The Princess of Wales has found herself the target of a rare round of style criticism after a former Vogue editor’s comment labeling her a “disappointment” over her attitude toward jewelry resurfaced in the British press.
In an episode of the Creative Conversations podcast released before this past May’s coronation of King Charles, Suzy Menkes, a former international editor for Vogue and a royal jewelry expert, discussed Kate Middleton’s choices of accessories and compared them with those worn by Queen Camilla.
“The Princess of Wales is a bit of a disappointment about jewelry. She gives the impression that she only puts it on when she absolutely has to,” Menkes said.
“I imagine her looking beautiful in one of those dresses or gowns…and then her sort of pulling a face and saying, ‘Do I have to wear this?’” Menkes said.
She went on: “I’m making all this up, it’s probably ridiculous, but she doesn’t give any sense of adoring jewelry and being pleased to put it on.”
On Tuesday, the comments were picked up by Britain’s Mail Online, which has brought renewed debate over Menkes’ judgment. The headline read: “Kate Middleton labelled a ‘disappointment’ in her approach to jewellery by former Vogue editor Suzy Menkes, who was awarded an OBE by the late Queen: ‘She doesn’t have Camilla’s joy!’”
Since marrying into the royal family in 2011, Kate has worn a collection of the monarchy’s heritage jewels, which are controlled, for the most part, by King Charles and, before him, Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is believed to have loaned Kate more pieces from her collection than what was loaned to any other member of the royal family in recent years. Tiaras, necklaces, brooches and bracelets have all been worn by the princess over the past decade.
Kate has also worn a mixture of personally owned high-end pieces and low-budget costume jewels from brands like Zara.
Following the resurgence of Menkes’ commentary, some of Kate’s fans have spoken out in defense of the princess on Twitter.
Among those who voiced surprise at the comments was the Daily Mail‘s royal editor, Rebecca English.
She posted: “I’m quite surprised by this, tbh. I love the way the Princess of Wales mixes priceless royal gems with High Street finds. Equally, I think Queen Camilla rocks the late Queen’s bigger jewels (and I often see her wearing charming, less pricey pieces given to her by family).”
As for Kate’s attitude toward jewelry, she takes two key factors into consideration, celebrity stylist and royal fashion expert Miranda Holder told Newsweek in response to Menkes’ commentary.
“Kate does indeed wear a mixture of expensive high-end and more accessible brands, both in terms of clothes and, of course, her accessories, and this is for a number of reasons,” she said.
“Firstly, it makes the princess’s style more accessible and relatable, which in turn increases her popularity, reminding us all that underneath all the pomp and circumstance, she is just like the rest of us.
“Secondly, it’s also absolutely about the aesthetic,” Holder continued. “Kate is just as keen on fashion as the next 40-something-year-old, and limiting her style repertoire to purely heirloom and pricey pieces would feel far too austere. She would lose much of the fashion fun that we know she enjoys.”
On Menkes’ suggestion that Camilla is seen embracing wearing heirloom jewels from the royal collection with more “joy” than Kate, Holder said: “I understand why Menkes made those comments, but what I think we are losing here is context. We all know Queen Camilla loves a bit of bling and looks fabulous dressed up to the nines for special occasions.
She went on: “Kate also always rises to the occasion, experimenting with modern, edgier, more fashion-forward looks besides the more classically regal ones. She is also at a different stage of life to Queen Camilla, naturally very athletic, and is also a busy mum of three young children. Despite her position, unlike some previous royals before her, Kate is a very hands-on mum, so she is naturally further removed from the more traditional splendor and corresponding lifestyle of the expensive crown jewels.”
Though Kate is generally well received when she wears jewelry with historical associations—such as her use of Princess Diana’s famous pearl and diamond tiara, her sapphire and diamond engagement ring, or Elizabeth’s necklaces and bracelets—the princess has seen a backlash over her past jewelry choices.
In November 2022, Kate was criticized for wearing a new diamond brooch that had been listed by a London jeweler for sale earlier in the year for £14,500 ($17,229). Critics suggested it was insensitive of Kate to wear a new piece during a cost of living crisis and poor economic climate in Britain at the time.
The choices the princess makes in connection with her jewelry are carefully considered. Holder said they often convey messages or tributes to people, places and occasions.
“Like our late Queen Elizabeth, Kate has mastered communicating to the world through what she wears, and perhaps the most potent symbolism of all lies within her jewelry, in particular the historic family jewels, which are steeped in nostalgia and meaning,” she said.
“Kate wears these special pieces whenever communicating a message of support and solidarity is necessary, whether it is paying respects at the late queen’s funeral or showing support for lawn tennis at Wimbledon,” Holder said.
Newsweek contacted Kensington Palace and Menkes via email for comment.
James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek‘s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek‘s .
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