Cathy Cambridge turns 40 this week and to mark the occasion, Kensington Palace released three new formal portraits of the Duchess, taken by fashion photographer Paolo Roversi, to be entered into the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery. There have been many words already spilled about the various ways in which she is perceived to be paying homage to so many of her queen and princess forebears (as per the usual, the supposed Diana references tend to be a bit overstated). That’s not surprising, of course. Everything she does and wears is over-analyzed, but we think part of what spurred on this latest round of reading Kate’s tea leaves is how deliberate and declarative these images appear to be.
There’s an interesting (and extremely studied and deliberate) interplay between old-school formality and modern royal celebrity. The hair is pre-Raphaelite and romantic; the gowns are formal and regal, and the face (in two out of three) is beaming directly at you as if it should be surrounded by fashion mag cover copy about the hottest bags of the season or how to get the look for less. If there are homages being made here (and there are, because that’s how Kate’s always rolled), they range from Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to Princess Diana. There’s a very clear sense of living history and the continuation of a long line of tradition, which is why two of the pictures are sepia-toned. Remember: your girl has an art history degree and is the royal patron of the National Portrait Gallery. Everything about this is highly coordinated and heavily laden with meaning. It’s also extremely notable how little jewelry she’s wearing in any of these portraits. The dresses are clearly fine and expensive, as are the few pieces of jewelry she’s sporting (the earrings were Diana’s and the Queen’s), but for a royal portrait, this is all surprisingly low-key. If there’s such a thing as formal royal casualness, this would be the look. If there isn’t such a thing, she just invented it. Of all the royals, she is by far the most adept at image craft.
– Alexander McQueen Red Dress from the Fall 2021 Collection
– Alexander McQueen Off-the shoulder Dress with Bow Detailing from the Spring 2022 Collection
– Alexander McQueen Ruffle One-Shoulder Dress from the Resort 2022 Collection
[Photo Credit: Paolo Roversi, Paolo Roversi/Alexander McQueen, Chloe Le Drezen/Alexander McQueen, alexandermcqueen.com]