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A year after wedding, British monarchy basks in 'Kate effect'

The Duchess of Cambridge, formerly known as Kate Middleton, enjoys widespread popularity a year after marrying Prince William. 

By Mian RidgeCorrespondent / April 29, 2012

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, during her visit to Canada last summer.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP/File

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London

For decades, wax replicas of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh have smiled benignly upon visitors from the central stage of the throne room at Madame Tussauds.

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They were edged over earlier this month to make space for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge amid expectations that the duchess (formerly known as Kate Middleton), dressed in the blue dress she wore for her engagement photo, her long, shiny locks perfectly copied, would replace the queen as the attraction’s most touched and photographed waxwork.

Since Kate Middleton married Prince William in April last year, she has replaced the late Princess Diana as the “people’s princess,” an expression originally coined for Diana by the former British prime minister, Tony Blair.

Newspapers fawn over Kate's grace and beauty. There is repeated talk of the “Kate effect” on clothing brands that see their sales soar after she wears them. Crowds yell for her at her increasing number of public appearances. The shouts are loudest when she accompanies her husband, with whom she enjoys an evident happiness.

“She is really terribly popular,” says Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine and a pundit on the royal family. “She’s believable – gorgeous but not uber-glam. She’s socially so adept – she can talk to trees. She makes it all look so easy when in fact I think it must be a little scarier than that.”

Her effect on the public image of the royal family has been particularly powerful.

“She’s been great for them [the royals] – they must be thanking their lucky stars for her," says Ms. Seward, who thinks that Kate's social background has been a particular benefit. Kate is often referred to in the media as a “commoner,” meaning she is middle class rather than aristocratic; though she is at the wealthy end of that grouping, having attended a high school that costs 15,000 pounds ($24,400) a year.

“A lot of aristocrats think they are grander than the royal family whereas Kate exudes a sense of 'This is the epitome of all my dreams',” says Seward.

Learning to live in the spotlight

Kate’s arrival coincides with a positive time for the royal family. The queen celebrates her diamond jubilee this year, with street parties planned throughout the country. Earlier this month Prince Harry, William’s younger brother, proved himself a charming diplomat on his first overseas tour overseas on behalf of the queen.

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