Candid camera: why nothing beats seeing pictures of royals like Kate and Meghan in the real world
Every once in awhile, long-suffering royal watchers get a small payoff for their investment in the British royal family.
This usually includes a forthcoming interview, an empowering speech or an exciting new ensemble; but this process of securing easy wins for royal duties is now a well-oiled machine. The rest of the time, many wait with baited breath to see milestone moments like first day of school pictures, engagement announcements or the fascination that comes with a wedding.
And then, there is a reward so rare, it's almost an endangered species: the candid pictures.
As the debate continues as to how much is fair game when it comes to personal and public duties - in particular with Meghan and Harry's increasingly tense relationship with the press - pictures of the British royal family out and about in their normal lives was a breath of fresh air.
Last year, pictures of a pregnant Kate Middleton running in wedges after her boisterous children Prince George and Princess Charlotte at the polo were the perfect antidote to a Britain battle weary from the ongoing Brexit dramas.
It's been just over 12 months since those images were taken and a world of continued uncertainty, the royals delivered in their most important job: cheering people up.
On Wednesday, pictures of the Sussexes and Cambridges at the polo in Berkshire were so refreshingly normal. There were more than a dozen takes of Kate, sitting on the ground with her children - including a rambunctious Prince Louis - and new mother Meghan holding her two-month-old son Archie as they supported their husbands Princes William and Harry compete at the King Power Royal Charity Polo Day.
Pictures of royals ‘in the wild’, i.e. not in a carefully choreographed engagement as part of their work, are almost impossible to come by. British photographers and newspapers have agreements in place with the palace not to run candid shots that may be deemed an invasion of privacy. For example, when Kate and William were pictured leaving a doctor’s office late at night while pregnant with Charlotte; reputable publications chose not to run it, leaving it to gossip blogs and some unscrupulous tabloids.
But polo matches are fair game: they are public events where there is no expectation of privacy. And while they have been widely well received for portraying the most senior members of the British royal family as nothing but a bunch of down-to-earth parents spending time with their in-laws on a summer day.
Kate was pictured sitting on the grass feeding her youngest son snacks, while George and Charlotte waited in the car in conversation with their mother; Charlotte's hair tousled from an active afternoon and George is dressed in the clothing he wears when his picture won't be used in a national archive.
The Duchess of Cambridge has built an entire image around being ‘normal’: she wears earrings from Accessorize, necklaces from Zara and dresses from Hobbs during daytime engagements. Meghan, on the other hand, is still finding her feet in her new role and the extensive scrutiny that comes with it.
She’s been accused of spending too much money on her clothing and being too self-serving in her work, but a snapshot of her cradling and kissing her baby boy in a California-cool ensemble was just the tonic her image needed.
She is embracing her infant son, wrapped in a white blanket, wearing a pair of Stella McCartney aviator sunglasses and an oversized shift dress by Lisa Marie Fernandez, her hair worn in loose waves - the type of hairstyle she preferred in her pre-royal days.
If ever there was a reminder that palace officials should let her wear what she wants instead of fitting some sort of pre-ordained style bill, this was it.
Between Meghan and Harry’s insistence that they only release images from Archie’s christening through social media, a move which prompted widespread criticism from just about everyone with an opinion and Meghan’s personal protection officers reportedly asking other Wimbledon guests not to take her picture, the couple needed a public win.
You could argue these pictures are convenient timing; but what’s there to complain about when people finally get what they want?
Before Kate and Meghan married into the family, there was a relatively steady stream of images of Kate in her day-to-day life, either rowing or heading to work as an accessories buyer in Jigsaw and in Meghan’s case, it meant daily yoga sessions with her mother.
This was the first time that we’ve seen Meghan as herself and not some non-existent version of royals think a princess should dress like in 2019. There were no flesh coloured tights, ill-fitting dresses or oversized hats; just a woman dressing as herself and showing more of that might endear even the most critical among us.