Damaging Kate Middleton claim revived by Netfix’s The Crown season

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What ever happened to loo-gate?

These days, to look at William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, their broad, toothy white smiles and energetic good works held up as the apogee of royal perfection, it seems impossible to imagine that it all nearly didn’t come to pass, in part because of a ‘loo’.

Often forgotten is the fact that in 2007 the prince dumped his university paramour, with the consensus at the time being that the painfully bourgeois background of Kate, and her mother’s use of the word ‘toilet’, were to blame.

The final episodes from the final season of The Crown(let me wipe a tear of blessed relief from my eye) have been released. After seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent by producers on repro pearls, renting Georgian piles and tranquillising the hired horses, it is over.

However, with the series finally introducing us to Kate, who is depicted as a bland girl who makes a bland cake and whose all around good-natured blandness is the key to winning the heart of a future King, it presents us – and Kensington Palace – with some problems. Big ones.

Take, for example, that the series revives a hugely damaging claim about Kate or the fact that the series essentially leaves out a major storyline about her.

It’s easy to look at Kate now, the effortless princess gliding about the place as if she had more blue blood than a Hapsburg family reunion; a future Queen adored, accepted and more popular with the public than the actual Windsor family. But, things were not perfect for her or easy or simple.

Back to 2001, we need to go back to when William and Kate both found themselves studying at Scotland’s St Andrew’s University with much of the new series being given over to the embryonic beginnings of the Waleses’ university romance.

‘Kate’ is perfect, ‘William’ broods and they go out to buy cheese together. Engrossing stuff indeed.

The closest this season gives us to a baddie is Carole Middleton, a woman portrayed as being the Edmund Hillary of social climbers, so unrelenting and cartoonish is she in her pursuit they should have had actress Eve Best carry a step ladder and a dog-eared copy of Debrett’s in all of her scenes.

It is, we are told, at ‘Carole’s’ bidding that Meg Bellamy’s pretty but dreary Kate ditches her first choice of a university to drastically change course. Instead of heading to Edinburgh University with her school friends, first she will gamely scrub toilets on a gap year charity expedition to Chile before heading to the grey wilds of northern Scotland to do the same course as a future King.

This whole longwinded plot, the producers want us to believe, was formulated by a gimlet-eyed Carole who knows that her gel is just what a lonely prince needs. That and dinner on a tray on his lap and a taste of the middle-class good life. (There will be cake.)

Ma Middleton is the mastermind here, the Geppeto to puppet Kate.

But, is it true?

As we know, the Crown loves to graft ludicrous bits of fiction onto cold hard facts such as the ridiculous notion that Imelda Staunton’s Queen was planning to abdicate at King Charles and Queen Camilla’s 2005 wedding.

Unfortunately for the Palace’s sake, it well could be. This Kate storyline, of her ending up at St Andrew’s not being an instance of lovely serendipity but proof of maternal cunning can’t easily be ignored.

Here are the facts.

In 2000 Kate finished school and had applied for, and been accepted into, Edinburgh University, a plan she had made with friends Emilia d’Erlanger and Alice St John Webster. On August 17 of that year, St James’s Palace revealed that William would take a gap year and then head to St Andrews University.

Then, for some reason, Kate had a massive change of heart, deciding instead that she would, wouldn’t you know it, take a gap year and then attempt to get a place at St Andrews, which by then was buckling under the weight of applications.

In 2005, society writer Matthew Bell reported for the Spectator: “Some insiders wonder whether her university meeting with Prince William can really be ascribed to coincidence … it has been suggested that her mother persuaded Kate to reject her first choice on hearing the news and take up her offer at St Andrews instead.”

Kate’s former Marlborough College housemistress Anne Patching told biographer Katie Nicholl: “After she left school, Catherine made some different decisions, but why she made those decisions I don’t know.”

It’s also worth noting that not only did Kate end up studying at the same place as William, she ended up doing the same gap year expedition in Chile as her future husband.

Curious and curiouser.

It’s impossible to say for sure whether the Crown’s telling is accurate but the way the facts stack up they lend her, and possibly her mother, a certain predatory, carnivorous air.

However, Carole Middleton’s part in the story of William and Kate does not end there.

One thing that the new Crown only skates over is how the Olympic-level snobbery of William’s braying aristocratic crowd nearly derailed their relationship in the aughties.

By 2007, the prince “had become increasingly aware of a rising level of cruel sniggering among his friends, and plain disdain from royal hangers-on” at his girlfriend’s family, according to the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay, a confidant of Diana, the late Princess of Wales.

When Kate turned up at events, his friends, per Kay, would whisper “doors to manual,” in reference to Carole having been a flight attendant and there were “cackling jokes” about her “breeding” even after the couple had been together for years.

Bell, in that same Spectator piece, had mused of Kate, “Her lineage can’t be traced much further back than the suburbanisation of Berkshire, and she is not part of the county set”.

While there are a few references strewn throughout the new episodes of The Crown, the series seems to gloss over what Kate was up against here.

When the prince ended things with Kate in 2007, the press’ consensus largely seemed to be that her family’s middle-class ways had played a part in this decision.

Largely at fault was Carole supposedly. Kay reported that, in the eyes of upper crust, the Party Piece’s founder had committed multitudinous faux pas that included ‘nervously blurting out’ “pleased to meet you” when she was introduced to the late Queen, using the world “toilet” (loo or lavatory get the toff tick of approval) and even saying “pardon?” rather than “sorry?”.

Nothing, however, trumped the social crime of Carole chewing nicotine gum during William’s Sandhurst passing-out parade, the first public event attended by both the Middletons and the royal family.

Aside from a few stray references in the new episodes, such as Staunton’s Queen looking pained at hearing the Middletons like eating in their kitchen “like staff” and William’s chinless pasty old Etonian mates giggling over Carole’s flight attendant past, this all gets passed over.

Now, post-Sussex, the accepted narrative is that Kate was generally treated like she could walk on water and cure the sick and has had, aside from those pesky paps, had a largely effortless run from undergraduate with neat handwriting to future Queen.

The Crown’s version of Kate as sexless and beige, an untroublesome neat gal bereft of charisma or anything of note besides being “fit” and good at getting out library books, makes it all look so very easy.

Kate’s family might have had the money to send her to boarding school but she was clearly looked down on from the great, chinless heights of the upper crust. In a country unremittingly obsessed with class, this was not a hurdle that could be effortlessly vaulted over yet The Crown ignores a fundamental part of the Kate story.

Irony time. Despite the series’ malicious rendering of the Middleton matriarch, despite the actual businesswomen’s mortifying ‘toilets’ and the gum and despite all those guffawing, smug Hooray Henry’s getting a kick out of mocking Kate, ultimately, Carole won. It is her grandson who will be King. And that is what you call, having the last laugh.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Kate MiddletonNetflix

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