Search for Kate Middleton (despite the fact that this hasn’t been her name in 7 years) and you will find 27,800,000 queries on google.
For some reason, there is tremendous public interest in the wife of Prince William. Is it because she will one day be the Queen (Consort) of England? Or is it because she was a regular person like the rest of us (albeit slightly wealthier with a cooler accent) who somehow found herself marrying into royalty, making her life akin to a modern day fairy tale?
Whatever the reason, the world can’t get enough of Princess Kate, aka, the Duchess of Cambridge- whatever her proper name vs. what the media calls her.
And to make an admission, I also find her fascinating.
I admit this with some embarrassment. I’m a Rebbetzin. I don’t own a TV or watch shows (even if I had the interest and/or patience, who has time?) and my familiarity with celebrity gossip hearkens back to 1999. I view celebrities as regular people who are more attractive than your average person, wealthier and who generally have larger egos (covering larger insecurities). It is beyond me why they make as much money as they do- be it for acting or for sports, and I have no interest in following their short-lived marriages and divorces. But despite my disinterest in the rich and famous, I have followed Kate since she and William were dating, through their engagement, their wedding and through the births of their three children.
I’ve asked myself, what’s the attraction. I am not enamored by the concept of royalty and I don’t have the same interest in Meghan Markle or anyone else in the royal family.
So what is about Kate?
And after some thought, here’s the answer I’ve come up with: she’s regal. Not because she’s married to royalty but her very persona personifies regalness. And because this trait is such a rarity today, it’s intriguing. Not to mention, inspiring.
What is about her that makes her regal (aside from being married to a prince)? One could argue, it’s her appearance. The Duchess is always put together, appearing in beautifully tailored dresses, with a perfect blowout and makeup; she comes across reserved, but always smiling, warm and cordial.
And this in truth, is in itself inspiring, certainly to frum women: While she may not dress within the confines of halacha, there is no question that her wardrobe flaunts neither skin nor loud fashions. Kate Middleton, arguably one of the most public and admired women in the world, is modestly garbed (certainly by today’s standards,) and despite, or perhaps, because of this, her clothes become an instant sell-out, coining the term “The Kate Middleton effect”. Kate, with her modest hems and necklines looks more elegant and beautiful than the famous actresses in their skimpy attires, and in this vein, she is teaching a lesson to the women of today that tznius is beautiful; that one can truly be attractive, while not being attracting. (And how fascinating that royal etiquette requires longer dresses, hats and stockings!)
But it is not just her appearance that makes her regal and modest (and which one can attribute to the guidelines of the Royal Family anyway,) but her very character. You would think that being attractive and rich- not to mention married to royalty- would affect her (and who knows, maybe in private, it does?) but the media reports that she repeats outfits, sometimes purchased at regular shops, which one would not imagine of a woman of her stature and riches. She went to her sister and sister-in-law’s weddings and made efforts not to steal the limelight, even watching all of the children at her sister’s wedding in an effort to remain in the background. At home, despite having a nanny, she chooses to be a hands-on mother, wanting her kids to be “normal”. She did her own makeup at her wedding, a wedding which millions watched, which is an unusual practice for weddings of much smaller standards. She is, by all accounts, very down to earth, and enjoys the outdoors and sports, giving off an overall air of wholesomeness. All of which, I find admirable.
But above all, it’s the way she carries herself that impresses me. She may appear to live a charmed life, but I’m sure her life is as imperfect as yours and mine, if not more so. I’m sure her children have tantrums too, I’m sure she also argues with her husband and it cannot be easy to be chased by paparazzi every time she goes to the grocery store or to follow every one of the Queen’s dictates. It is certainly not easy to present oneself on the world stage, dressed and made up and in heels, mere hours after giving birth (hey, it’s hard enough to be at the shalom zachar and the bris!)
And yet, if she’s ever ruffled, we don’t see it. She is always affable and charming, showing interest in those she meets and the causes she supports.
Whatever is going on in her life- when she was laughed at by the media for waiting for a proposal from William for years, when she suffered a public break-up, when she emerged from the hospital after suffering from extreme morning sickness and each time she gave birth, she was all smiles. She has utter self-control and dignity. Whatever happens within the four walls (OK, many many walls) of her home, she is always, always dignified in public.
In today’s world, so focused on empowerment and having a voice, dignity is hardly a common or treasured trait. And yet, I believe it is Kate’s regality and dignity that attract so many and make us wishful for these traits in ourselves. And watching her makes us realize that perhaps the true secret of empowerment is not as much raising our voice, but being dignified and composed, no matter what is thrown our way.
To be clear, I am not suggesting we should pretend to be perfect. In a world where Facebook is sometimes referred to as “Fakebook”, where statuses and pictures are often shared to make marriages, children, careers, etc. seem impossibly wonderful, it is important to be real. We can and perhaps should share our struggles, even at times, in public. We should certainly stand up for ourselves when we need to and fight injustice. But there’s a way to handle frustration with dignity. There’s a value to smile even when life is tough. Not to be fake, but to be dignified.
In this day and age, who prizes regality, dignity and grace? And yet, looking at Kate makes me wonder if this is in part, what tznius is about. To have a cover of mystery, to not always wear our thoughts and feelings on our sleeves. To smile and rise above it all.
And perhaps the large number of “Kate searches” over google reflects modern-day society reaching out for the old-fashioned values that Kate represents. Values, that even we, frum women can learn from.
Ariela Davis is the Director of Judaics at Addlestone Hebrew Academy and the Rebbetzin of Brith Sholom Beth Israel, the historic shul of downtown Charleston, South Carolina. She writes and speaks about issues related to Israel, the Holocaust and Jewish thought. She can be reached at email@example.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.