Since she began dating Prince William in 2004, Kate Middleton has been the object of adoration worldwide. The second coming of the , the —Middleton inspires fawning headlines wherever she goes.
I’ve always thought the Duchess was a beautiful, classy role model. But beyond that, I didn’t know much about her. So when I was assigned this story, I dove into research about the princess. The first thing I learned? You can’t even pretend to be royal unless you’ve had high tea. And so, over scones and Earl Grey at the Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court, I met with historian Robert Lacey, the historical consultant for Netflix’s The Crown. His new book, , chronicles his four decades of research into Queen Elizabeth II.
Of Middleton, Lacey said, “I think she'll be one of the great modernizers of the royal family.” She’s relatable: Not only does she shop at and Topshop, Lacey told me that she’s close with her family (she calls her mom nearly every day) and has a group chat with William, Harry and Meghan Markle. I can do this! I thought. I shop at Zara! I’m close with my family! I have multiple group chats!
There's a little more to the life of a duchess than that.
Day 1: How She Gets Her Bod
, SMYTHE (Available at Shopbop), $595; , ROMWE, $8; , J BRAND (Available at Shopbop), $189; , RIALTO (Available at The Scarpetta), $30
Middleton’s physique has been gossip fodder since she started dating Prince William. Although she’s that it’s from running after her two kids, I figured my presence chasing after strange children might not be welcome at my neighborhood playground. So I decided to start my week doing another of her favorite workouts: . The class I took at , a boutique fitness studio, mixed traditional rowing with intervals of squats, planks, and other sculpting exercises. I’m more of a spin person (and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find any evidence that Middleton does SoulCycle), so there were a few moments when I thought I might not make it. Whenever I thought there was no way I could do 20 more squats, I actually said to myself, like a mantra: You are Kate. Embarrassing! I know. But it worked.
I felt my legs shaking underneath me as I walked to brunch afterward. But I was also on an endorphin high. My boyfriend’s mom was in town, so I met them, along with his sister and her boyfriend, a few blocks from the studio. Middleton is close with her family, so it felt like an appropriately Kate way to spend the afternoon. After our meal, my boyfriend Stanley and I went to play tennis. Middleton loves the sport and has played . I, on the other hand, did JV for three years in high school and haven’t picked up a racket since. Game, set, match! Or something.
Because we’re not actually royal and don’t belong to a tennis club, Stanley and I made do with a public court in Brooklyn. The 48-degree weather wasn’t ideal but at least felt like England. We hit around for about an hour and even had a few rallies. I also had my fair share of embarrassing misses:
Afterward, we called a Lyft. There was no way I was walking a mile home after my laborious day of exertion. “I’m exhausted,” I sighed dramatically.
“Kate’s life,” Stanley replied.
F*ck, I thought. It’s only day one.
Day 2: Blowouts Make Everything Better
, DRESSLINK, $21; , ALDO, $40; Clutch, Thrifted; , WOLFORD, $33
Being in the public eye, one of Middleton’s main jobs is maintaining her polished appearance. She gets three blowouts a week from her longtime stylist, Richard Ward. Making three trips to London to get my hair done didn’t seem like something I could expense, so on Monday morning, I went to , a blowout bar co-founded by stylist Rachel Zoe. To achieve Middleton’s voluminous look, my stylist used Kérastase products—the Duchess is a fan—and twirled my hair with a round brush before pinning it up in rollers.
With my hair all va-va voom, I felt a little self-conscious. Can I pull this off? I wondered. But I felt my self-esteem rise after I posted an Instagram story, and the DMs of validation started rolling in (“gorg!” and, “dude you look hot”).
After work, I headed to nail salon to get my nails princess-perfect. The royal family has strict guidelines in place for nail polish: Any color is considered “” and strictly forbidden. Muted shades, however, are acceptable, and Middleton wore Essie on her wedding day. So I relaxed as the manicurist removed my emo-dark polish and replaced it with a pale pink Essie hue. As much as I love painting my nails dark colors, I have to admit, the understated shade made me feel more grown-up.
I ended the day trying out Middleton’s nighttime beauty routine. She loves , so I slathered it onto my face and neck. My body still ached from the rowing class, but all the pampering helped me forget that I could barely walk up the stairs to my apartment.
Day 3: Princess Lessons
Fascinator, , $195; Ring, Thrifted; Dress, Thrifted; , ALDO, $40; , WOLFORD, $33; Earrings, ANNE KLEIN (Available at Bolton’s), $10
In preparation for my photo shoot, I needed to match my hair color to Middleton’s. I’m a natural brunette but got blonde balayage a few months ago on a whim. To mask my decidedly un-princess-like ends and get the Duchess’s rich auburn shade, I went to Ryan Pearl, a master colorist at salon. He bathed my hair in a semi-permanent conditioning gloss and topped it off with my second blowout of the week.
Although Middleton hails from the upper crust of English society, she still had a lot to learn before she officially joined the royal family. Before her wedding in 2011, she to learn how to be a proper princess. So on Tuesday, I paid a visit to Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, the founder and president of the , for an hourlong cram session. I knew I’d be skewered for being late to an etiquette class, so I fast-walked from the office, zigzagging through holiday tourists. I arrived at 4:01 with a thin film of sweat coating my forehead. “I’m so sorry I’m late,” I said. She coolly replied: “The princess would never be late.” I already failed my first test.
Once I stopped sweating, we tackled posture, making a good impression, graceful introductions, and how to get out of a car without flashing everyone (the secret: keep your legs together as you swivel them out). She even had me walk with a book on my head, like I was Mia Thermopolis preparing to govern Genovia.
But it all seemed a little excessive. Why do women have to go through all of this, anyway? Why can’t Kate just be herself? Napier-Fitzpatrick must have seen the skepticism on my face. "Think about it,” she said. “As Kate Middleton, you represent the kingdom. You represent England.” In short: She has to be more than just herself.
It was unjust, maybe, but I could see her point. “Yeah,” I agreed. As soon as I said it, I knew I’d made a mistake—I’ve seen . Napier-Fitzpatrick firmly, but kindly, pointed out my error.
Day 4: Upstairs, Downstairs
, FINEJO (Available at Amazon), $27; Ring, Thrifted; , WOLFORD, $33; , ALDO, $85
One thing that Middleton and I have in common: We’re both huge fans of Downton Abbey. In 2015, the Duchess of the English period drama, meeting the actors and watching them film scenes. Luckily for me, a special recently opened two blocks from the office. I didn’t get to meet Michelle Dockery, but I did get to see real props and pieces from the show, including the servants’ bell board downstairs, which Middleton in front of on her visit to the set.
Day 5: Every Day Is a Photo Shoot
, ROMWE, $14; Blanket, Stylist’s Own; Shoes, Thrifted
Thursday was the day of my photo shoot, so I arrived to work early to get my third blowout of the week. (Honestly, my hair had never been so pampered.) A stylist from , an on-demand beauty service, came bright and early to get me princess-ready—using Middleton’s preferred shampoo brand, Kérastase, to achieve the look—and one of the company’s makeup artists dolled me up with the Duchess’s signature brown smoky eye.
Although I felt self-conscious having my picture taken—especially when I was wearing a paper-thin dress outside in 30-degree weather, nips a-poppin'—I tried to channel Middleton’s confidence. She has her photo taken constantly, and for the most part, it doesn’t seem to faze her. As the day went on, I felt more comfortable smiling as the camera clicked. This was her job, after all—and today, it was mine, too.
Day 6: Art Appreciation
ON KATE MIDDLETON: Navy Fascinator, , $108; , ANN TAYLOR, $130; , ROSEMARIE COLLECTIONS, $26
ON THE QUEEN: Blue Hat, , $227; Tweed Blazer, Thrifted; , ROSEMARIE COLLECTIONS, $26; Pearl earrings, ELLEN TRACY (Available at Bolton’s), $15; , ELEQUEEN (Available at Amazon), $16
Middleton in college and has put her degree to use in her life as a royal, of the Victoria and Albert Museum over the summer. So after work on Friday, I headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I checked out an exhibit featuring David Hockney, an English painter, which seemed appropriate. I walked through the rooms slowly, taking time to read every description and appreciate his work. After only an hour, I felt more cultured—like maybe I, too, could .
Day 7: Doing Good, and Also Wearing Very Extra Hats
One of the most important aspects of being a member of the royal family is philanthropy. Middleton and Prince William have their own foundation and are of a number of charities, many of them focusing on children. In my non-Duchess life, I work with the Princeton University , an organization that teaches journalism to low-income high school students. My boyfriend and I are mentoring three high-school seniors through the hectic college application process. With most applications due Jan. 1, we had no time to waste, so I spent a few hours editing personal statements and college-specific supplements. Even though I would do this normally, it felt like a very Kate way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
That night, two of my friends were having their birthday party in the East Village. So I put on my cutest going-out top, black boots, skinny jeans, and…a fascinator. Middleton , so I went on Amazon and got myself . As I clipped it into my hair, I steeled myself for strange looks on the subway and at the bar. But other than my close friends, who know I’m not a big hat-wearer, the accessory barely earned me a passing glance. Not surprising: This is New York, after all.
It’s easy to pine for the life of a princess: the jewels, the pampering, the absolute adoration of people around the world. As it turns out, though, keeping up the image and representing a nation can be hard work. I wouldn’t trade my life with Middleton’s—but I could get used to the blowouts.
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