New portraits of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, are signaling a new era for a woman on the brink of becoming Queen Consort.
The Duchess celebrated her 40th birthday Sunday with the release of three official portraits taken by Italian fashion photographer Paolo Roversi.
The photos, taken in November at London’s Kew Gardens, will enter the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and will be displayed at three places close to Middleton’s heart — a part of the Portrait Gallery’s Coming Home project.
The Duchess shared the photos on social media, adding: “Thank you for all of your very kind birthday wishes, and to Paolo and the National Portrait Gallery for these three special portraits,” and signed the post with a simple “C,” for Catherine.
The first photo shared shows Middleton in a white, off-the-shoulder Alexander McQueen chiffon gown, looking off into the distance. Her stunning sapphire engagement ring is highlighted by a ribbon train wrapped around her finger, coming from the gown’s shoulder bows.
Her hair is different from her usual bouncy blow-out, instead appearing in tighter, more natural-looking curls.
She wears a pair of her late mother-in-law’s classic drop-pearl earrings, which were a gift given to Diana ahead of her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981.
As many royal watchers have pointed out, the photos are reminiscent of photos taken of a young Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother by photographer Cecil Beaton.
In the second photo, the Duchess switches things up, quite literally. Her hair is parted on the left side, for a change (she usually parts it on the right) and she’s shown with bold red lips, and wind-blown hair. She also dons a pair of the Queen’s Diamond Frame Earrings.
Her red, pocketed (!) one-shoulder Alexander McQueen dress features big, puffed sleeves and channels the energy of the glamourous shots Princess Diana was fond of taking.
Stylistically, the third photo mixes the energy of the previous two — the glamourous head-shot with the black and white romanticism. She again wears a white McQueen gown and Diana’s pearl earrings, but this time the focus is tight on her face and smile.
According to People Magazine, Middleton’s children helped choose this particular photo as one to place in the Portrait Gallery.
The new photos will be displayed over the course of 2022 in Berkshire, St. Andrews, and Anglesey, before heading to the Portrait Gallery in 2023.
Berkshire is where Middleton grew up, St. Andrews is where the Duchess and Prince William met while studying at the University of St. Andrews and Anglesey is where the couple first shared a home after their wedding in 2011.
Per Google Translate, Roversi told Italian newspaper that Middleton was “apprehensive” during the photo shoot, explaining that while she’s often caught on camera by paparazzi or during in-person events, she seldom poses for photographs alone.
He said the key to capturing the photos was natural light and a relaxed environment.
“Her with little make-up, no hairstyle, simple pearl earrings, a ring… The focal point of Kate’s face is her gaze and smile. I didn’t want her too lady duchess, too establishment, but purer and more contemporary as possible, even more timeless,” he told the newspaper.
Roversi also shared that there are photos that have not yet been revealed to the public, including one of the Duchess dancing.
“In the end I wanted to take pictures in motion, so with that wonderful wide skirt I made her dance in front of my camera, a kind of accelerated waltz mixed with a pinch of rock ‘n roll,” he shared.
Meanwhile, members of the royal family wished Middleton a very happy birthday on Sunday.
On Instagram, the official account for the Royal Family shared images of Kate alongside Queen Elizabeth. “Wishing The Duchess of Cambridge a very happy 40th birthday today!” the Royal Family wrote.
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, shared their own tribute to Kate on their Clarence House Instagram account.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Duchess was expected to celebrate her milestone birthday in a small, private celebration with family.
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