Why Middleton?
December 31, 2022 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I can’t believe I’m wasting a question on this, especially when I know the answers will likely all be speculation, but it’s been bugging me for too long so I’m letting it go with the new year: Why do they still call Kate Middleton, “Kate Middleton”? They’ve been married over a decade, everyone knows which Kate she is when they write about her, she doesn’t call herself that, so it’s not out of respect… I thought the practice would at least stop since she’s now the Princess of Wales, but apparently not? I don’t remember anyone ever calling Princess Diana “Diana Spencer” after her marriage. What gives? Is this a class thing?
posted by Mchelly to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think its because of the fact that Kate and William were boyfriend-girlfriend for so long before they got married. To a lot of people, she is simply Kate Middleton. With Diana, there was only six months from engagement to wedding, and then fifteen years of marriage as HRH The Princess of Wales and another five as Diana, Princess of Wales.
posted by Stuka at 6:37 PM on December 31, 2022 [6 favorites]

There is probably someone more obsessively royal-watching who can come along and offer a better-informed opinion, but...she's not "Princess Kate" (strictly speaking, Diana wasn't supposed to be "Princess Diana," either). And there's no husband's surname she can adopt (Mountbatten-Windsor is reserved for certain blood members of the royal family). So either you go with the mouthful of "Kate, Princess of Wales" (or, prior to Elizabeth's death, "Duchess of Cambridge") or "Kate Middleton." I've always assumed the American press in particular would prefer the latter.
posted by praemunire at 6:38 PM on December 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

We're used to calling Kate and Meghan by their original names by now, basically. And the last name issue.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:37 PM on December 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

Diana for sure was referred to as Diana Spencer for some time after her marriage. Not for 10 years, but as Stuka says, Kate was on the public’s radar for about eight years as Kate Middleton and there is no new surname to switch to so it stays Kate Middleton.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:02 PM on December 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

Fergie, likewise, was Sarah Ferguson throughout her marriage to Andrew.
posted by janell at 10:24 PM on December 31, 2022 [10 favorites]

I’ve seen it suggested in “royal watcher” circles that it’s often because of SEO. The name Kate Middleton has lots of history and clout online at this point, and a title like Princess of Wales is already heavily associated in searches with Diana.
posted by notheotherone at 11:54 PM on December 31, 2022 [11 favorites]

In that article you linked to the title says "Kate Middleton" but the subtitle says "Princess of Wales". As nottheotherone mentioned, this is for SEO reasons because people in the UK (the page you linked t is in the UK edition of Hello) are most likely to search for "Kate Middleton" because "Princess of Wales" is still synonymous for many people with Diana. SEO relies a lot on headlines, so they use the search term in the headline and her official title elsewhere.

As others have pointed out she's been publicly known here in the UK by her name for over a decade so that's how people know her. It's common to refer to her in conversation as "Kate Middleton", although just "Kate" is often enough for people to know who you mean, just like the other senior royals (Charles, William, Camilla, etc).

It's analogous to King Charles still being referred to as "Charles" even though his mother was always ALWAYS referred to as "The Queen", never "Elizabeth". It's what we know him as.

With regard to what champers said, the title of "Princess of Wales" is a gift from the monarch and can theoretically be given to anyone. The eldest child of the monarch is traditionally the Prince (or Princess) of Wales, and their spouse is given the title of Princess (or Prince) of Wales. Kate being a commoner isn't a factor, and she can and does legitimately use the Princess title.
posted by underclocked at 4:31 AM on January 1 [5 favorites]

Explaining to someone exactly who is meant, when talking about a British person officially known by a title, is a long-standing challenge in British culture: the Duke of Drumfrockshire might be somebody called Sebastian Malmberry who was formally known officially known the Marquis of Puddock, who should not be confused with his father Sebastian Malmsberry-Dumfrock the former Duke, and who is known by his friends as “Spanker”.

As someone who casually follows the royals I would immediately know who you meant by Kate Middleton - I always had to do a double take to think of who was meant when talking about the Duchess of Cambridge - and I would have particular problems parsing that she is now The Princess of Wales (did you mean Diana, Camilla, or Kate Middleton?). Remember that these people also have different official titles in different parts of the UK.
posted by rongorongo at 5:02 AM on January 1 [8 favorites]

The reason is definitely SEO and name recognition. Also you have to ask yourself, what would they call her instead? Knowing "which Kate" you're talking about isn't relevant when her name is actually Catherine, Princess of Wales. It would be pretty weird to only switch part of the name, and most people don't think of her as Catherine.
posted by lampoil at 7:19 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

Diana was refereed to as Lady Di for quite a while after her marriage. I figured it was brain inertia.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:48 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]

As stated above, "Princess Diana" was incorrect. The reason is that she was not born a princess. The correct way to refer to her was "Diana, Princess of Wales." Her being in the aristocracy did not make a difference. Yet she's called "Princess Diana" by pretty much everyone. Correct titles can be very much unrelated to what people end up being called in the press.
posted by FencingGal at 7:54 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

Another way that Diana and Kate are different: Lady Diana Spencer was born with her title, since her family was/is British nobility. (Example: Her brother Charles has the title of Earl, which he inherited when their father died.) Kate Middleton was a commoner before marrying William, and had no title until her marriage. As another poster pointed out, Diana was indeed called Lady Di by the press for years after her marriage. So in addition to the SEO rationale, it probably does have to do with class and peerage.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:48 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]

Camilla never used the Princess of Wales title, btw, so as not to offend Diana-lovers. A relatively gracious gesture, though now moot.
posted by praemunire at 10:58 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]

This is most likely a question best answered by her publicist.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:20 PM on January 1

Another factor to keep in mind is that Diana became the first Princess of Wales in over seventy years when she married Charles. Yes, it was twenty-five years since Diana died when Kate took on the title. But obviously, Diana is still very much present in living memory.
posted by Stuka at 8:38 PM on January 2

Incidentally I just happened across this Vanity Fair article from 2016 which addresses the question.
posted by Polychrome at 4:08 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

« Older What to do when a pal may be manic?   |   Looking for fun, "real talk" meditation... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments