Every time that there is an event where Kate is present, especially ones where she is wearing gowns or tiaras, there is intense media coverage. Those large media outlets then share stories about everything they can think of about the event, with headlines like “Kate Middleton Literally Dazzles in What Might Be Her Prettiest Gown Yet” or “The real reason Prince William is so skinny has a lot to do with Kate Middleton’s cooking”
You’ll note one thing in common with almost every single media reference of Kate… They refer to her as either Kate Middleton or, if you’re People Magazine, Princess Kate. This often infuriates Kate fans, who are quick to reply with correction notices of her full correct title and cries of disrespect. We often see these messages and wanted to try and follow up on our 2013 article about Kate’s name on a couple of reasons why although we all know she’s the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate is most often called Kate Middleton in the media and then asking, as we do, what Kate would do about the confusion.
Kate Middleton Forever Reason #1: Name Changes, Past & Present
When we as an adoring and curious public first met Kate, the girl who had captured the heart of the future King of England, we came to know her as Kate Middleton.
The press began to cover her more intently and she became an international phenomenon on November 16, 2010 when Clarence House announced her engagement to Prince William. At that time, the media interest in Kate became more intense than ever – all while she was still, legitimately, Catherine Elizabeth (Kate) Middleton.
Becoming a Duchess
On April 29, 2011, the Kate Middleton we had come to know and love married her Prince Charming and received the title of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn and Lady Carrickfergus. She dropped the Kate moniker – which she’d only been using since adolescence – entirely and Catherine became the newest member of the Royal Family. Unofficially, Kate can even be called Princess William of Wales – as reported, if Kate hadn’t been given the Cambridge title, that would be her only title.
As spouse to the man who will one day be King though, Kate will not remain formally known as the Duchess of Cambridge for the rest of her life. It’s also worth pointing out here that part of the confusion comes from the couple themselves. On Charlotte and George’s birth certificates, Kate is known as Catherine Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge. Kate’s occupation is listed as a “Princess of the United Kingdom”. It’s worth pointing out that this is just royal custom.
Becoming a Princess?
Will Kate ever be an “official” Princess? Yes and no. No- because, as she was not born a Royal, she can never be a Princess of her own right, like her daughter Princess Charlotte. That being said, when Prince Charles succeeds as King, William will inherit the title of HRH The Duke of Cornwall (the hereditary title of the heir to the throne). As our friend Cepe points out, it is likely that his initial official title will be HRH The Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge. The title of Prince of Wales is at the discretion of the King, and many things have changed politically since Prince Charles was last bestowed the title. Cape points out that the last time this situation occured was back in 1901 and the heir (later George V) was given the title 7 months after his father came to the throne, so it will likely just take a little time and not be “automatic”. When William does inherit the title, he will be HRH The Prince of Wales – and Kate will become Her Royal Highness Catherine, Princess of Wales. But she will not be Princess Catherine of Wales. Can you see why there is confusion yet?!
Similarly, Diana was the same – she was never formally Princess Diana… But we all know how the media (and in turn, all of us) remember her.
The Duchess of Cambridge title will become a distant memory to the Princess title she will come to be associated with. I think we can be assured that the general public will likely embrace her as Princess Kate – as People Magazine already does – when this happens.
Becoming a Queen
After we have gotten used to her as Princess Kate, we will see one more name change for the former Kate Middleton. As wife to the man who will one day be King, Kate will also one day likely become known as Queen Kate.
When William ascends to be King, she will become Her Majesty Queen Catherine the Queen Consort. She will likely be known simply as Queen Catherine… Or Queen Kate. Definitely something we will all have to wait and see. Perhaps William or Charles will change the rules and this will all change!
Changing Names = Confusion
So Kate Middleton became Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge who will one day become Catherine, Princess of Wales and then eventually Catherine, Queen Consort. And that’s assuming nothing changes in the middle and does not include any of the other stylings of their names (for example, Kate’s title as Countess of Strathearn).
It gets confusing! And since we started out knowing her as Kate Middleton, this is one reason that it is habit for the media to revert back to it. Keep that in mind when we move to the next point…
Kate Middleton Forever Reason #2: Blame Google
Yes, blame Google. Remember how I mentioned that when we first met Kate she was Kate Middleton? That’s also when the media outlets began writing articles about her. Because the articles started as Kate Middleton, people began to type in searches for “Kate Middleton”… and the popularity of those pages grew. Media outlets survive because people visit their sites and Google’s Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization (SEO in short) is how sites use keywords to get more traffic to their articles through the use of frequently used keywords that people type into Google. The search term “Kate Middleton” is about ten thousand times more popular than “Duchess Kate” or any other combination of her name. Because many sites out there are for-profit, they have to take these things into account when writing stories or they will risk having fewer readers, and conversely, smaller profits which will not allow them to keep providing the great coverage that they do.
We took a look at some of the searches which led people to our website over the last few months. Amongst the top queries? “Kate Middleton Makeup” and “Kate Middleton Dress”. There is no mention of the word Duchess until you get to the 4th page of search results. Imagine what that would look like for a publication much larger than ours.
And remember back to point #1 where we refer to the changing names of Kate that we will see in the coming years? That means even if the media wanted to start calling her by her title today and we got every single person in the world to stop typing “Kate Middleton” in their search bars and replaced it with “Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge”, her name would change! Articles written about Kate when she was Kate Middleton would be lost to the depths. It wouldn’t work.
To Sum It All Up… What Would Kate Do?
While we can not speak for others, we don’t see the use of “Kate Middleton” as being a sign of disrespect that some passionate royal fans have. We all know and respect her position as a member of the Royal Family and shortened versions of her name – including “Kate” itself – are merely shorthand for referencing the woman behind the name. We often use “Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge (the former Kate Middleton)” to try and respect her current title while referencing her previous name. There is no doubt that the Palace wants the Public to call her Catherine – just as they likely disliked “Lady Di” or “Fergie”- but the media have dubbed her Kate from Day 1 and I have strong doubts that she’ll ever be Princess Catherine or even Queen Catherine to the media, despite the Palace’s best attempts. It’s certainly not a lack of respect or sign of ignorance that the media continue to call her Kate – instead, I think it’s a sign of the extremely heightened digital times we’re living in and the importance of a keyword in an internet search string.
We know what the Palace wants (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) and we know what the media want (Kate Middleton) but what about Kate herself? What would Kate do when looking at this issue? Well, we can deduce her thoughts based on limited verbal confirmation from Kate herself. For example, there was the story awhile ago about how she forgot her cash and cards at home when visiting a local shop in Anglesley- and said her name was Mrs. Cambridge. Or how she met a child who did not know her proper title and she graciously laughed and said “It’s just Catherine”. And while William now uses Catherine to the public, we’re also pretty sure that if he referred to her as Kate for the first 9 years of their relationship, she’s still Kate to him and her family and friends – but formally, it’s now Catherine.
So to those of you out there concerned with us and the media potentially using Kate’s name incorrectly, please rest assured that we know Kate’s name and formal title- and have the utmost respect for it. We have gotten to know her as Kate though, and until she comes out and says “I hate being called Kate!” we will likely continue to refer to Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus as just Kate.