Errors & Omissions: why do we sometimes not call the Duchess of Cambridge by her name?

Your solutions to the great ‘Kate Middleton’ puzzle

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The Independent Online

Last week, this column raised one of the great mysteries of the age: why do so many people call the Duchess of Cambridge “Kate Middleton”, when it is usual to refer to titled people by their titles, not their names, and Middleton is no longer her name anyway? We invited readers to suggest explanations. Here are some of them.

It is because “female additions to the Royal Family are expected to remain a channel upwards from the humble to the mighty. In simple terms, the Duchess of Cambridge was humble (relatively) and is treated as such in mass culture. Mass culture needs her that way to maintain its route to one of the most exclusive families in the world” (Jonathan Edwards).

No, it’s actually the opposite: “An awful snobbery about the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge is the first non-royal and non-aristocratic woman to marry a direct heir to the British monarchy since the late 17th century. By calling her ‘Kate Middleton’, the reader/viewer is constantly reminded of her dubious uncle, her mother’s airline career, and the family gifts-online business, in other words her overall ‘nouveau riche’ origins” (Martin Kaufman).

No, that’s not it either. It is because “to anyone under 40, the idea that someone’s ‘brand’ changes upon marriage is for the birds. Kim Kardashian will always be Kim Kardashian. Her Twitter handle and Facebook profile will reflect that. She just is not ‘Mrs West’. … And just as Facebook isn’t keen on the use of pseudonyms, things like ‘titles’ are just a hilarious affectation to the youth”.

No, it is just because Kate Middleton is the name by which she is best known and people don’t know who you mean by the Duchess of Cambridge.

It is because the title Duchess of Cambridge is too easily confused with the Duchess of Cornwall.

It is because Americans can’t handle the change from Kate Middleton to the Duchess of Cambridge, and we, sheep-like, follow them.

It is because, with her girlish hair and mannerisms, she does not command enough respect to be a credible royal person.

My favourite theory comes from John Hudson: “I suggest ‘this “Kate Middleton” stuff’ comes from the fact that she is a duchess rather than a princess. ‘The Duchess of Cambridge’ is so clunky a title that the media understandably wish to avoid it …. If she had been ‘Princess Kate’ the problem would not have arisen.”

Perhaps people expect a duchess to be an imperious middle-aged woman. So Camilla as Duchess of Cornwall is fine. But young, vivacious Kate, who would be recognisable as a princess, just doesn’t seem like the popular idea of a duchess at all. People resolve the contradiction by sticking to the name they first knew her by.

Perhaps when Charles succeeds to the throne, William and Kate will adopt the titles Prince and Princess of Wales (though that is not inevitable). And then I expect we will hear a great deal less of “Kate Middleton”.

Anyway, heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the trouble to write in.

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