Daniela Elser: Sad reality behind Prince Louis’ birthday portrait
This week the royal family released two sets of images. The first were taken by Prince Harry over the years: There was a sombre shot of a rhino, another of Hazza and Meghan doing their best audition for the next Kathmandu catalogue and a very artsy close-up of a lion’s eye. (10 points for bravery for getting that close to the beast.) It is a deeply personal plea to do something about climate change.
The other shots are equally moving, in this case images taken by the Duchess of Cambridge to mark Prince Louis’ first birthday. As she has with her other two tots, Kate has celebrated this milestone by whipping out the SLR and snapping some shots of what I suppose tiny Princes do all day: Wear cashmere and make a mess for other people to clean up.
Superficially, they are downright adorable. Louis grins, wide-eyed, and bearing a strong resemblance to his older brother Prince George. There he is doing his biggest gummy smile as he conquers a mossy peak! (His jumper, should you fancy splurging, costs $70 and is made from cashmere and merino wool — just what a growing aristocrat needs.)
But these images are also a sad reminder of a life that Kate desperately wanted to experience which was thwarted by the strictures and rules of royal life.
Way back when in 2007, the iPhone had just been released and Kate and Wills had reunited after a brief split. While he was tossing up the next stage of his military career (so many different epaulets to collect, so little time) she was finally pursuing a lifelong passion — photography.
Having recently quit after a year-long stint as a part-time accessories buyer at Jigsaw, she was ready to have a crack at something she had been interested in for years.
“Kate had acquired an impressive portfolio of her own photographs during her travels, and she had started collating her work,” royal biographer Katie Nicholl writes in Kate: The Future Queen.
Pal Emma Sayle, who these days runs the high-end sex club Killing Kittens, told Nicholl that Kate had her eyes set on taking her fledgling career international: “She talked about going abroad and pursuing a career in photography. She was considering going to Paris and also New York.”
However, given she was a Royal Girlfriend she needed to be at hand in case she needed to whip out her emergency fascinator and trot along to society events at the drop of a well, fascinator.
So, instead of following the creative and professional pursuit she loved, she met with celebrity photographer Alistair Morrison and she approached him about curating an exhibition of his work.
“I encouraged her to pursue her photography, specifically some wonderful landscape work that she had done over her travels,” Morrison told Nicholls.
Later, she considered her own exhibition to showcase her work, but changed her mind.
“As with most young artists, the obstacle for Kate was confidence, and I think she was worried about being knocked,” Morrison has said.
“I thought she could put together an exhibition, but she was worried that people would say that she was only being exhibited because of who she was.”
And there we have the sad crux: Despite having the talent and opportunity, life on the precipice of royalty meant subjugating her own interests and talent. The concerns of the “Men in Grey” about such an artistic endeavour instead shuttered any hope that she might be able to enjoy and nurture her creativity.
Instead, Kate is reduced to only being able to share her work with the public when it stars her young family. If ever there was something that symbolises how stifling and repressive life in the Windsor clan can be, especially for women, it is this picture of Louis.
Happy birthday little guy — may your life path be different from that of your mum.
Originally published as Sad story behind this royal picture