Thursday 20 June 2019

How Kate Middleton made a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show the royals' most effective publicity strategy

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visits the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, England. (Photo by Kensington Palace via Getty Images)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visits the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, England. (Photo by Kensington Palace via Getty Images)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on May 20, 3019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Yui Mok WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (R) talks with Nicholas Bacon, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) chairman during her visit to the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 20, 2019. - The Chelsea flower show is held annually in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. (Photo by Yui Mok / POOL / AFP)YUI MOK/AFP/Getty Images
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with Andree Davies (centre) and Adam White during a visit to her garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on May 20, 3019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Yui Mok WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
\vatherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge waves as she leaves after visiting the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 20, 2019
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge climbs a ladder into a treehouse as she visits the 'Back to Nature Garden' garden, that she designed along with Andree Davies and Adam White, during her visit to the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 20, 2019
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Louis play with a rope swing in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, on May 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Porteous/Kensington Palace via Getty Images)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, on May 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Porteous/Kensington Palace via Getty Images)
Princess Charlotte swings from a tree in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, on May 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Porteous/Kensington Palace via Getty Images)
A picture released by Kensington Palace on May 19, 2019 shows Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with their children Prince George (L), Princess Charlotte (C) and Prince Louis at the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. (Photo by Matt Porteous / KENSINGTON PALACE / AFP)
A picture released by Kensington Palace on May 19, 2019 shows Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge standing with Prince Louis in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. (Photo by Matt Porteous / KENSINGTON PALACE / AFP)
Kensington Palace undated handout photo of the Duchess of Cambridge in the Adam White (not in picture) and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Kate in the Adam White (left) and Andree Davies (right) co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Kate Middleton's love of gardening has become her most effective PR campaign in recent memory.

In recent months, Britain's Duchess of Cambridge has been busy toiling away at her Back to Nature Garden, which debuted at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London today after months of build-up.

It was Kate at her finest: an effective combination of her role as a mental health advocate, highlights her work with children and portrays her as the down-to-earth mother the palace are so desperate to convey. The immersive, back-to-nature experience aimed particularly at children was a reminder to put devices away and instead focus on the world around them.

"With Instagram everything is so visual. It's nice to sit and feel," she told teachers at a preview event earlier today.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

While Kate rarely - if ever - courts bad press, her husband can be prone to it, especially in recent months amid rumours he and Prince Harry have been feuding. She, on the other hand, has been the consistent force keeping things afloat in the public arena.

Kate Middleton, once ruthlessly referred to as ‘Waity Katie’ by the unforgiving British press, is now the guiding light in the royal family; the 'everywoman' who has turned her shy nature into her strongest character trait.

While her sister-in-law Meghan Markle is used to being outspoken and vocal in her support for causes, is struggling to adjust to the parameters of her new role as Duchess of Sussex; Kate has the advantage of time.

She has been married to William for eight years and they were together for nearly 10 before that and most of that time has been spent observing, watching the right - and in just as many cases - the wrong way, to do things from a unique perspective.

Over the years, Kate has created a genuinely lovely public image of herself from countless events dealing with children, mucking in when the occasion calls for it and getting her hands dirty outside. She lights up in the presence of children and there is a feeling that this is her genuine personality when the cameras are off.

Most importantly though, she is a professional with a job to do and being universally likable is top of that list.

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge climbs a ladder into a treehouse as she visits the 'Back to Nature Garden' garden, that she designed along with Andree Davies and Adam White, during her visit to the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 20, 2019
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge climbs a ladder into a treehouse as she visits the 'Back to Nature Garden' garden, that she designed along with Andree Davies and Adam White, during her visit to the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 20, 2019

The Chelsea Flower Show has become the perfect opportunity to showcase just how adept she is at her work, pulling out all the stops to ensure her participation stays on message.

On Sunday night, Kensington Palace released six images of her children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis playing with her and husband Prince William in the garden, through traditional media and on Instagram.

Theirs is, by now, a well-oiled publicity machine and Kate and William are masters at straddling the line between traditional and new media when it comes to making important announcements, unlike Meghan and Harry's notice of the birth of their son Archie ruffled many feathers of the old guard last week.

It is also a subtle diversion of a more positive narrative towards the Cambridges. It portrays their happiness as a unit, showing Kate and William on equal footing with their parenting duties, but it's clear it's Kate's time to shine as William is facing forward in only two images.

Pictures of George, Charlotte and Louis are purposely rare - the Cambridges treat their children’s privacy with the same seriousness as the Sussexes, but are required to give a little more because of their standing in line to the throne.

Charlotte perfectly mimics a picture of her mother on a swing, making the comparisons betweem them inevitable, while little Louis whom she said was “keeping them on their toes” is rambunctiously running around with a twig in his hand. George, the devoted older brother, is side by side with his younger siblings, finally dressed in modern boy’s clothes and not those more fitting of the Victorian era.

Princess Charlotte swings from a tree in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, on May 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Porteous/Kensington Palace via Getty Images)
Princess Charlotte swings from a tree in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, on May 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Porteous/Kensington Palace via Getty Images)

Kate wants you to know they are a modern family.

The down-to-earth tone was supported by her appearance at the the event in London today, wearing an entirely new outfit - which she knows gets even more headlines than repeats - choosing a pair of Massimo Dutti linen culottes, a white eyelet blouse and her trusty Superga runners; making her the perfect embodiment of high-end gardening with a maternal twist.

She made the Superga white sneakers a must-have since she debuted them in 2016 and her choice of repeating them (although likely a new pair given how sparkly white they are), are a conscious choice.

A picture of Kate in culottes is a rarity and she knows that by debuting a brand new, on-trend outfit, she is guaranteeing maximum coverage for this cause in which she has become so invested.

Although the display was co-designed by landscape architects Andree Davies and Adam White, this is Kate’s baby and Kensington Palace has taken control.

She invited children from local London schools to enjoy the immersive experience of it, including a high platform tree house and spoke to their teachers afterwards about the importance of getting outdoors and understanding nature so “they can care for it and protect it”.

She also urged children to smell flowers, and enjoy the scent of the open campfire.

It's the perfect example that during the undoubtedly endless 'how to be a good royal' lessons, Kate may have been the only one listening.

A picture released by Kensington Palace on May 19, 2019 shows Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with their children Prince George (L) and Prince Louis at the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. (Photo by Matt Porteous / KENSINGTON PALACE / AFP)
A picture released by Kensington Palace on May 19, 2019 shows Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with their children Prince George (L) and Prince Louis at the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. (Photo by Matt Porteous / KENSINGTON PALACE / AFP)

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