Kate Middleton has been called the royal rockstar over the last year for her public appearances, and also dubbed peacemaker for how she handled the issues in the British royal family. Royal experts credit her transformation to a number of reasons, including the exit of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as working royals, but her former aide has said that slow and steady was always Kate's strategy.
Rebecca Priestley (nee Deacon), who worked for the Duchess of Cambridge as her private secretary for seven years, told Mail Online's Rebecca English that Kate approached her new life of public service as if it was a "blank piece of paper." She recalled that Kate was very clear about her strategy for her public life during an initial meeting held about her royal duties in 2011, soon after her wedding to Prince William.
Priestley said of their conversation, "I said: 'Right, what next? You have the philanthropic world at your feet. There are so many directions you can go in terms of causes you can get involved in. Catherine had clearly put a lot of thought into it and made very clear that, for her, it was about listening and learning."
Priestley noted that Kate, who is approaching her milestone 40th birthday, wanted to learn and get under the skin of her new role. She also conducted quiet visits to understand what causes she would like to put her name on.
"These were lifelong decisions she was taking. She wanted to have credibility when she spoke. And that actually takes huge strength of character," Priestley recounted.
Prince William also told his wife about the need for them to take their time and do things gradually, a piece of advice she diligently followed. Another of the couple's collaborators told Rebecca English about William's relationship with his wife, "He may not shout from the roof-tops about equality, but theirs is a true partnership."
English adds in the column that even though some criticised Kate's cautious approach, as the public had waited years for a young, glamorous new royal, the Duchess realised it would be "a fool's errand to try to take on Diana's mantle."
"Instead, she assumed more the Queen Mother's 'steel marshmallow' character," the royal expert writes.
She also noted that while forming her public image, Kate also managed to establish good relations with her in-laws, and facilitated a relationship between her husband and his father Prince Charles which was going through a tough phase. There were concerns that William and Kate's glamour was starting to make the Prince of Wales look irrelevant, but his eldest daughter-in-law managed to find a balance.
A courtier said about the matter, "The co-ordination required with three generations working alongside each other has been tricky. It took a while to get the balance right."
Charles is now proud of the way Kate has navigated her public role, and other members of the family including Queen Elizabeth II have also been equally impressed. A source said, "Family relations are markedly better and everyone is really pulling in the same direction."