Being suddenly thrust into the spotlight can be hard—just ask regular-person-turned-royal Kate Middleton. Adjusting to royal life isn't easy and can take a lot of trial and error. Unlike her sister-in-law Meghan Markle, who had been an actress for 15 years and dealt with her share of PR nightmares, Kate had to figure out from scratch how to deal with life in the public eye, which comes with almost as much backlash as it does adoration.
When you're a member of the royal family, there's little room for slip-ups; you have eyes from all around the world obsessing over your every move. People judge the clothes you wear, the causes you support, and even the way you wear your hair to a royal wedding (of all things!), The Duchess of Cambridge takes it all with stride, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been a couple bumps along the road. Ahead, all the times the Duchess has caused an uproar since beginning of her relationship with Prince William in 2004. Who knew she was such a rebel?
When she was seen without her engagement ring.
At first, when the Duchess was spotted without her engagement ring people were worried. Then it quickly became known that Kate took off her ring to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Class act, I know.
Her legal battle with Tatler.
Stories are written about the royals all the time, and rarely does the palace ever comment. That was true for Kate until Tatler dropped a cover story about the Duchess for which they allegedly spoke to a bunch of her “friends.” The sources claimed Kate was upset about her workload following Meghan and Harry's royal exit.
Usually Kensington Palace would be hush-hush about this, but they released a statement saying "a swathe of inaccuracies and false misrepresentations" were reported in the article. Kate and William sent legal letters demanding the story be taken down from Tatler's site, but the publication dismissed them.
"We can confirm we have received correspondence from lawyers acting for the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge and believe it has no merit," said Tatler in a statement.
When it became known she has a private dressmaker.
On a tour of the Pacific in 2012, Kate stepped out wearing a yellow fit-and-flare cotton lace dress, but royal fans couldn't figure out the designer. At the time, people believed that the Duchess chose to wear something unknown to be respectful, since she maybe couldn't find something she liked from the Solomon Islands to honor the country.
A year later, the palace revealed that the duchess wore a peach maternity dress made by her "private dressmaker." Fans soon connected the dots. Most people don't have a problem with Kate having a private designer, but some argue it stops from other British businesses benefitting from the "Kate Middleton" effect, in which a company sales rocket after she is seen in one of their items.
How she wore her hair for her wedding day.
We're very into half-up half-down hairstyles here at Marie Claire, but the royal family doesn't think they're the best option for a royal wedding. It's said that the Duchess was advised to to wear her hair up for the royal wedding like Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth did.
"Royal sources tell me that the royals indicated very strongly to Kate that they would prefer her to wear her hair up for this very special occasion,” said royal reporter Ashley Pearson in the documentary William & Kate: The Journey. “However, Kate had her heart set on wearing her hair down with long flowing curls, which is her favorite way to wear it and actually William's favorite as well. They ended up compromising on her look.”
When she (maybe) bought the same dress twice.
For the 2019 National Portrait Gallery Gala, Kate Middleton stepped out in an Alexander McQueen dress that appeared to be the same pretty floral print as the dress she wore to the 2017 BAFTAs.
When spectators realized the two different dresses looked almost the same, it spurred a flurry of internet chatter about the frivolity of buying two super similar dresses. The palace has yet to comment on the matter.
When the Queen let her break protocol and take photos at Balmoral before she married Prince William.
When the Queen first got to spend some one-on-one time with Kate on of the royal family trips to Balmoral in the summer of 2009, she broke royal protocol and gave Kate permission to take photos at the well-known estate.
"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, said royal expert Katie Nicholl in her book Kate: The Future Queen. "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."
Yes, this is more Queen than Kate, but it's still shocking!
When she opted for dark nail polish.
Back in 2012, Kate stepped out looking gorg for a dinner in London. While some of us were obsessed with her outfit, other fans noticed her choice of dark nail polish. At the time, the plum color was seen as breaking royal protocol. Fast forward to now, where royal reporter Omid Scobie told Harper's Baazar recently there's actually no protocol on polish. Cool!
When her engagement dress triggered the downfall for a fashion brand.
It was big deal when Kate and William got engaged, so naturally everyone wanted to get their hands on the blue Issa dress the soon-to-be royal wore to the announcement.
In fact, so many people wanted to get their hands on the dress that the fashion brand couldn't keep up and it contributed to their downfall. In an interview with the Daily Mail, the designer revealed that the high demand for her designs turned out to be disastrous for her business. Sales nearly doubled and she and her 25-person staff couldn't keep up with the demand. They went out of business two years later.
When she shared her pizza topping preference.
During her visit to the Islington community garden in north London, the Duchess was making pizza with some local children when they got onto the subject of pizza toppings.
In a video shared by royal reporter Rebecca English, Kate can be heard saying: "Does anyone ever put bacon on a pizza? Bacon’s great. Do you not think that sounds good? I quite like that actually…It’s like having pepperoni but it’s not as spicy."
Quickly, the Internet went into a frenzy over the thought of Kate believing pepperoni was spicy. I totally wonder what would've happened if she'd said she liked pineapple on her slice.
When she wore shorts!
In early August, Kate Middleton wore shorts publicly for the first time in nearly a decade and people lost their minds—in a good way. Though it's not necessarily a controversy, it did rally a lot of public opinions about the Duchess' outfit, which is frequently criticized because, well, she's the future queen.
When Kate chose Diana's earrings for Archie's christening portrait.
The Duchess of Cambridge wore Diana's Collingwood Pearl Earrings—the same exact earrings Diana wore to Harry's christening in 1984—in baby Archie's christening portrait. This would make sense if it were George, Charlotte, or Louis' christening, but royal fans accused Kate of "upstaging Meghan" and wondered why Meg wasn't wearing a special heirloom from her mother-in-law.
That whole Prince William cheating scandal...
...that we're not going to get into, but it caused a lot of tension and headlines, including one that claimed Kate had an ongoing rivalry with Rose Hanbury, a close family friend of the couple.
When she stepped out of the hospital hours after giving birth.
When she stepped out of the hospital hours after giving birth.
So, about that Kate and Meghan feud...
Talk about controversial. You can see a full timeline of rumors about the sister-in-laws' relationship here, but remember that that's exactly what they are: rumors. Royal fans started labeling themselves "Team Meghan" and "Team Kate," and were even convinced the royals were faking their relationship for moments like this (Christmas at Sandringham with the Queen).
When she wished Meghan a happy birthday.
People can't seem to get past those feud rumors, and were even nitpicky about Will and Kate's birthday post to Meghan this year (which, by the way, was very nice). The Duke and Duchess captioned the photo, "Wishing a very happy birthday to The Duchess of Sussex today!" with a picture of the four of them during Christmas alongside Prince Charles. People claimed Kate was using it as a way to get attention, which sounds as crazy as you think it is.
That engagement ring.
Kate's engagement ring, which originally belonged to Princess Diana, was controversial back in the day. According to the Daily Mail, the 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire was available to commoners...and let's just say that didn't sit well with the royal family. More on that here.
When Kate didn’t wear a black dress to the BAFTA Awards...
While most women wore black dresses to the 2018 BAFTA Awards in support of the Time's Up movement (like at the Golden Globes), Kate opted to wear a deep green gown with a black sash around her torso. Royal protocol prohibits members of the family from making any sort of political statement or showing bias. So, technically she was just following the rules here, but her black sash is likely a subtle nod to the movement.
...But she did during her next public appearance.
The day after her controversial wardrobe choice for the BAFTA Awards, the Duchess stepped out in a black-and-white Erdem dress to co-host the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange reception. Having received tons of backlash from Twitter, people couldn't help but wonder if her mostly-black dress was meant as a symbol, thus sparking more controversy.
When she didn’t present the shamrocks to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
In 2016, Kate made the decision not to present the shamrocks to the 1st battalion Irish Guards on St. Patricks Day—a tradition first started by Queen Victoria to support the Irish in the Boer War. Kate was ridiculed on social media for staying home with her children while Prince William attended.
Kensington Palace released the following statement: "While the Duchess has accompanied the Duke every year since his appointment in 2012, and will do so again in future, this year she sadly could not make it because she is prioritising time with her children before next month's tour of India and Bhutan."
This February, Kate chose to attend and present the shamrocks (pictured).
When Kate decided she wanted to keep her public appearances "to a minimum."
The Queen was reportedly very upset with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when she found out Kate wanted to keep her public appearances "to a minimum" during her third pregnancy—understandable, since she's prone to severe morning sickness. Nevertheless, Her Majesty thought the future Queen consort shouldn't skip out on her duties.
When the Duchess' wedding dress designs were slapped with a lawsuit.
Kate Middleton chose Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton to design her now-iconic wedding dress. Unfortunately, the newly minted royal's lacy gown became controversial when someone sued over the designs.
English bridal designer Christine Kendall said the Duchess' dress was inspired by her sketches, and sued the fashion house (not Kate) for breach of copyright. Burton claims she didn't know who Kendall was or what her sketches were.
When Kate and William's wedding reception menu included lamb.
After a very public royal wedding, Kate and William held a more intimate, 300-person reception. The details of the party remain somewhat secretive, but one of the dinner menus was leaked, revealing that the newlyweds served lamb as the main course.
Express pointed out that lamb is a rather controversial meat because it's either a hit or miss with people—s0, if their guests didn't like it, that would be a lot of wasted food.
When Kate’s wild uncle made headlines.
Every family has a black sheep—and it seems like Kate's uncle, Gary Goldsmith, holds that title in her family. He's been in the news a lot lately for some not-so-great things, including facing charges of assaulting his wife and getting caught drunkenly falling over in the streets. His actions give the press more opportunity to scrutinize Kate over her family.
When Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton banned Meghan Markle from her wedding.
Back when her real sister, Pippa Middleton, was getting married, there was reportedly some serious tension between Pippa and Meghan Markle. It was rumored that the bride was following a "no ring, no bring" rule, which left Markle out of the picture since she and Prince Harry were only dating at this time. Markle was reportedly in attendance that day, but not for the ceremony. This must have left Kate feeling very uncomfortable.
When the Queen told Kate she had to curtsy to natural-born princesses.
Kate may be the future Queen consort, but apparently she still won't take precedence when it comes to the royal blood line. It was reported that Queen Elizabeth II updated the "Order of Precedence in the Royal Household" to make it clear that as a former commoner, the Duchess must curtesy to "blood princesses"—the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie—when she is not accompanied by Prince William.
Meghan Markle follows these same rules, and is required to curtesy to her future sister-in-law Kate too.
When Kate stole the spotlight in a bright red dress.
Kate's wardrobe has always been a subject of controversy. Her conservatively fashionable outfit choices are often called out for one thing or another. So it was unsurprising that she received backlash for wearing a bright red dress to board the royal barge "Spirit of Chartwell" for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. The rest of the royal family members wore muted colors.
When Kate and Willam wore the wrong outfits to dinner.
In a rather embarrassing but accidental incident, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wore the wrong traditional outfits to their dinner on the Solomon Islands during their 2012 Asia trip. They were wearing clothing pieces from the Cook Islands by mistake.
Clarence House released this statement: “We saw they weren’t the same design of the traditional clothes we were told would be gifted. So we checked with the Solomon Islands government to ensure the right ones were worn. We were reassured the clothes were correct, and so the Duke and Duchess wore them to the event. It was not learned until later in the evening that the clothes weren’t from the islands. But it was understood that the Duke and Duchess intended to wear traditional Solomon Island clothes and this was appreciated. No offense was caused.”
When she had a Marilyn Monroe moment...
One month before they were married in 2011, Prince Willam and Kate were touring North America. After stepping off the plane in Canada, Kate suffered a wardrobe malfunction.
...And another moment here....
The wind doesn't seem to be on Kate's side when she's making public appearances. Again, she experienced a flying dress wardrobe malfunction in 2014—only this time, a German tabloid published the photos of her bare bottom. The Palace was understandably furious, calling it a "grotesque" invasion of privacy.
Kate is the Queen (pun intended) of the Marilyn Monroe wardrobe malfunction. In fact, this moment in 2016 comes closest to looking like an exact replica of the iconic photo. Kate typically keeps her cool when these incidents occur.
When Kate wore a dress that was deemed "too short."
At first glance, Kate's dress seems like a perfectly good length—after all, the hem falls at her knees. But the internet got a little carried away with this dress, calling it "too short, too sheer, and completely inappropriate," according to Vogue Australia.
Because there was nothing really wrong with the dress, the Palace did not make a formal statement.
When Kate’s royal nurse committed suicide.
In 2012, two radio broadcasters impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles to get personal information about the Duchess' pregnancy with her first child. Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse who was treating Kate for severe morning sickness, unknowingly divulged information to them. Three days after the prank was aired, Saldanha committed suicide.
In response to her death, the Kate and William released the following statement: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha. Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."
However, Kate was still criticized when she refused hospital care for the same illness during her second pregnancy, saying that she was still haunted by the incident.
When Kate received backlash for taking a trip right after Prince George was born.
Kate and William welcomed Prince George on July 22, 2013. Eight months later, they decided to take a vacation to Maldives, leaving their newborn at home. Enter: All the critics who think they know everything. The new parents were reportedly in need of a break from the refurbishments of their home in Norfolk, not (as most assumed) from George.
When Kate looked “too perfect” after giving birth to Princess Charlotte.
Let’s be clear, no new mother has to look a certain way postpartum—every woman has a different experience with childbirth. So the fact that people were criticizing Kate for looking “too perfect” after welcoming Princess Charlotte seems downright ridiculous. But, of course, people will always have opinions, and unfortunately, what should have been a joyous occasion turned into a controversy.
When a lot of British people weren't thrilled that the Duchess was expecting again.
In 2017, the British government passed a cap on child tax credits, meaning families could only claim up £2,780 (about $3,937) per child, for their first two children. Needless to say, there was a lot less excitement when Kensington Palace announced Kate and William were expecting royal baby number three.
"One could argue it’s just an unhappy coincidence that the announcement of a third royal baby comes in the same year the Government deems third babies a luxury not every family has earned," Victoria Smith wrote in an opinion piece on Independent. "It’s more than that, though. The contrast lays bare the fundamentals of reproductive injustice: the fact that class, wealth and race control which groups are considered worthy of the privilege of reproduction."
When PETA criticized Kate for wearing fur-lined gloves.
Kate and William took Prince George and Princess Charlotte on a ski trip in 2016, and their family pictures were very sweet. But PETA noticed the Duchess wearing a pair of Restelli Guanti gloves, lined with possum fur.
When Kate wore a hat made with real fox fur.
The Duchess of Cambridge found herself amid yet another fashion controversy when she bundled up in a Eugenia Kim hat in Stockholm, Sweden, this February. The charcoal-knit beanie was reportedly made with real fox fur, and the internet was outraged. PETA was back on Kate's heels, wanting proof that the fur was faux.
"If the Duchess of Cambridge's hat is made with faux fur, PETA is delighted to see her take a leaf out of the Duchess of Cornwall's book—Camilla reportedly swapped all her fur hats for luxurious faux-fur ones," said PETA director Elisa Allen.
When people couldn't get over the Duchess' non-manicured toes.
The internet was surprised to see that Kate isn't waited on hand a foot (yes, another pun). When Kate and William removed their shoes to pay respects to Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, it was revealed that her toes weren't perfectly manicured—something that shocked royal-watchers.
When the Duke and Duchess' staff was prepared to walk out.
According to reports, Kate and William's royal staff threatened to go on strike in 2016 after they found out they'd be taking a pay cut. The charity that manages staff salaries proposed a cut that would decrease every worker's salary by $5,000 per year. It was never reported as to whether or not the staff did go on strike. Kate might have dodged a bullet here, but the incident didn't look good in headlines for her or the palace.
When a former royal staff member made rude comments about Kate.
In 2017, Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell had a few choice words about the Duchess. According to him, Kate didn't have the kind of charisma or "magic" that her husband's late mother did.
"She’s a lovely, lovely girl...she totally adores her husband, they’re devoted to each other," Burrell said. “But that extra something, which you would call the ‘X-factor,' the magic quality, charisma, it’s not there.”
clothing, footwear, leg, coat, winter, trousers, collar, standing, outerwear, style,
Kate and William first met as students at Scotland's St. Andrews University, and their relationship became public in 2004. Not long after meeting his family, she broke things off in early 2007. It was thought that the insane amount of time in the spotlight was a contributing factor to the split. Luckily, she gave the relationship another go and they got back together a few months later in July.
When Kate wore bright yellow short shorts and a sparkly green top.
During her separation from Prince William, Kate—who was still very much in the public eye having dated a royal—was spotted attending a charity event in bright yellow shorts and a flashy green sequin top. People, including the palace, were upset by her attire. According to the Daily Mail, Buckingham Palace courtiers were "appalled" by Kate's appearance, and said it was the "most unladylike display" they'd ever seen. More photos show Kate on the ground, wearing roller skates, and laughing hysterically.
When Kate's first college boyfriend got married.
Kate's first college boyfriend (before Prince William), Willem Marx, got married in 2014, coincidentally sparking some controversy. It was reported that Kate was seen leaving a nightclub with Marx back in 2007 when she and Prince Willam were split. It just goes to show, that every move Kate makes is being followed and remembered.
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Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. She likes lounging about with a good book and thinks a closet without platform sneakers is a travesty.
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