But if you take a closer look, you’ll notice one thing that separates her formal ensemble from the rest of the royal family’s: She’s not wearing a sash.
These sashes, which are actually called “orders,” adorn the formal looks of every other senior wife in the royal family (meaning one married to one of the Queen‘s children) — including Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (wife of Prince Charles) and Sophie, Countess of Wessex (wife of Prince Edward). They are a gift of sorts, bestowed from the Queen to her various relatives as a thanks for their service to the family. The Queen’s cousins, children and in-laws are all current recipients of various orders.
Royal wives are typically given the Royal Victorian Order or the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II, and they can collect additional orders as time goes on, and they have done more work for the family. (For his part, Prince William is a Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, while Prince Charles has seven orders.)
Each order is represented with a different sash, varying in color and width. They aren’t worn often, but are broken out for formal occasions like the Spanish State Banquet.
But why doesn’t Kate have one? Well, time for one. She’s only been a member of the royal family for six years, and as a granddaughter-in-law, she’s not as closely related to the Queen as Sophie and Camilla are.
The other is work. Though Kate is taking on more and more engagements, her numbers still pale in comparison to those of other royals. In 2016, she undertook 140 engagements, while Sophie did 179 and Camilla did 221. Princess Anne and Prince Charles undertook the most engagements, at 509 and 530, respectively. (Her number is of course, smaller in part because she has two young children — Prince George and Princess Charlotte — at home.)
Sophie received her first order in 2004, the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II, five years after her 1999 wedding. However, she wasn’t given the Royal Victorian Order until 2010 — more than 10 years after she married into the royal family. Camilla, on the other hand, was given the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, two years after her wedding, and the Royal Victorian Order in 2012, after seven years. There’s no rhyme or reason to it — it’s all up to the Queen.
Since her 2011 wedding, many have speculated on when Kate will receive an order of her own. A safe bet is that she’ll get the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II first. The Queen may want to wait until she’s been a part of the family for a bit longer, or to see Kate take on more engagements in service of the royal family. Or, she could choose not to give her one at all, in which case, it would be Prince Charles’s decision when he ascends the throne.
However, though she’s still order-less, the Queen has shown her affection for Kate in other ways. Last night, it was in the form of a diamond-and-ruby necklace that she loaned to Kate.
An exceptional consolation prize if there ever was one.