Sunday, 15 January 2017

Vote for Kate's Best Dress of 2016, a Move to London for the Cambridges & Calendar Updates!

Hello, I hope you're having a splendid weekend!

We're back with our next poll asking you to vote for Kate's Best Dress of 2016 and calendar updates, but first we have some very interesting news to share. As you all know, William's contract with the East Anglian Air Ambulance comes to its end later this spring; the Prince and the Duchess are said to have been grappling with a decision on whether he should renew his contract or if the time had come to take on a full-time role within the Royal family. It seems the couple have firmly reached their decision, as the incredibly reliable Roya Nikkhah exclusively reports in The Sunday Times: "The Duke of Cambridge is to end his career as a Norfolk-based helicopter pilot this year and move his family to London to take on full-time royal duties."

The Sunday Times

The Sunday Times article noted the Cambridges will make Kensington Palace their full-time home in the autumn when Prince George starts school, whilst Princess Charlotte is expected to attend a London nursery. The decision has followed "months of discussion within the Royal family who are said to be very supportive". Apparently, William even explored the option of Kate and the children remaining at Anmer Hall during the week before eventually deciding they didn't want to spend too much of it apart. This is particularly interesting as it would appear the possibility of raising George and Charlotte in Norfolk for the forseeable future was very much in consideration - so much so that being apart during the week was on the table. The privacy and normality they have enjoyed in Norfolk was clearly a major factor.

More from the article:

'A royal source said there had been "no pressure from above" to increase William’s workload but "he knew there would come a point where this would be his life for ever more. He has always been a lot less reluctant than people think to take on more work and this phase of his life. The duke and duchess are a strong team and believe in their family and supporting each other," the royal source said. "They will always put their family first, while juggling family commitments with their work.
While royal aides insist William is ready to commit to official life, friends say the duke will miss the normality and privacy he has enjoyed while living and working away from the royal spotlight. One friend said: "I know he has really loved living in Norfolk and being just one of the lads at work. He loves the banter.” A royal source added: “He will really miss the flying. He does love it."

William is reported to have ultimately decided to extend his contract by just a few months before the move in the autumn. This makes sense to me - we've heard very little regarding the possibility of a tour, overseas trips or plans in general (apart from the Heads Together initiative) for William and Kate in 2017. With a move ahead, there will be a huge amount of planning going into carving out an expansive role for the future king. Areas of focus are said to include mental health, bullying and homelessness. How will Kate's role change? I think, naturally we're going to see Kate's role grow substantially as William's does, with a much heavier portfolio of engagements, causes and likely patronages. Her primary focus will continue to be the children of course, but I would anticipate a considerable change moving forward. I recently wrote I thought the time was right for such a move; with the Queen and Prince Philip still incredibly active in their duties this will give William and Kate an opportunity to transition into full-time royal life. With their public profile and global popularity, the sky's the limit in terms of what they can achieve, and 2017 looks to be a definitive year in their lives as royals. A royal source told The Sunday Times: "This is a natural evolution of the new generation of the Royal family."

Tying in with Roya's report, Camilla Tominey wrote an interesting article in the The Sunday Express regarding plans for George's choice of school.

It had been assumed the three-year-old royal, who starts reception in September, would attend Wetherby School in Notting Hill, where Princes William and Harry were both pupils. But the Sunday Express has learned that George is more likely to be enrolled at the brand new Wetherby Kensington, a five-minute walk from the Cambridges’ London home. 
As well as being close, Wetherby Kensington will be much smaller, initially opening with just two reception classes for boys aged four and five. A source said: “The Duke and Duchess like the idea of George enrolling at the new smaller school because it is much more discreet than the original Wetherby. 
“A few of the pupils at that school in Notting Hill are the children of celebrities so it has always attracted quite a lot of paparazzi. Although the children cannot be photographed, there is still a market for pictures of famous parents on the school run. The new school off Gloucester Road is preferable because it is much more intimate and less likely to attract photographers. Plus, it is just around the corner from Kensington Palace.” 

It's going to be a big year for the Cambridges. What are your thoughts on the news?


Also tonight, we have news of upcoming engagements added to Kate's calendar. On Tuesday, 17 January William, Kate and Harry will speak at a briefing to outline the next phase of Heads Together as the campaign intensifies its efforts to create millions of conversations around mental health in 2017. The royals and other speakers will preview some of the themes and initiatives people can expect to see in the months ahead. I'm looking forward to this and hearing plans to continue efforts.

Kensington Palace

The following Tuesday, 24 January Kate will visit East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. The Duchess helped to launch the Nook Appeal in 2014, and will be updated on the progress of the £10m appeal by staff, supporters and families at the hospice.


It's looking very much like we'll see William, Kate and Harry participate in a television programme in April in support of Heads Together. It's all very hush-hush at present with little known. Early details from People's article:

'The royal trio are set to take part in a documentary for the BBC leading up to the London Marathon in April, according to reports Friday. The royals are working with presenter Nick Knowles, who told The Sun, “I’m working on a mental health documentary with the young royals, which should come out around the time of the marathon. I can’t tell you anymore.” Knowles also worked with William and Harry on the day that they helped renovate homes for injured or sick Armed Forces members on the BBC show DIYSOS in September 2015.'

We'll keep you up to date as official news becomes available on the programme. It's a great way to expand the conversation as Heads Together amps up its efforts - especially if the young royals have given interviews speaking candidly on their feelings regarding the topic.


As part of Party Pieces 30th anniversary celebrations, Carole Middleton shared a look back on the history of the successful company with a lovely photo taken in 1989. You'll notice a 7-year-old Kate on the far right with (I believe) Pippa and James behind their mum. In the accompanying piece Carole wrote: "From the small beginnings in my garden shed, we now employ more than 40 people and are able to send out 4,000 orders a week in busy times. It is still very much a family business today, and over the years all my children have played a huge part in it from modelling for the catalogue to developing new categories for the brand. James established our personalised cakes, Catherine started the 1st birthday side of the business, and Pippa developed the Party Pieces blog. They grew up with me working and appreciate the demands of a busy business and a working mum, and although now they are not involved day to day in the business, I still value their ideas and opinions."

Click here to read the full piece.


Continuing on with our polls, are you ready to vote for Kate's Best Dress of 2016? There is an abundance of options to choose from, and myriad hues and designers. From bespoke designer creations to L.K. Bennett favourites, Kate covered quite a bit of sartorial ground last year. As with our Coat and Gown Polls (click here if you haven't voted already), looks from the India/Bhutan and Canada tour have been omitted as post-tour polls were already held to determine your favourites from Kate's tour wardrobes.

In March, William and Kate carried out engagements focused on suicide prevention in London. The Duchess wore her green Erdem Allie coat, but unlike many such events when we don't see the dress underneath, on this occasion Kate removed the outer layer to reveal the eye-catching Jonathan Saunders Swallow Print Dress. From the designer's diffusion line in collaboration with department store Debenhams, the £60 dress was actually part of a 2012 collection described: "This black day dress from Edition by Jonathan Saunders features a button fastening along the centre front, pleats along the lower part of its skirt and a sash at the waist. It is styled in sheer chiffon with printed white birds."

Kate mastered understated sophistication in the L.K.Bennett Addison Dress when the young royals hosted the Obamas at Kensington Palace in April. The £325 dress features a jewel-toned print, transparent sleeves and ankle-grazing length. It's described: "Ideal for events both formal and casual, timeless in its style and fashion forward in its execution." Kate added her own navy belt to the look.

The Duchess brought back her Roksanda Ilincic Peridot Dress for an Anna Freud Centre luncheon in May. The blue-grey dress first made an appearance in Los Angeles in 2011 and again for a GREAT luncheon in 2012. It is draped to one side with cap sleeves and a pleated skirt. It originally retailed for £815.

For a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to view photos from her British Vogue photoshoot, Kate wore her pink McQueen Wool Cashmere Peplum Dress.

The Duchess brought back the cream ruffled McQueen dress she wore for George's christening. I was surprised both looks Kate wore for her children's christenings make another appearance (the McQueen coatdress Kate wore at Charlotte's christening was chosen for Trooping). I had thought they were tucked away safely somewhere for future exhibitions. The bespoke piece is based upon designs from the Spring/Summer 2012 Collection. The leaf crepe garment with wave ruffle panel, rounded padded shoulders and silk lining.

Kate was vibrant in a colour-block Roksanda dress for the Patron's Lunch in June. The combination of blue, coral and pastel-pink made the dress a very nice choice for the celebratory event.

The Duke and Duchess visited the American Embassy in central London to sign a book of condolences for the victims of the Orlando nightclub attack. Kate teamed her black Ralph Lauren jacket with the Tory Burch Sophia Dress. The garment features a leafy monochrome print, short sleeves and a pleat-flared skirt.

Kate channelled Eliza Doolittle for her debut at Ascot last summer. Attired in a white lace Dolce & Gabbana Midi Length Dress; it was a winning look for HRH. The swishy skirt, nipped in waist and intricate lace detail made this memorable for me!

We saw Kate experiment with her style quite a bit in 2016, something that was very much evident when she arrived at the Natural History Museum wearing the Off-the-Shoulder, Mesh-Paneled Dress by Brazilian designer Barbara Casasola. The $2,210 midi dress is cut from figure-sculpting, stretch-jersey and panelled with sheer mesh inserts for a sporty feel. Made in Italy, it was designed to create a flattering, feminine silhouette. A fantastic look for the Duchess and a new designer with excellent future potential.

Roksanda made her third appearance of the year at Wimbledon when Kate chose her white and yellow colour-block dress by the designer. Affectionately known as the "Banana Dress" (when Kate first wore it in Australia (William told her she looked like a banana), it was suggested Kate may have chosen it for Wimbledon as the colours are the same as a tennis ball. A nice bright choice for the day.

Much to our surprise, the Cambridges brought Prince George along to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Airford in July. Kate selected her striking Stella McCartney Ridley Dress for the occasion. Since 2012, the electric blue dress had had multiple public wears - and is certainly a contender for the most seen dress on Kate.

Kate was regal in a stunning bespoke lace Jenny Packham dress for Somme 100 events in France. The knee-length frock is crafted from beige lace over black underlay and features a peter pan collar, three-quarter length sleeves and peplum detail. The lace was supplied by French lacemaker Sophie Hallette.

For her second visit to Wimbledon, the Duchess selected a new dress by her go-to label McQueen featuring the season's popular 'Obsession' print. The jewel neckline and A-line silhouette dress was adorned with butterflies, skulls and lipstick.

We saw the return of reader favourite the L.K.Bennett Lasa poppy print dress in August when William and Kate carried out a day of engagements in Luton.

For a visit to the YoungMinds helpline service, Kate opted for the feminine and floaty L.K.Bennett Eugenia Dress - a vibrant red summery dress.

For the Cambridges' trip to Cornwall, Kate was pretty in pink in the Lela Rose Double Faced Twill Elbow Sleeve Dress with body contouring seams with band at waist, a fit-and-flare silhouette with soft pleated skirt and a back zip. The blush dress is from the Resort 2016 Collection.

We saw another brand debut when Kate wore the Altuzarra Aimee Button-Front Dress for a Heads Together engagement.

Kate was in Kate Spade for a special Heads Together event marking World Mental Health Day in October. The Encore Rose Chiffon Dress received mixed reviews on the day. The 100% silk collared dress includes long sleeves, a bow tie neck, left chest pocket, side seam pockets and Kate's favourite fit-and-flare style.

Kate was in a McQueen Floral Print Dress for a Team GB reception at Buckingham Palace. Upon first look, I felt certain it was a Beulah London design and was surprised to learn it was in fact a Sarah Burton creation.

For a children's party at the Natural History Museum, Kate was stylish in L.K.Bennett's Cersei Dress. Crafted from a luxe chiffon with textured velvet print, this style boasts a high neck and long sleeves for a sleek silhouette. The silk dress comes in an evergreen print.

That evening, Kate impressed fans and critics alike in the black Preen Finella Dress. We had seen HRH opt for the red version of the dress in Canada, and she obviously liked it so much she purchased it again. I love the 1950s silhouette, the draped bodice and voluminous box-pleated skirt (for fans of the dress it is reduced from $1,370 to $548 at the moment on Boutique1).

The Duchess was festive in Vanessa Seward for a volunteer Christmas party in December. The Cai Floral-Print Jacquard Dress was a seasonal choice with a combination of red and green.

What a variety we've seen in 2016! There really is so much to choose from! A few cursory observations: Kate very much embraced the midi-dress trend last year - this is evident across her choice of brands. One might suggest the Duchess is perhaps seeking to broaden her list of 'go-to' designers and enjoying pieces from designers she may not have considered in previous years. As always, staples such as prints, florals and lace featured heavily. I am very excited to see which dress wins the title of 'Best Dress of 2016'. Do please share your selections in the comments section; I'm leaning towards the Jenny P. worn in France...

Kate's Best Dress of 2016 free polls

We'll see you Tuesday! :)

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

UPDATED: Kate Meets Families for First Engagement of 2017: "Parenting is Tough"

The Duchess of Cambridge carried out her first engagement of 2017 this morning in support of her patronage, Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families.

The Duchess was welcomed by Chief Executive, Peter Fonagy.

Kate visited the centre's Early Years Parenting Unit to learn more about their work with families who have children under five years old. Kensington Palace said the visit marks the "Duchess' continued desire to draw attention to child mental health issues and the importance early intervention, and working with the whole family, can make to those in vulnerable situations". Of course, not only is Anna Freud Centre one of Kate's patronages, it's also one of the eight partner charities of Heads Together, led by William, Kate and Harry.

The Early Years Parenting Unit opened in April 2011 (the month of the royal wedding) and offers an assessment and treatment programme for groups of parents with personality disorders, and their children under five years, who are at risk of being taken into care. The treatment seeks to address the parents’ personality disorders, the children's developmental needs, and the parent-child relationship. The ultimate aim is to keep families together.

How does the unit work? How are services provided? After an initial assessment period, families attend the day unit for two full days a week for up to eighteen months. Using a Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT) approach, parents are helped to begin the process of reflecting on their and their children’s mental states. Parent-child work helps parents to become more aware of and responsive to their children’s needs which leads to more emotionally attuned parenting, more secure attachment relationships, and an associated decrease in child protection concerns. The service is completely integrated with Children’s Social Care and Adult Mental Health, with frequent liaison and regular reviews of progress.

Kate met families who have availed of the treatment programme and discussed what brought them to the unit and their experiences since then. The Duchess joined families participating in a 'Theraplay' discussion - an exercise promoting the relationship between parents and their children.

It was very much a visit centred on meeting families and discussing their journeys and the results of participation in the highly specialised programmes. Another service Kate learned more about was Parent Infant Psychotherapy (PIP), which aims to support new parents and place the relationship between parents and their babies in a position of utmost importance.

More from the Mail Online:

'Parenting is tough,' she said. 'And with the history and all the things and the experiences you've all witnessed, to do that on top of your own anxieties, and the lack of support you also received as mothers...I find it extraordinary how you've managed actually. So really well done.'
Kate was asked if she was braced to spend the morning with a group of children under five at a centre that helps parents with personality disorders bond more closely with their offspring. I did just leave a room of six under threes,' she said, smiling.

The Duchess appeared to very much enjoy meeting the adorable little ones.

Chief executive of the organisation, Peter Fonagy, spoke ahead of Kate's arrival:

"We are very proud of our history of developing and evaluating ways of helping families with infants and small children and are delighted that Her Royal Highness shares our passion for offering support to parents, as early as possible in the child’s life. We are very happy that Her Royal Highness is meeting parents from two of our flagship early intervention services. Her visit is an inspiration to the staff and reinforces the commitment of the families to work to increase their babies’ chances of a resilient future. But more important, by bringing attention to the real difference that early years programmes can make, the Duchess is stimulating interest in similar services throughout the country and right across the world."

The royal visit marked the launch of the centre’s spotlight on childhood adversity and trauma. Throughout January, the Anna Freud Learning Network will be sharing new insights into the science of early adversity and highlighting the latest approaches to supporting children and families. The network posted an interesting video on YouTube, including statistics which reveal things such as  "children in care are four times more likely than their peers to have a mental health difficulty" and "adversity during the first six years is associated with childhood internalising symptoms, such as depression and anxiety". It offers a window into the enormously complex area of children's mental health.

Next, William and Kate teamed up for their first joint engagement of the year - visiting a Child Bereavement UK centre in Stratford - to mark its one year anniversary.

Prince William has been patron of the charity since 2009 and the Palace noted "the Duke will continue to see the vital work undertaken by the charity, which makes such a positive difference to bereaved families across the country".

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. Every year they train more than 8000 professionals, helping them to better understand and meet the needs of grieving families. The organisation's mission is to ensure the accessibility of high quality child bereavement support and information to all families and professionals by increasing their reach and plugging the gaps that exist in bereavement support and training across the country and embedding standards in the sector.

The Duke and Duchess met local professionals, and volunteers who work at the service, before meeting families and children who have been supported by the charity. William and Kate attended one of the charity’s Family Support Group sessions where children, their parents, and carers can meet other families to explore themes of memories, feelings, support networks and resilience. These sessions can help to decrease their sense of being alone and feeling ‘different’ when someone important in their lives has died.

The couple found out how the memory jar exercise can help families dealing with bereavement.

Rebecca English described "moving scenes" as the royals asked youngsters about making jars for loved ones they've lost.

One particularly touching moment came when William was talking to a little girl whose father died from pancreatic cancer. William chatted with her and said: "I lost my mummy when I was very young too." We've seen a much more open William over the last year or so - drawing on his own very painful experiences to share and comfort others at organisations such as Child Bereavement. No doubt he was drawn to the organisation because he lost his mother at such a young age.

More from Richard Palmer's story:

One mother, Lorna Ireland, 36, told how he had spoken of his fragile emotional state to her son, Shinobi Irons, 12, as they filled their individual jars with bands of coloured salt, representing memories of the boy’s late grandmother and godmother. “He told my son that when his mum died he was 15 at the time and he was very angry and found it very difficult to talk about it,” Lorna said. “It was very personal and it was very special."
Prince William, 34, also comforted a little girl grieving for her father, telling her: "I lost my mummy when I was very young too." He asked Aoife, nine: "Do you know what happened to me? You know I lost my mummy when I was very young too. I was 15 and my brother was 12. So we lost our mummy when we were young as well. "Do you speak about your daddy? It's very important to talk about it, very, very important."

A video of Kate meeting children during 'theraplay'.

To mark the one year anniversary William and Kate cut the cake!

Moving on to Kate's ensemble for the day...

Kate was elegant in a £1,650 blue belted coat dress by Eponine London today. From the 2016 Autumn/Winter collection it's a classic silhouette from a brand that specialises in bespoke womenswear inspired by the silhouettes of the fifties and sixties.

The double wool garment features a collar with notch cut outs, three-quarter length sleeves and a full skirt.

Eponine London

Readers will recall Kate wore an ensemble by the Kensington-based firm for an engagement in London last March. The red and white skirt suit was a gorgeous choice featuring a boat neck and three-quarter sleeves and the skirt was A-line. It's a beautiful outfit and I love the silhouette, the lines, and the gingham pattern. I had very much hoped Kate would choose other pieces from the label and today is another winning look.

The label was founded by designer Jet Shenkman. Eponine was born from her passion for clothes with a unique, relaxed silhouette. Jet’s years of styling experience have equipped her with an expert eye for precision and an innate understanding of the female form. Every garment is designed and made in London for women who seek out individuality and who desire to be both chic and contemporary. Below, three retro styles from the current collection. @KatieMidleton noted Jet used to work as a bereavement counsellor.


Kate teamed the piece with her navy suede Rupert Sanderson Malory pumps.

Rupert Sanderson

Below we see Kate carried her Stuart Weitzman Muse Clutch and wore her favourite Cartier Ballon Bleu watch.

Kate completed the look with her sapphire and diamond earrings.

There's a very nice video with footage from Kate's Anna Freud visit available on YouTube.

A very nice start to 2017! We'll be continuing with our polls next. If you haven't already voted for Kate's best coat and gown of 2016 you can do so here!