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A look to the past, present, and future: the meaning behind Kate’s portraits

The Duchess of Cambridge celebrated her 40th birthday with three meaningful portraits that look to past rulers and women of monarchy as well as her future as the next Queen.

To mark the 40th birthday of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Palace released three new portraits that speak loudly of how Kate sees herself within the royal family and pays a huge tribute not only to the Queen but to late Princess Diana and even Queen Victoria. Reflecting that these three pictures are about the past, present, and future of the British monarchy. 

The portraits were taken by Italian fashion photographer Paolo Roversi, known for his almost natural and realistic style mixed with some dark or macabre touches. He has worked for brands such as Christian Dior as well as for the 2019 Pirelli calendar. 

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Of the most than 200 photos taken during a four-hour-long session at Kew Gardens, only three were chosen to be released to the public. The rest will remain private inside Cambridge’s family album. 

However, it is the selection of both the picture style to the jewels and dresses that speaks volumes about how the Duchess sees herself within the royal family at the present and in the future as well as how she acknowledges past rulers and important royal women. 

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The past 

The official portrait shows Kate not looking directly to the camera, but rather to her right. Her floaty white dress and her pose remind us of Princess Margaret or even Princess Elizabeth portraits taken by Cecil Beaton. Some even find similarities between this picture and those of Queen Victoria. 

Another nod to the past? Her jewelry. For this picture, Kate wore Diana’s pearl earrings as well as her iconic engagement ring with a blue sapphire that outstands from the whole picture. 

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According to Roversi, the Duchess showed him some of the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Sir David Coyle Burne-Jones as an inspiration for the shooting. 

The present 

The second portrait is a close-up of Kate, rocking her naturally wavy hair, and a white one-shoulder Alexander McQueen dress with ruffles. In this, we see her more upbeat, smiling, and sincere. 

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According to Amanda Matta, tiktoker and royal enthusiast, this portrait is more of an 80’s glamour shot and the one with the closest style to those of Princess Diana. 

For this, she is also wearing Diana’s pearl earrings. 

The future

However, is the third portrait the one that got people talking. In it, Kate is wearing a bold red one-shoulder Alexander McQueen dress and she has one hand in the skirt pocket. She has her wavy hair loosened and has slightly red lipstick, something that is out of her comfort zone. 

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She looks more dynamic and upfront than in the past two pictures and this might be because, as some experts have highlighted, the portrait represents the future of the British monarchy, modernized and adjusted to its time. 

For this take, Kate no longer uses Diana’s pearl earrings but rather Queen Elizabeth’s diamond earrings. The same she often uses when she opens Parliament. 

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As Amanda said, “If we, for a brief moment forget that Camilla is going to be next queen and not Kate, this is a through-line being drawn from Queen Elizabeth II to Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge”. 

The portraits are now part of a permanent collection of the National Art Gallery and will be displayed at three special locations that the Duchess has chosen because of the special meaning for her: Berkshire, the county of her childhood; St Andrews where she went to university and began her relationship with her now-husband Prince William, and Anglesey where the couple lived together just before and in the early part of their marriage.

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Photos: Royal Family. 

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