Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Prince of Cuddles: The touching embrace that shows the love between William and Kate... and a refreshing departure from Royal protocol

By Laura Collins

Hands-on prince: Shunning the traditional Royal reserve, Prince William proudly holds Kate in a protective, loving and close embrace - to her obvious delight

If there were any lingering doubts over just what sort of a man Prince William is – or just how determined he is to do things his way – this is the picture that dispels them.

In contrast with previous generations of Royal husbands-to-be and with scant concern for traditional reserve, William wraps Kate Middleton protectively in his arms, cherished and embraced for all the world to see.

It is not so much a formal portrait as a remarkable public declaration of love to herald a new Royal age.

For much of their eight-year courtship they abided by a pact not to touch in public, conscious that their every move was subject to scrutiny and speculation.

Now, nearly a month after Prince William and Kate announced their engagement, we see them for the first time just as they wish to be seen: a young couple bursting with happiness and love; intimate and at ease and unlike any R Royal couple before.

And where his father Charles and uncle Andrew were both stiffly formal in official photographs with their fiancees, William is as easy, tactile and affectionate as the woman he is about to marry.

It is one of two very different portraits released today in which William and Kate reveal their acute awareness of the formal public role that they must play, while offering, with gentle insistence, a charming reminder that they are, at heart, a couple in love.

And in this striking departure from conventional Royal portraits, the less formal of the two is further evidence that William is determined that he and his bride will be the driving force behind this wedding – not Prince Charles and his staff at Clarence House, and not the Queen and her retinue at Buckingham Palace.

The official engagement photo¬graphs were taken by Mario Testino on November 25, nine days after the couple, both 28, made their announcement.

Traditional: Even in this more formal portrait, which was taken in the Council
Chamber at St James's Palace, William and Kate appear tactile and happy in their evident love for one another

According to Testino: ‘They are in their prime and brimming with happiness. I have never felt so much joy as when I see them together.’

Certainly joy and light suffuses the less formal of the pictures taken that day at St James’s Palace. William wears jeans and a beige cashmere jumper by Brunello Cucinelli. Kate snuggles into him in cream Whistles blouse and jeans.

The soft tones and flawless complexions may owe something to the photographer’s skilful lighting, but the sentiment is real enough.

Testino has been the photographer of choice for many significant Royal occasions. It was Testino to whom Prince Harry turned to mark his 20th and 21st birthdays, when he photographed the third in line to the throne laughing with his older brother and father.

But it is his portraits of Diana with which the Peruvian photographer will always be most closely associated, a fact of which both William and Kate would have been keenly aware. Yet again her son’s desire to include his late mother in his current happiness is clear and, set against all that beige and cream, the deep blue of her former engagement ring draws the eye.

For all the echoes of the past, this picture is all about William and Kate as they cuddle into each other in the Cornwall Room, part of the private quarters at St James’s Palace.

The more formal of William and Kate’s two portraits is notably crisper in style and shot in a setting steeped in history. Fittingly the Council Chamber in which William and Kate stand is one of the palace’s State apartments, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1703.

Portraits of William’s ancestors hang on the walls: William III, Mary II and Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel.

William is dressed in Turnbull & Asser suit, shirt and tie while Kate wears a cream Reiss dress and Links earrings.

Even here they are a couple at ease, naturally turning their bodies in towards each other while looking out at us; a thoroughly modern couple, aware of their past, but clearly determined to shape their own future.

What a contrast with the rest of the family

Official photographs of Royal engagements haven't always been so informal...

Defensive: Prince Charles crosses his arms, leaving Diana to hug him in their 1981 official engagement picture

Formal pose: Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson show little affection

Smiles: But with Sophie and Edward the bride-to-be seems more at ease

Stand firm: Formality was the watchword when the Queen and Prince Philip stood, ram-rod rigid, staring into the distance with little contact

Couple plan to take over 71-room hotel


William and Kate hope to take over a five-star hotel for their wedding weekend – at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

They are in talks to hire the Goring Hotel, which is 400 yards from Buckingham Palace, where their reception will be held after the wedding on Friday, April 29.

Kate is particularly keen for her family and the couple’s friends who are travelling to London to be somewhere close to the Palace.

The hotel has 71 bedrooms, 17 of which are ‘queen doubles’ costing £345-a-night. A suite costs £850-a-night.

The near £30 million cost of the wedding is being picked up by the Queen and Charles.

Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, are giving £100,000 but much of this will go towards the bridal gown.

Sources say Kate was at the hotel two weeks ago, meeting its general manager, Graham Copeman, to discuss taking it over for the weekend.

Mr Copeman refused to comment yesterday but a source at the hotel said staff had been told to be available to work over the wedding weekend, including the bank holiday Friday.

‘They have been told they will be required to work around the clock and that the hotel is being locked down for the long weekend of the 29th,’ said the source.

St James’s Palace said that Kate is considering ‘a number of options for accommodation for her family but nothing is confirmed’.


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