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Power Suits, Passion Projects and Plenty of PDA: Inside Princess Kate’s Modern Makeover (Exclusive)

Princess Kate Middleton showed off her playful side during an appearance on BBC Radio 1’s Going Home on October 10, when she revealed her favorite emojis (“the heart with the crying emoji [and] the hysterical laughing [one] when things have gone wrong,” she said) and jokingly teased husband Prince William about whose turn it was to cook dinner that night.

Royal watchers are seeing a lighter, more accessible Kate lately — and it’s not an accident. According to a source, the princess has become much more “strategic” about modernizing her image.

The 41-year-old mom of three (she and William, also 41, share Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and 5-year-old Prince Louis) has taken on an even more prominent role since the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022, and she wants to look and play the part perfectly.

“Kate feels the spotlight more than ever since the queen’s passing,” says the source. “She’s in a new phase of her life, and she wants her image and actions to reflect that. Kate used to portray the perfect, feminine wife, mother and caregiver. Now she wants to be seen as a powerful and kind humanitarian leader.”

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“Kate wants to be seen as a leader,” says a source. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The Princess of Wales met with her advisors shortly after the queen died to discuss an image overhaul. “Kate spoke with her team and people she works with, including stylists,” says the source, explaining that they wanted to focus on Kate’s relatability and play up her ability to connect with people.

“Kate’s been much more ‘boots on the ground,’” adds the source, referencing her visit to a London school in February for her Place2Be charity, during which the dressed-down royal did arts and crafts with kids.

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Related: Princess Kate’s Best Looks of All Time: Photos

Her style transformation is a significant component of the plan. She’s begun to replace frilly dresses with power suits and more casual looks. “Kate wants people to see her as a strong leader, someone who’s capable of taking the title of queen into a new generation,” explains the source. “She’s been wearing pants, more casual shirts and less high-priced clothing, and she’s ditching the long dresses and heels [in favor of] more accessible pieces.”

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William and Kate“[hope to] appear more accessible,” says a source of the couple, seen during a joint appearance in Scotland on November 2. Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images
The source says Kate’s moves have been partly motivated by the upcoming final season of The Crown, part two of which, premiering December 14, will cover her early romance with William, which began while they were students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She believes she’ll be portrayed as a “very privileged, lovesick young woman” in the hit Netflix series and is eager to get a jump on any negative press that might come as a result. She no longer wants to be seen as William’s dutiful wife but as the accomplished woman she’s become. “Kate’s switching up her style in an effort to win people over,” says the source, “and also to get ahead of the beating she feels her image will take when The Crown’s new season debuts.”
Prince William and Duchess Kate Relationship Timeline 2011 Got Married

Related: Prince William and Princess Kate’s Relationship Timeline

More than ever, Kate has been honing in on the causes closest to her heart. “Kate’s focus has always been charities that help children,” says the source. “Even before becoming a mother, she was drawn to that.” In addition to taking a special interest in the mental health of young people, both Kate and William are dedicated to backing climate-change-based organizations. “It’s an issue that Kate feels strongly about, and it helps her relate to the younger generation,” says the source, noting that “test groups” have shown that youth in the U.K. are especially concerned about the effects of global warming.

Amid these growing royal responsibilities, Kate is still finding ways to prioritize her own children; she and William are known for being hands-on parents, and she doesn’t want that to change. The couple recently scaled back engagements while the kids were on a break from school, returning to work together in Scotland on November 2.

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“Kate’s switching up her style in an effort to win people over,” says a source. Getty Images (2)

“Even on school days, helping the kids get ready in the morning and being there when they get back is the goal,” the source says. “She wants to help with homework and play with them, though with her new schedule, there’s been a little less of that in recent months.”

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Despite the effect on her daily routine, Kate is up for the job. “The queen set such a high standard, and Kate goes out to every event feeling that burden,” says the source. “But she truly loves the work she does, so it’s a joyful kind
of pressure.”

Rehabbing the entire family’s image has been top of mind for Kate, especially in the aftermath of “Megxit,” Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle’s contentious departure from the U.K. in 2020. The couple accused the palace of racism (which William himself denied) and bullying (which the palace denied). Says the source: “After Meghan and Harry’s attacks on their family, Kate’s had to work hard to show the public that they still want a royal family.”

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“She wants to inspire people in her country into caring for others,” says a source of Princess Kate (at community for fathers and their children on Nov. 1). Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images

William is certainly on board with the changes Kate’s making in that effort. Like his wife, he’s also been loosening up in recent weeks in a bid to show that the royals are just like us — in June, he was spotted dancing at a British nightclub with some longtime pals, and he and Kate have been engaging in more PDA than ever.

“William and Kate were told they can be more affectionate in public if the mood strikes them,” says the first source, noting that’s why they’ve been kissing, holding hands and even touching each other’s bums — tastefully! — while out and about. At the end of the day, they do it all for the crown.

“After the queen’s passing, Kate and William started [channeling] their grief from losing her into honoring her legacy,” says the source. “They’re ready to blaze a new trail.”

To read more on Princess Kate’s modern makeover, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly, on newsstands now.

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