For one thing, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have to manage keeping the empathy with their charity work, without giving too much of themselves away. For example, William connects to his work on mental health by referring to his own challenges, while Kate draws on her experiences as a mother to help in her work in early years development. To properly emphasise with the people they meet on public engagements, they often share their own stories, opening up about joyful moments as well as difficulties they have experienced themselves.
However, they have to be careful to keep some things private for their family, so they are not too emotionally exposed to the world.
This is particularly important for the children, because any information William or Kate reveal about them will be in the public domain for the rest of their lives.
Journalist and author Catherine Mayer spoke to the 2017 ITV documentary ‘Kate: The Making of a Modern Queen’ about this delicate balance.
She said: “It seems to me an enormous challenge for all the young royals, but in particular for William and Kate to find a way to do the empathy thing, to do what they see as being their core role in terms of performing a charitable role, and maintaining something that they are clearly setting out to do which is redefining how much of themselves they make public.
Kate and William want to protect the privacy of George, Charlotte and Louis
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“They are trying to, and I am by the way very sympathetic to them on this, they are trying to carve out a space for themselves to have a private family life.”
One key decision William and Kate made to protect the privacy of their three children was to request that the press do not take photographs of the children, except when it is expressly agreed ‒ for example, their first day at school ‒ or at a big royal event, like Trooping the Colour.
This has turned out to work very well as all the mainstream newspapers have agreed not to publish pictures of the children taken by paparazzi without the permission of the Duke and Duchess.
Emily Nash, royal reporter for Hello! Magazine, told the documentary that this has “reassured” William and Kate that they are able to manage this difficult balance of private and public life for themselves and their children.
Journalist and author Catherine Mayer
She said “I think [William] understands that there is a huge public interest in their lives and affection towards them as a result of that, and that the media is necessarily, certainly when it comes to conveying messages.
“I think he totally understands that is a vital tool for him.
“Kensington Palace has warned against the use of paparazzi photographs of the children in particular.
“Although they are still being taken quite frequently, there aren’t any UK publications that will use them and I think that’s probably helped a great deal in reassuring him.
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“Instead we have William and Kate choosing when they want to issue photographs of the children.”
Indeed, Kate has taken up photography herself and puts out pictures of the children herself on days such as their birthdays.
In this way, she has used social media to stay in the public eye and get the message out without the need for cameras in her children’s faces.
They have worked their social media strategy so effectively, in fact, that they have racked up 12 million followers on their KensingtonRoyal Instagram account, over a million more than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle managed with SussexRoyal.
While William and Kate are using social media to their advantage, in some ways the Cambridges’ approach goes against today’s culture of oversharing online.
In 2020, those of the younger generation are increasingly documenting their lives on social media, and a growing number of ‘influencers’ are even monetising their private lives.
Meanwhile, the Cambridges rarely post photos of their home lives, especially of the children, and make an effort to keep a separation between their official roles as members of the Royal Family and their private family life.
However, another challenge this presents is the concern that they will look like they are not doing very much, an accusation often levelled at the Royal Family.
William and Kate have to make sure they strike that balance of protecting their personal lives, while having a significant public presence.
Ms Mayer said: “They are, I think, interestingly positioning themselves for the age that they are in the era in which they are in the public eye, which is of course a social media-saturated, Instagram selfie era, where they are in some way going very much against the tide on that, trying to reclaim something for themselves.
“Now, I think that is potentially quite a clever thing to do in the long run.
“In the short term, it is inciting the ire of the press, so they’re getting a more negative press as a result, because the press feel shut out and you see some quite silly and nasty reporting as a result.
“But there is also the danger that they just end up looking like they’re not doing very much, which is the big criticism.”