds up to an unspoken insistence that a rivalry exists. And that royal watchers should be on the lookout for signs, any signs, however tinfoil, of rifts. Drama, even. Because how could two women exist in the same place at the same time without hating each other? Obviously, this notion is sexist at its core.
Markle and Middleton aren’t just duchesses. They’re sisters-in-law, aunts to each other’s children, part of the same family, with the same goals: to be an active, happy, equal partner with their husbands, and cherished members of the royal fam. There is no evidence that one is trying to upstage the other; if anything, Middleton seemed more than willing to take a step back so the world could fall in love with Markle, just as the world fell in love with her. Plus, Middleton just had her third child! She deserves a break from wearing pantyhose in public.
Kensington Palace is huge place and there’s lots of room for many royals to exist. Who doesn’t love the fact that the two duchesses are fascinating, stylish women? The more of that in the world, the merrier. They each have their own talents that they bring to the crown: Markle, with her unabashed feminist thought, and Middleton, with her devotion to charitable causes. Why not celebrate these two public figures for their strengths, instead of pitting them against one another? The royals are famous, we get it, but let’s process their fame without sexism. God save the duchesses from false narratives.