Talbot Church: Kate and the problem of royal charisma

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The Independent Online

A private screening at Buckingham Palace of the new film The King's Speech has reopened the delicate question of the suitability of Kate Middleton for the role she will assume in just over three months' time.

Playing the young Queen Mother in the film, Helena Bonham Carter exudes the mysterious royal charisma known in palace circles as "it" in a manner that few actresses, including the disappointingly vulgar Helen Mirren, have previously managed. "'It' is more than a talent – it's a state of mind," a senior courtier told me. "Princess Anne has 'it', and so – more surprisingly perhaps – has Princess Michael of Kent. Prince Edward, on the other hand, lacks 'it' altogether. He once went to a fancy dress party as himself and came third."

The problem is that Kate Middleton, known affectionately by Prince William as "Princess Ordinary", is not naturally charismatic. Indeed, her talent – something of a joke within the Middleton family – is for blending in wherever she is. It is said that, when she was photographed talking to a visiting girls' hockey team from India when she was a pupil at Marlborough, she actually seemed to have a darker skin than usual.

Desirable as it may be in the life of a commoner, this excess of empathy is thought to be inappropriate for a princess, who needs to stand out rather than fade into the background. The Countess of Wessex, a former PR agent, has been asked to coach the royal-to-be in the mysterious art of acquiring "it".

* A certain chilliness has entered relations between the palace and leading historian Andrew Roberts. When Roberts was asked to help Kate Middleton with her royal history, it was on the strict understanding that the arrangement would remain confidential.

Within days The Spectator got wind that "historian Andrew Roberts is to give Kate a lesson in the history of the House of Windsor". Amid hurried denials from Clarence House, future coaching lessons with Roberts are now said to be "on hold".

* I have been asked to point out that there is no family connection between myself and Church's China, Britain's best-loved manufacturer of royal wedding memorabilia ( www.theukgiftcompany.com). No sooner said than done!

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