The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s marriage has always been a very modern royal relationship. But when news landed that Kate Middleton is moving in with her mother once their baby is born, raised a few eyebrows at the Palace.
It was perhaps, in retrospect, one of Carole Middleton’s finest matriarchal moments. Pinny on, and firmly on her own turf in the heart of the Middleton home in Bucklebury, Berkshire, the woman who would one day become grandmother to the heir to the throne took her future son-in-law to task.
It was just a few days before Christmas in 2009, and Carole and Prince William had found themselves alone at the kitchen table. Anxiously, yet firmly, Kate’s mother inquired as to whether, after a seven-year courtship, a major break-up and the unkind nickname ‘Waity Katie’, the prince was going to make an honest woman of her eldest daughter. William made his intentions clear to his future mother-in-law and promised he would indeed propose to Kate after he had completed his training as an RAF Search and Rescue pilot. And he was, as the history books now relate, honourable to his word.
But more about that widely reported kitchen-table pact can now be disclosed, some three-and-a-half years later. It's been revealed that when Kate, 31, gives birth to the royal couple’s first child in July, she will be returning to her family home for six weeks to live with her mother, who intends to be a ‘fully handson grandmother’.
In a recent interview, Kate’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, confirmed the news and said, ‘I think it is marvellous news that Kate will be living with Carole when the baby is born. Carole is a wonderful mum and she is going to make a fantastic grandmother.’ But the fact that the future monarch will spend the first days of his or her life in a ‘commoner’s home’, instead of the splendour of a royal palace, is a dramatic break from royal protocol and has raised many an eyebrow. So how did it come about?
Grazia has learned that when the prince assured Mrs Middleton that he wanted Kate as his wife, he also promised her that when a baby came along, Carole would be heavily involved in raising the youngster. ‘William reassured Carole that she and the whole of the family would always be one hundred per cent involved in the rearing of their children,’ said a source. ‘It is very important to him, given his own fragmented and traumatic childhood. He said he knew how much Kate would need her mother once a child was born.’
According to sources, Carole, 58, had originally planned to move in with William and Kate, but this, for various reasons, has proved impossible. Firstly, their apartment at Kensington Palace is not ready for them to live in after an asbestos scare, and their current London residence within the Palace, Nottingham Cottage, is far too small. Their rented farmhouse in Anglesey is said to be too remote to have a newborn, and William, 30, has a month off work for paternity leave. Consequently the Middletons’ new £4.85 million Georgian manor in Berkshire has been deemed the natural place to live by William, Kate and her parents. However, this has ruffled some feathers among the more traditional members of the royal inner circle, with sources saying some of the courtiers are uneasy at what they’re perceiving as a ‘rebellion’ by Kate and William.
As Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, explained to Grazia: ‘Traditionally, if you’re having a royal baby, the grandparents don’t really get involved. Carole will play a much bigger role than royal grandparents ever have before. It’s a complete break with tradition for Kate to go and stay with her mother, but Kate isn’t so bound by protocol.’
Sources say that one particular person who is said to have questioned the decision is another future grandparent, Prince Charles. According to royal sources, Prince Charles suggested the family, and indeed Carole, stay with him. ‘Charles understood the couple couldn’t live in Kensington yet, so apparently offered them both Highgrove and Sandringham as they are already protected by fail-safe royal security, but Kate was adamant she wanted to be at home with her own family in familiar surroundings, and William supported her on that.’
And therein lies another reason Kate and William’s decision is said to be causing problems at the palace – the increased security that will have to be put in place at the Middletons’. ‘They all talk about bringing up children in a normal way,’ said Ingrid Seward. ‘But the trouble is they’re not normal. They’re celebrities, if you like. It’s almost more difficult now. William was born 30 years ago and now there’s Twitter and mobile phones. There was quite a lot of press access to the children [William and Harry] back then – but there certainly won’t be now. This child will be much less visible than William was and there’ll be much more security. Years ago, I remember seeing Diana walking down the road and round the park – she did have some normality. I’m sure that’s what William would want, given how Diana was with him, but it’s difficult now with social networking.’
Indeed, another royal source has pointed out that inside Clarence House, plans are already being drawn up on how best to secure the Middletons’ home. ‘Security will, of course, have to be at a maximum,’ said the source. ‘Unfortunately, a royal baby is a terrorist target, and that needs to be seriously considered. Kate doesn’t like too much fuss, but understands implicitly the importance of security at her parents’. It will be discreet, but it will be of the highest standard, like all the other palaces.’
By historical standards, it’s certainly an unconventional arrangement. Even though she was considered ‘modern’ at the time, Diana still had a maternity nurse and two nannies helping her with William at Kensington Palace. But then nothing about Kate and William’s royal marriage has been ‘conventional’.
‘The first hints that Kate and William were going to be a very modern royal couple came when they dramatically pared down their servants at their homes, having just a housekeeper in Wales,’ said a source. It has also been reported that, at first, Kate will do without a nanny. And it is also significant that all this comes when the law of Succession to the Crown was passed in the House of Lords, meaning that the couple’s first child will be heir to the throne regardless of its gender.
Kate and Carole were pictured shopping for baby supplies last month, visiting the exclusive Blue Almonds boutique in Walton Street in South Kensington, which specialises in creating ‘magical rooms for children’. Carole was carrying a simple wicker basket, believed to be a Moses basket. ‘Carole is pulling out all the stops to prepare for her first grandchild,’ said a source. ‘She’s so excited and is ensuring they have only the best for the baby. It’s a wonderful time for Kate and Carole and they’re both loving preparing for the new arrival. They’ve never been closer.’