Newsmakers of the Year: Will and Kate

Will and Kate give the monarchy new blood and relevance. They gave everyone else a love story to remember.

by Anne Kingston

A fairy-tale wedding for a powerhouse couple

Paul Chiasson/CP

In a year riven by political turmoil, economic malaise and rioting in the streets, a young, fresh-faced couple formally titled the duke and duchess of Cambridge (but affectionately known as Will and Kate) provided ongoing romantic relief—and distraction. The photogenic pair delighted the masses and were a boon to the media that tracked their every move, real and speculative. Their wedding gave the British economy—along with fascinator sales—a bump. More, it injected a much-needed adrenalin boost to the British royal family itself. Dutifully, smilingly, the duo restored a patina of glamour and vitality to an institution tarnished by divorce, scandal and tragedy.

Details of the preparations for their April 29 nuptials were meted out like a slow IV morphine drip on www.princeofwales.gov.uk: the Westminster Abbey venue, the guest list, the name of the wedding cake decorator. An estimated two billion people tuned in to watch the ceremony, a pitch-perfect spectacle of royal pomp amid government-mandated austerity. Millions clogged the streets, among them Jean Seaton, a professor of media history at the University of Westminster, who views the occasion as a rare moment of British unity: “People were enjoying it as a kind of celebration of themselves,” she says.

Part of the cheer stemmed from the faith that the couple’s love match was real, not staged like the prince’s parents’. The union of the blond son of a beloved princess to a comely commoner also suggested Buck House was evolving with the times. There was no discussion of virginity: the couple had lived together for eight years. The bride, derisively dubbed “Waity Katie” by the press before her engagement, proved her mettle over the years, coping with paparazzi and gossip. Her unwavering determination to play the role she now has, once a source of criticism, is her greatest strength—one necessary to navigate an institution known to destroy the women who enter it. “It’s a much more negotiated, tested entry [than Diana’s],” says Seaton, the BBC’s official historian. “She knows—to the extent she can—what she’s getting into.”

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The former Kate Middleton has not made a misstep since walking down the aisle in a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown that stealthily catapulted her into the princess pantheon in echoing Princess Grace’s wedding dress. She and her new husband adopted the MO of ordinary newlyweds. Four days after the wedding, William, second in line to the British throne, returned to his day job as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot, Catherine to keeping house in Wales, where she’s often photographed pushing a shopping cart.

Their first deployment—to four Canadian provinces, the Northwest Territories and Los Angeles—was quick. Huge crowds of every age greeted them at each stop, even in Quebec, where anti-monarchists unsuccessfully tried to steal the spotlight.

The couple aced the assignment while telegraphing a new, informal royal protocol: in P.E.I. they competed in dragon boat races, at the Calgary Stampede they donned jeans and cowboy hats. Together they exude a relaxed, happy choreography. During walkabouts, Kate appears born to play a role the British psychologist Linda Blair calls “powerful and pointless.” And the prince clearly delights in his wife’s popularity, often extending a protective hand to her back. By their final stop in L.A., they easily outshone the stars clamouring to meet them, which cynics might suggest was the point of ending the tour in Hollywood, in addition to giving the British film industry a boost.

The pair appear well-suited to one another and their new assignment, says Seaton: “I think this is quite a boring couple, but by golly that’s what you have to be.”

And a key part of that assignment, she notes, is buffering the monarchy from the succession crisis destined to occur when the Queen, now 85, dies. For now, that distraction is being accomplished in good part by the obsession over the duchess’s clothing—and the new royal politics it telegraphs. Less style setter than style exemplar, Kate has been roundly praised for recycling outfits and wearing items from mass-market chains Zara and Topshop. “It’s sending a signal,” says Susan Kelley, who operates the popular blog What Kate Wore, one of several that track the duchess’s clothing and links to sources. “It says, ‘I can be frugal, I’m not wasteful, I’m not one who spends money without thought or responsibility.’ ”

What Kate wears has also created a micro-industry, with retailers benefiting from customers who want to imitate her ladylike look. Her preference for sheer pantyhose has even been credited with reviving a moribund market segment, says Kelley.

Catherine’s status as the U.K.’s key fashion diplomat was recognized this month by Harper’s BazaarU.K., which put the duchess at the top of its 2011 “Best Dressed” list and proclaimed she “gave us the year’s—if not the century’s—most thrilling fashion moment at the royal wedding, and is shaping up as an amazing ambassador for British designers and the high street.”

The couple’s chief ambassadorial duty, however, is fronting for a monarchy badly in need of new blood and relevance. That was evident this August, when they visited riot-ravaged Birmingham after looting protesters destroyed parts of London and adjacent cities.

Looking ahead, the duke and duchess are expected to rival Brangelina as a global charity powerhouse. In October, the duchess, who will name the causes she’ll support next year, delighted guests at a dinner for the charity In Kind Direct when she filled in at the last minute for Prince Charles. Later that month, the newlyweds, recently named “most influential royals” by the Evening Standard, visited a UNICEF distribution centre in Copenhagen with Princess Mary of Denmark, a Catherine doppelgänger, to raise awareness of the organization’s famine-relief efforts in East Africa. While there, the duchess gave her second media interview—her first as a member of the royal family—in which she expressed concern the famine had been usurped by other news. “It was initially a big story,” she said, “but people have lost track of the situation.”

Kelley cites the trip as an example of how obsessive interest in Kate’s outfits translates into social awareness: “You want to see the fashion thing channelled into the greater good, which it is,” she says, observing that www.unicef.com crashed due to a deluge of online donations.

Yet what made headlines worldwide was not the cause but commotion over the duchess politely refusing to taste a high-protein peanut paste while helping to fill boxes with supplies. International media, which have relentlessly scrutinized Kate’s waistline for signs of an eating disorder or a pregnancy, interpreted the refusal as empirical proof of the latter, rather than simply to her disinclination to be photographed while eating. Not that they can be blamed: confirmation of Kate’s “baby bump” will be a publishing bonanza.

Frenzied pregnancy speculation has been further stoked by announced constitutional changes that will give female members of the British royal family equality with men in the rules of succession to the throne. That means the couple’s first child, boy or girl, would be third in line to the throne.

Buzz over that eagerly awaited announcement is destined to keep the focus on the young couple as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee approaches. That bodes well for the family in the short term, Seaton says: “It’s an archaic institution that only survives if it lives on in people’s hearts; as far as it does, it means something.” If the affection summoned by Will and Kate during their halcyon freshman year can be sustained, then that archaic institution has a lot of life in it yet.




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Newsmakers of the Year: Will and Kate

  1. With so many happening around the world your editorial picking up this odd couple as the event of the year tells how much independent your magazine is.  You are there only to brain wash masses away from the actuals and rich to ride on the poor. 

    • From this article you are able to deduce that Macleans is a magazine who publishes to allow the rich to oppress the poor? OKAAAY! Socialist lunacy at its best!

  2. What a joke.

  3. I don’t normally bother to comment like this, but this is pretty weak sauce.

  4. What a joke indeed. Who came up with this?   What Will and Kate do have no bearing on the lives of 99.99% of the world’s population.  Meanwhile, WWIII is brewing, the EU is about to break up, the US dollar is in its death throes (as the world’s reserve currency at least), and the US has become a full-blown police state and have given up trying to hide it.

    But carry on, unwashed masses, keep dreaming about Kate’s latest dress and whether or not Wills can get her knocked up, everything else is just sour grapes.

    • “But carry on, unwashed masses, keep dreaming about Kate’s latest dress and whether or not Wills”
      If it isn’t them, someone else will take their place in the spotlight for the thousands who are saps for celebrity.

    • Actually, that isn’t true.  The fascination of what Kate wears has done enormous good for the stores where those wares can be bought, the fashion industry–and seriously, who knew there was a fashion industry in Britain before this? And not to mention any number of women who have upped their personal style because of it.

      Just a tiny bright spark while WWIII is brewing, the EU is about to break up, the US dollar is in its death throes, etc.  It is a coincidence that Britain isn’t a party to any of that?  Probably, but it is interesting that those with Will and Kate (Britain, Canada) are more observers of these imminent disasters rather than main players.

  5. And no, I didn’t read the article, because I don’t give a shit about the British Royal family and neither does anyone else under the age of 70.

    • If you didn’t read it, then your opinion means little. If you did read it you would see that, for good or bad, a whole bunch of people under the age of seventy do appear to care about them (maybe for some pretty shallow reasons, to be true).

      Oh BTW, the EU isn’t about to break up – it’s the EURO CURRENCY that’s in crisis.

  6. The whole point of the “newsmaker” of the year is to chose someone who does just that.  In this case, Macleans is spot on in chosing Will and Kate who are a positive influence in the world.  You have to go to some isolated place in this world to avoid hearing of them! 

  7. This story is pathetic — and the last straw for me. When my subscription expires, I’m not renewing.

    • For every subscription Macleans will loose they will get 2 as people ARE interested in the Royals !

  8. Thanks Macleans. I was debating whether or not to renew my subscription when it expires next month and you just made my decision that much easier. Too much “royal couple” fawning for my tastes.

  9. Nope, although they were a good story and will generate more good stories.  Newsmaker of the year: Jack Layton, guiding the NDP to a whole new place before departing with grace and humility.

  10. This is a joke right? A desperate way to get eyeballs on your site. Just as the royal couple was desperation filler for dying industries – tv news, news magazines and newspapers this is a kiss-off for your current readers. 6 months of nonstop blather about these two was too much to take and now with the Murdoch fiasco journalism has slipped below pawnshop owners on the creep scale.

  11. Wow! That’s the best you can come up with for the lead “Newsmakers of the Year”?!?! I realize you have others listed later, but they seem to be, in the mind of the writer, quite obviously secondary to Kate & William!!! How pathetic can you get? The ridiculously extravagant amount of money and attention spent promoting this wedding and the lead-in-and-out is really shameful when so many people in the world are starving or barely getting by!! Maybe you could start calling yourselves MacEntertainment Tonight or MacNews of the World.

  12. I would have loved to be the proverbial “fly-on-the
    wall” to better understand the editorial staff’s thinking in choosing this
    privileged, entitled, over-indulged, and “yes but, aren’t they so
    cute!” couple as representative of the most important newsmaker in this very
    troubled and turbulent year in our Canadian lives. I can only imagine
    you saying: ” Yeah, so what if the Middle-East is in dangerous turmoil, a
    significant part of Africa is still war-torn and starving and most of Europe
    (and the U.S.A.) remains in serious financial crises? . And so OK, many North
    Americans are still jobless, while the average (more fortunate) working person
    amongst us watches hopelessly as his or her hard-earned RRSP’s crumble in the
    stock market. But, Hey!, let’s lighten up folks, the cutest little Royals ever
    are “in love” and they visited us Canadians!; and we even put the “Royal” back
    into the Armed Forces thing and have hung up more pictures of the Queen?
    So let’s be postive here …..let’s show our readers that fairy-tales can come
    true !!!!”

  13. Include me out…

  14. This a well written article and the focus on this young couple is flattering.  They are a breath of fresh air.  They are a sensible and sensitive couple.  I am an elderly woman and am fascinated by these mature young people.  It’s a breath of fresh air to read that not all the “rich and famous” are selfish or self promoting like so many.

    Minota 

  15. Good to hear what our future King is like in his travels around the world with his lovely wife.  I just hope that the media will allow them as private a life as possible until he becomes King.

  16. What a joke.  The 1% makes news maker of the year.  Reflects the idiocy of Macleans.

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