- Rachel Burchfield
While we were away + Katie Nicholl!
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
The Duchess Commentary is back! In our two weeks off, I was a proxy bride in one of my best friend’s weddings, celebrated the Fourth of July (am I allowed to say that on a blog about the British Royal Family? Oops), and went on my family’s annual beach vacation, where I got zero suntan but also zero sunburn, so we’ll call it a win. I also had the opportunity to interview the lovely Katie Nicholl, who graciously gave me some of her precious time while her baby slept. In the process I learned how to best call London – FaceTime audio is your best friend. No charges, and easy as can be. So yes, it was a vacation, but it was a busy one.
And let me tell you who also stayed busy – our duchesses and the entire Family! Let’s do a quick recap of what happened from June 28 to today (I could literally write a blog post on each of these, so bear with me):
· On June 29, Harry and Meghan attended the first Major League Baseball game in London, where the Boston Red Sox (my favorite MLB team!) faced off against the New York Yankees (my least favorite MLB team – for those that don’t follow baseball as closely as you follow, say, the Royal Family, the Red Sox and the Yankees are huge rivals). Harry and Meghan hung out in both teams’ locker rooms and I have to say, although it pains me to do it – the Yankees gave the Sussexes the better gift (see above). Of course, because Harry and Meghan can go nowhere and do nothing without being criticized, video surfaced of Harry “ignoring” Meghan at the game. I am getting so tired of this Meghan-bashing narrative. First, he was “rude to her” at Trooping the Colour. Now he’s ignoring her at London Series. First of all, he was talking to someone else at the time, and if you’ve ever been to an MLB game, it’s loud! Despite that misleading video, photos surfaced of the Sussexes holding hands the entire time. Press, you’ve seriously got to lay off. You are reaching and it’s just dumb.
· Also on June 29, it was announced that William and Kate are headed to Pakistan this fall, an announcement coming two days after the official announcement on June 27 that Harry, Meghan, and Archie (!) are headed to Africa this fall – South Africa, to be specific. Harry will also take on engagements in Angola, Botswana, and Malawi. But y’all already knew that – I broke that news on June 12.
· On July 1, Charles celebrated 50 years since his investiture as the Prince of Wales. I don’t know anyone else who has had the same job for 50 years (and counting) – it’s really a remarkable achievement, and whatever you might have or had to say about Charles’ personal shortcomings, no one can deny his work ethic. It’s a big deal. I still can’t fathom how difficult it must be to want to advance in your career (in Charles’ case, become king), but to only be able to do so at the cost of your mother’s death. How complicated this Royal world is.
· Also on July 1, William surprised fans assembled outside of Kensington Palace – Diana’s former home and now the home of the Cambridges – who were there commemorating what would have been Diana’s fifty-eighth birthday.
· On July 2, Kate stepped out for day two of Wimbledon wearing a white Suzannah shirtdress with a black Alexander McQueen belt. Kate is reportedly trying to make her style edgier after being in a style rut as of late – I must have missed that rut, because I rarely think Kate misses. Kate is a huge tennis fan and has called Wimbledon an essential part of the English summer. It’s so evident every year that she attends the tennis tournament how much she enjoys the sport.
· On July 3, the Queen hosted her final garden party of the year – this one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland.
· On July 4, Meghan took her turn at Wimbledon, where she watched close friend Serena Williams compete in a match. Meghan wore jeans, a white hat and white blazer, and a black top and black heels. And, true to form, got criticized for asking for privacy. Don’t worry, it won’t be the last time she’s criticized this week! *Insert eye roll emoji here* Look, if a Royal messes up, I’m all for criticism where criticism is due. Y’all have read how I feel about Charles. But this nitpicky stuff Meghan is enduring – it’s just annoying.
· (Side note: Tons of other Royals, from Camilla to Sophie to Gabriella, attended Wimbledon, too. It is the de rigueur thing to do, as Kate said.)
· On July 6, my day was made when I finally got to see sweet Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor’s perfect little face! This child is absolutely beautiful. Archie’s christening took place on this day at the Queen’s private chapel at Windsor Castle. It was a private affair, but the Sussexes did release an official family portrait of the larger Royal Family and then one of just the three of them. Meghan wore white Dior and was stunning. Archie wore the same christening gown as his Cambridge cousins, a replica of the historic Royal christening gown first worn by Queen Victoria’s daughter – whose name was also Victoria – in 1841. Kate wore pink Stella McCartney and pearl earrings she inherited from Diana at the event. It was an intentionally very private affair, with only family, close friends, and Archie’s godparents – whose names were not revealed – in attendance. Most special to me was seeing Diana’s two sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, in the family portrait, as well as Meghan’s mom Doria, who killed it in a custom peach Oscar de la Renta.
The Sussexes caught flack for making the affair private, but look – Archie ain’t gonna be king, y’all. At seventh in line, he’s a private citizen, as evidenced by his parents’ very intentional decision to not give him a Royal title. Obviously, privacy matters to Harry and Meghan, and sure, I’d love to see a press photo call after the christening a la the Cambridge kids and definitely yes I’d love to know who Archie’s godparents are so I can write a big, long blog post analyzing them, but the Sussexes are obviously intent on doing things their way and they give us (the needy public) photos at each turn to pacify us. I have to respect Harry and Meghan’s decisions and their desire to let Archie live as normal of a life as one possibly can when you’re the son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. So back off, everyone!
· On July 10, Kate and the kids and Meghan and Archie – in Archie’s first public outing! – supported William and Harry at the King Power Royal Charity Polo Day, where William’s team faced off with Harry’s team – William’s team won. Kate, in a super relatable mom moment, pulled out snacks in Tupperware (God, this makes me so happy) for the kids. Louis – still a thumb sucker – stole the show and his mom’s sunglasses, while George and Charlotte ran around, playing. The cousins, on their first public playdate, seemed to be happy, normal, unaffected kids. Meghan once again got criticized for holding Archie the wrong way, a criticism obviously leveled by someone who has never held a squirming two-month-old while being relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi. I challenge anyone to make that look graceful.
· Also on July 10, someone broke into Buckingham Palace while the Queen was sleeping. While scary, he was detained within minutes.
· On July 13, Kate and Meghan (and Pippa!) stepped out for a joint appearance at Wimbledon, which seems to be an annual sister-in-law outing for the duchesses. The two attended the Ladies’ Singles Final Saturday, Kate stunning in green Dolce & Gabbana and Meghan in a white button down shirt and a pleated white skirt with a blue design by Hugo Boss. The two were all smiles, laughing and having a great time. Read the below interview with Katie Nicholl. Though the two are very different women, they seem to genuinely get along and like each other. I put this on The Duchess Commentary Facebook page, but Kate’s dress was hugging her in a way that made me wonder if something might be going on (read: my dream of a Cambridge Baby #4 in 2020), but I’m not confident enough to put anything out there on the blog, which I guess I just did, ha. I just have a feeling four is their magic number…
(Of course, in the next photo she doesn't look pregnant at all but work with me here...)
· On July 14, Kate – with William in tow this time! – returned to Wimbledon for the Gentlemen’s Singles Final, dazzling in light blue Emilia Wickstead. Whatever “style rut” Kate apparently thought she was in is clearly over now. She’s had hit after hit after hit!
Meanwhile, across London, the earth shook as Meghan hugged Beyonce at The Lion King premiere, which she attended with Harry. Now, Meghan is no stranger to a red carpet – she was an actress, after all – but this is her first red carpet as a Royal. Meghan wore a black Jason Wu dress and can I just say, as a woman who loves my own curves, I am very much here for Meghan’s post-baby curves? Words cannot express how good she looks in my eyes.
And she and Beyonce seemed to have a genuine moment on the red carpet. I hope Beyonce joins Meghan’s tight-knit circle of girlfriends – Serena Williams, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Amal Clooney, Jessica Mulroney, Misha Nonoo – and we see more of them together in the future because what part of this world doesn’t need a Beyonce and Meghan friendship? Random, fun side note: Six years ago this weekend, Beyonce was hanging out with me – kind of – at her Nashville stop for her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, where my best friend and I literally sat in the last row (like, our backs were on the wall) but still enjoyed the hell out of the (other) Queen.
· Some other housekeeping items – in some great news, to honor The Duchess Commentary’s two-month anniversary, I officially purchased our domain name! We own our own corner of the Internet, TDCers! Also, big congratulations to Hope Davis, who won herself a copy of William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls by Katie Nicholl. Thank you for submitting your question for Katie, Hope! We only had about 20 minutes to talk so I didn’t get the chance to ask your question, but I’ll address it in the next Royal Potpourri to make up for it! Speaking of Katie Nicholl, see our interview below and know this is hopefully only the first of many celebrity interviews on the blog! We’ve got some big things coming, TDCers – we are just getting started!
Now, for the main event – enjoy my Q&A with the unparalleled Royal correspondent Katie Nicholl! This interview took place on Monday, July 1.
The Duchess Commentary: Tell me about your background. Were you always interested in the Royal Family, even as a child?
Katie Nicholl: Yes, I think I was. My mother brought me up with an awareness of the Royal Family and to have respect for the Royal Family. I grew up, like most little girls, absolutely enthralled and enchanted by Princess Diana and devastated by her death. I was not a journalist at that point – I was still at university – but I was absolutely awestruck by the enormity of the tragedy of Diana’s death. I always knew I wanted to be a journalist, since age 11; I originally wanted to be a war correspondent rather than a Royal correspondent, but my career took a different direction. I definitely had an interest in the Royal Family and a fascination with the British media from a young age.
TDC: How did your career begin covering the Family?
KN: I ended up at a party with Prince Harry in 2003. I was a showbiz reporter at the time working for the Mail on Sunday. I was at a party at Kensington Roof Gardens and had gone out to get fresh air; he was outside having a cigarette in the doorway. He invited me in to his party, and I think that lit the touch paper. I had a fascinating ambition to write about their lives. I was really impressed by Prince Harry as a person – he was so charismatic and charming. Here he was, one of the most popular members of the Royal Family, and he should have been rising for A levels but instead was partying and drinking. I liked him enormously. Both princes at the time were dating and living different lives, and I was mingling with similar sort of social circles, so I had unprecedented and incredible access into their lives.
TDC: What is the most memorable event you were a part of? What makes it so?
KN: The most memorable was William and Kate’s engagement. I had just gotten back from a big tour of America and Canada promoting my first book, William and Harry, in 2010. As I touched down [in London], my Blackberry exploded. An e-mail from Clarence House had dropped as I was landing that the couple was engaged. I headed straight from Heathrow [Airport] to Buckingham Palace and broadcasted for the entire day. I was privileged to be invited for tea with the couple at St. James’s Palace, and that was an incredible moment in my career. I had written about the couple for so many years, and to properly meet them and congratulate them in person, to see the excitement on their faces and to see Kate wearing that iconic ring of Diana’s – Kate was very nervous, but there was such an excitement and joy about that day. That, as well as meeting the Queen during her Diamond Jubilee and covering that, were the highlights of my career.
TDC: I am a huge fan of all of your books. What work are you the most proud of? Why?
KN: Probably my first book. Anyone who has ever written a book knows it is such a labor of love and such a huge investment of energy and time. My first book was a bestseller on the New York Times Best Seller list, and it remains the most definitive book of the princes at that time in their lives, growing up as Royal princes and taking an insightful look into them as people at that point – how they changed as they grew up, I revealed their first loves, early girlfriends, relationships, family dynamics, what made each of them tick, their similarities and differences, and their relationship with each other. It was a fascinating book to write, and there’s a great sense of achievement when you’ve written your first book. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing your book on sale at bookstores; it’s a dream come true.
My second book, The Making of a Royal Romance, charted the relationship of William and Kate. I loved writing that book; it was a very enjoyable book and also did well.
I also enjoyed researching the book Kate: The Future Queen. That was the hardest to write, because I discovered a real lockdown when it came to trying to get information about Kate’s past. I did manage to open up some doors and speak to people who had never been spoken to before and to reveal aspects of the future queen’s life that was not known about. It was a challenge, but ultimately very rewarding.
When I wrote Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, it was the right time to write a book on Harry. I was told when I started writing in October 2016 that his relationship with Meghan was actually quite serious, so I changed the focus to incorporate their relationship and courtship, and by the time the book was on newsstands [in March 2018], we had an engagement and a Royal Wedding.
TDC: I feel as though Kate has really come into her own this year. Do you feel like she is settling into her role as future queen consort? How?
KN: I agree with you. She looks absolutely confident and poised, and that is reflected in her demeanor and what she’s wearing. There’s a new confidence in her wardrobe. [This confidence] is mostly to do with the fact that she is the mother of three beautiful children, and she clearly loves being a mum and is amazing with her children – that’s why we are seeing a happy, confident duchess who is really thriving and excelling. William is being prepared for his future role as the next Prince of Wales, and Kate is very aware of her future position and very well-equipped for her future role, making sure she is, in many ways, a role model for women out there. She has found, I think, philanthropy and work she wants to focus on with young children and mental health. This is groundbreaking. So yes, while it’s taken her a while to find her niche, she has found it, and I see a lot more of her this year. She’s found the rhythm between her home life, her children, and her public persona; it is a constant juggle, but she’s got her balance right. [I love to] see both of them so upbeat and happy.
TDC: How do you feel Meghan is fitting in to the Family?
KN: I think she is fitting in remarkably well. Marrying into the Royal Family is no easy thing to do. People think it might be easy – the Duchess of Cambridge makes it look very easy, but don’t forget she had 10 years of courtship before she married, and that’s a lot of time to get used to it. Meghan has had a bit of baptism by fire and has been very unfairly criticized. She is doing things differently than [everyone is] used to, but she’s done remarkably well and has really impressed the Queen with her work ethic. The Queen likes her very much, Charles likes her very much, and she is quite popular for how she loves Harry. She is empowering the Royal Family and, in a way, giving [the Family] an international presence it didn’t quite have on the same scale before. She is doing a lot of great things, and I like her dynamic. She’s fascinating. She’s got a huge amount of potential to soar to new levels; yes, she does things differently, but Diana was a trendsetter, and it’s not a bad thing for the Royal Family.
TDC: What is your take on rumors of discord between William and Kate and Harry and Meghan?
KN: We’ve all heard the rumors, but my understanding – and I have good sources – is that the fallout was predominantly between the brothers. There was a period that was quite difficult, but they’ve come through that period and sorted it out, and it is much improved now that Meghan and Harry have their own space, their own house, and their own household staff. That has made things a lot better. I never bought the rumors about the girls. It’s true to say they’re not the best of friends, but they don’t have a huge amount in common. They are both kind people – I just don’t believe the bitchiness and catfights. They just don’t have a huge amount in common. I hope motherhood bonds them together. They are both in that unique position of marrying into the Royal Family and are Royal moms. They’ll need the support of one another over the years.
TDC: Today, July 1 [the day we spoke] is Diana’s birthday. What do you think she would say about the modern Royal Family?
KN: Diana would be hugely proud of both of her boys and over the moon that they’ve both found these incredible women – strong, intelligent, beautiful women, women that have fallen in love with them because of who they are as people, rather than who they are as HRH. I love the way they’re continuing to do what she did so amazingly, breaking the mold and doing different spotlights on different causes other might not want to do. She would be enormously proud of the boys and quite upset at rumors of feuds between the four of them. I think she would have had words with the boys, telling them they are brothers and to stick together. That’s what she always told them. She would be happy that they are both so happy and married, and over the moon to be a grandmother.