Kate’s very awkward email revealed. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Kate’s very awkward email revealed. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate’s awkward email to friends

How do you prepare to become a future Queen?

Practise waving from the back seat every time you get into an Uber? Spend hours wearing nude pantyhose for no good reason? Teach yourself Scottish reels using only YouTube and a pliant best friend? Because if there was ever a person who secretly wished the Princess Diaries was less Julie Christie vehicle and more instructional DVD set, surely it was Kate Middleton circa 2008.

It as a tough time for the former part-time accessories buyer, who had not quite managed to secure a full-time job since graduating from St Andrews University in 2005. After six years of dating, two share houses at university, one breakup, one nurse costume (seriously) and one make-up, she was Prince William's steady squeeze. Engagement speculation was rife. Woolworths in the UK was already working on commemorative plates for the putative wedding. (No pressure or anything …)

And Kate? Well, she was slowly being introduced to life as a member of Windsor Incorporated.

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Pippa and Kate Middleton at a book launch in 2007, way before epic royal weddings and booty-hugging dresses. Picture: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images.
Pippa and Kate Middleton at a book launch in 2007, way before epic royal weddings and booty-hugging dresses. Picture: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images.

In March of that year, Kate had been invited to watch William get his RAF wings and was seen chatting to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. (Nothing like a dull graduation ceremony followed by a celebratory glass of iced water to really get a taste for just how tedious some parts of royal life can be.)

Then in May, Kate attended Peter Philips' wedding to Autumn Kelly on behalf of Wills when he popped off to Kenya to attend the nuptials of Bastian Craig, the brother of his rumoured former paramour, Jecca Craig.

Both of these outings, hats most definitely required, were basically flashing neon pointers that Kate was slowly being taught the royal ropes.

 

Prince William of Wales with his then-girlfriend Kate Middleton, shortly after William received his RAF wings from his father, the Prince of Wales. Picture: AP.
Prince William of Wales with his then-girlfriend Kate Middleton, shortly after William received his RAF wings from his father, the Prince of Wales. Picture: AP.

But there was another, much more personal thing that needed to be addressed during this transition period: her name.

Born Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, it was while she was at boarding school as a teenager that she started to be known as Kate, which then extended into her university years.

However, just in the way the Queen doesn't use Liz (with a heart above the 'i') when she signs official documents, diminutive versions of names are about as abhorrent to members of the royal family as opening their own car doors or knowing how to work the dryer.

Which is why, at some stage in 2008, Kate is reported to have sent out a very interesting email to her trusted circle, asking that they now call her Catherine rather than Kate.

News of her request broke in May of that year, when Sunday Express columnist Adam Helliker reported that she had sent out a "gentle" message to her mates about this particular, personal issue. Helliker said of the message the future Queen had written: "It was just a very jokey thing."

As a young 20-something-year-old, Kate Middleton was simply trying to shift from recent graduate to royal family member.
As a young 20-something-year-old, Kate Middleton was simply trying to shift from recent graduate to royal family member.

 

There is something inherently awkward about the scenario. Imagine: Across the better parts of London, Norfolk and Gloucestershire, the number of tweed-loving school and university chums who would have opened that email, squinted at the screen, shrugged (perhaps entertained a quick giggle) and then had to edit their contact lists.

The implication was blinding - that shifting her "brand" from the cozy Kate to the far grander Catherine was solely in aid of her gradual transformation into a bona fide member of the royal family.

While Prince Charles' press secretary at the time, Paddy Harverson, denied the report, royal biographer Robert Jobson says that Helliker stood by his story.

Campaign Catherine would continue, however, to only very limited success.

 

By the time the two got engaged in 2010, Campaign Catherine was well and truly underway. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images.
By the time the two got engaged in 2010, Campaign Catherine was well and truly underway. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images.

The Daily Mail's chief royal correspondent, Rebecca English, told Vanity Fairthat "in the run up to the 2011 royal wedding, senior members of the palace PR team encouraged us in the British media to refer to Kate as 'Catherine'. I think they thought it was more formal, more dignified, more royal. And to be fair, it is the name her family refers to her by. Needless to say, though, they were pretty much ignored!"

Kate kept the crusade going too, introducing herself as Catherine during her engagement announcement in 2010. Prince William still refers to his wife by her more formal appellation when they are out and about. (Sadly, he does not use "Babykins", his reported nickname for his wife.)

Yet, to this day, online searches for "Kate Middleton" have followed a similar pattern to those for "Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge" since the couple's wedding in 2011, and searches for "Kate Middleton" equal about 50 per cent of the traffic for her full name and title.

All of which is to say, given it's been more than 10 years, maybe it's time for her to send out another email …

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and freelance writer with 15 years' experience writing for some of Australia's best print and digital media brands. Continue the conversation @DanielaElser