How Spain's Queen Letizia surpassed Kate Middleton to become the world's most stylish royal
Kate Middleton is oft-regarded as the ultimate in royal style.
She’s the woman who started a movement of more conservative dress, brought back nude tights and possesses the unique ability to ensure an item as an instant sell-out with just one picture.
As the spotlight widens to other European royals, a certain Spanish queen is hot on her heels and may have usurped the Duchess of Cambridge as the most stylish royal in the world.
Traditionally, neither would be comparable in their style - Kate is traditional, fond of fascinators and adheres to the strict dress code in place by the British royal family, whereas Letizia is more laid-back while managing to look impossibly smart at the same time.
Letizia recently visited the UK with her husband King Felipe and these fashionable forces collided, namely pictures of a rather uncomfortable looking Letizia, normally impeccably clad with the confidence to match, sitting stiff in a horse and carriage in all yellow ensemble with a wide brim hat atop her head as they landed in London.
Before the couple embarked one of their most high profile trips to date, countless websites and blogs took a refresher course in Letizia’s style and discovered that she has been quietly making waves in style circles previously exclusively occupied by Kate.
This week, she is soaking up the sun on holidays with her family in Palma de Mallorca, infusing Hamptons-style for daywear with high end designers for the evening.
"I look at the two of them and I don’t think they’re alike at all style wise," Irish milliner Edel Ramberg tells Independent.ie Style.
"With Queen Letizia, she’s very much established in her style –she’s confident in what she wears and knows what suits her, maybe because of the age difference between them. She’s a fan of leather skirts and blouses tucked in, the skirt is fitted and shows off her shape and fits her well; you never see Kate in skirts and tops, she’s always in dresses. Letizia mixes it up.
"Kate’s always in dresses and is predicable – she’s absolutely beautiful and there’s never a hair out of place, buy you look at her and think she should be more stylish."
The concept of personal style is objective even for the placeholders at the top of Vogue best dressed lists, but Kate has often come under fire, in particular from the British press, for her carbon-copy style, maintaining the same hairstyle for 10 years (before cutting it last month) and her sometimes too-heavy eyeliner (her sister Pippa is always criticised for this perceived makeup sin).
Letizia, on the other hand, has a fresher approach to day-to-day fashion, taking advantage of the sunnier climes in Spain which allows her to showcase her super-toned arms and take more risks during these public engagements, despite being nearly 10 years older. What qualifies as a risk as a royal differs greatly to what you and I would consider a risk – an above the knee skirt, a dramatic pair of earrings, or even a simply haircut.
"She cut her hair not so long ago, I think there’s such a theme and halo of classicism among so many royals, such a simply thing for any woman to, but it shows such forward thinking and confidence," stylist and Lennon/Courtney designer Sonya Lennon adds.
"Royals tend to be seen as a throwback, even the terms, prince and princess is wrapped up in our Disney feeling about life. She is absolutely a clothes horse, in terms of her body shape and physicality. She wears clothes well, whether it’s through nutrition and exercise, she’s very slim and fit looking."
Both women are brand ambassadors for their respective country’s indigenous designers –Letizia favours Adolfo Dominguez and shoes by Magrit; while Kate prefers L.K. Bennett and Alexander McQueen.
"One of the things that has become a new luxury is finding designers everybody doesn't know about," Sonya explained.
"Globalisation has done an incredible thing for local designers – it’s creating a cache of people others don’t know about. It means so much for the careers of young designers you’d almost hope very celebrity or woman in the public eye would have an ethos around that."
Queen Letizia, a former television news journalist who fell for a prince (now King Felipe) 15 years ago comes from a similar background as Middleton: they’re both 'normal' women who married into royalty, learning the ropes of royal life on the job, without having the blue blooded upbringing to ease them into expected decorum, which includes dress.
"They’re both decades in the monarchy, but still relatively new to the royal family. They have similar upbringings and backgrounds – people look at them and compare them," Edel explained, adding that Kate’s predictable style is cause of her public wardrobe fatigue.
"They’re stunningly beautiful, both dark, from normal middle class backgrounds and that’s why people relate to them. I think that she’s [Letizia] not in a uniform as much; you know Kate will be wearing a flare dress or an A-line skirt, she’s still impeccable and so beautiful, but I feel like saying, 'Come on you’re only 35, go nuts!'
"Look at the Queen of Jordan, she’s a bit older – she knows what suits the occasion but still puts across her stamp on things."
And despite the backlash Kate received for her dusty pink ensemble at Pippa’s wedding in May, Edel revealed there’s a very simple reason for the look, which was dubbed "matronly".
"With regards to millinery, Kate always gets it right. So many people slated the outfit she wore to her sister’s wedding - but I thought she looked amazing. Wearing all one colour photographs amazingly, you look longer and slimmer and that look was elegant and striking," she explained.
"Look at Queen Elizabeth – if she wears a yellow coat, she wears a yellow hat; any photos of block colours photograph amazingly well."
Stylist Justine King also noted the similarities in Kate’s style to that of her grandmother-in-law, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
"I think Kate Middleton as soon as she actually married into the royal family, dressed way too old,” Justine says.
"Letizia dresses very age appropriate. Victoria Beckham is the style I think she’s closest to; a great role model for corporate style. A lot of women could definitely take workwear inspiration from her."
For more of Queen Letizia's style moments, see the gallery below: