Why the Queen Let Kate Middleton Break Protocol and Take Photos at Balmoral Before She Married Prince William

Before Kate Middleton and Prince William got engaged, the Queen worked to make Kate feel welcomed in the royal family by breaking protocol at Balmoral.

Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Visit The East Midlands
(Image credit: Anwar Hussein)

  • Before Prince William and Kate Middleton tied the knot in 2011, Queen Elizabeth "went out of her way" to make Kate feel welcome with the royal family.
  • According to royal expert and biographer Katie Nicholl, when the Queen first got a chance to really spend time with Kate during one of the royal family's trips to Balmoral in the summer of 2009, she broke royal protocol and gave Kate permission to take photos at the famed royal estate.
  • In her book, Kate: The Future Queen, Nicholl points out that this was a "true gift to a photographer" and a "generous move on the part of the Queen." 

These days, it's basically impossible to imagine the royal family without Kate Middleton, but back in 2009, it wasn't totally clear if Kate and Prince William were in it for the long haul.

That's why it was such a huge gesture when, that summer, Queen Elizabeth went out of her way to make Kate feel welcome with the royal family.

In her book Kate: The Future Queen, royal expert and biographer Katie Nicholl describes Kate's first Balmoral vacation with the royal family in the summer of 2009 and how Elizabeth made a huge exception to make her future granddaughter-in-law feel comfortable.

According to Nicholl, the trip marked the first time Kate had been invited to the main house at Balmoral while the Queen and Prince Philip were in residence and the press had jumped on the news, circulating unconfirmed reports that the Queen wanted to have lunch alone with Kate during the visit.

While the lunch remained unconfirmed, Nicholl did confirm another huge gesture Elizabeth made for Kate during the trip:

"Until now the Queen had met Kate only fleetingly at the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips, but she went out of her way to make her feel welcome, giving her permission to take pictures at Balmoral—a true gift to a photographer, with its turreted and Gothic-inspired architecture."

Nicholl also described why the gesture was even more meaningful than a standard breech of royal protocol (which is already huge, in and of itself):

"As a woman who has lived her entire life in the public eye, the Queen rarely lets her guard down, and very few apart from her family and closest friends get to see the real Elizabeth. Now Kate was being granted an audience in a most intimate capacity. It was a generous move on the part of the Queen and an astute decision, given that the romance seemed to be very serious."

Astute, indeed.

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Weekend Editor at Cosmopolitan

Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with over 10 years of professional experience covering entertainment of all genres, from new movie and TV releases to nostalgia, and celebrity news. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.