Is Kate Middleton Pushing Back on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Claims She's Not a Hugger?

The Princess of Wales embraced both Antarctica explorer Captain Preet Chandi and a former history teacher during royal engagements this week

Catherine, Princess of Wales hugs her former school teacher Jim Embury during a visit to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall with Prince William, Prince of Wales on February 09, 2023 in Falmouth, England. Their Royal Highnesses are visiting Cornwall for the first time since becoming the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. , Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales (C) greets Captain Preet Chandi during a visit to Landau Forte College in Derby, central England on February 8, 2023, to celebrate Chandi's return from her solo expedition across Antarctica. - Captain Chandi surpassed the previous world record of 907 miles set by fellow soldier Henry Worsley, in 2015.
Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage; ARTHUR EDWARDS/POOL/AFP via Getty

Kate Middleton is on a hugging spree.

The Princess of Wales, 41, was quick to embrace some familiar faces during royal engagements this week. While congratulating Captain Preet Chandi on her record-breaking expedition in Antarctica during a school visit on Wednesday, Kate greeted the explorer with a big hug. Another sweet moment came on Thursday during Princess Kate and Prince William's visit to Cornwall, when she reunited with one of her former teachers.

Although Meghan Markle said in the Netflix show Harry & Meghan, which premiered in December, that she was surprised by Kate and Prince William's formality behind closed doors, a friend of the Princess of Wales recently told PEOPLE that the royal is quite affectionate.

"Kate's a big hugger," the friend said. "She is warm and friendly and greets everyone with a big hug and kiss. It comes naturally to her to be like that."

Catherine Princess of Wales The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall visit Falmouth
Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales. Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

Recalling the first time that Meghan met Kate, the Duchess of Sussex said on Netflix show that she was "in ripped jeans and barefoot" when Prince William and Kate came over for dinner.

"Like I was a hugger, always been a hugger," Meghan, 41, said. "I didn't realize that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits."

"I guess I'd start to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside, carried through on the inside," she added. "There is a forward-facing way of being and then you close the door and you relax now. But that formality carries over on both sides. And that was surprising to me."

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry
Prince Charles, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Samir Hussein/WireImage

Princess Kate and the rest of the royal family have publicly kept quiet in the wake of Prince Harry's memoir, Spare, despite the jarring allegations made, from Prince William's alleged physical assault on his younger brother to damaging press leaks within the family. The Duke of Sussex, 38, portrayed his sister-in-law as cold towards him and his wife in the book and surrounding interviews.

In a talk with ITV's Tom Bradby, Prince Harry recalled how Prince William, 40, and Kate reacted to his relationship with Meghan, 41 — an American actress who was divorced and biracial.

"Some of the things that my brother and sister-in-law — some of the way that they were acting or behaving definitely felt to me as though, unfortunately, that stereotyping was causing a bit of a barrier to them really sort of, you know, introducing or welcoming her in," Harry said.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Catherine, Princess of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex on the long Walk at Windsor Castle on September 10, 2022 in Windsor, England. Crowds have gathered and tributes left at the gates of Windsor Castle to Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral Castle on 8 September, 2022. (Photo by Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty

A family friend tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story that Kate is "no shrinking violet" despite staying silent about the claims.

"She is a tough woman. It is wonderful that William has Kate by his side to rely on, as she is a real stalwart through this," the friend says.

Another friend tells PEOPLE, "So much has been said that at this stage, I think they just want to move on. The whole situation is very sad, but it's business as usual, and she's getting on with the job because that's what she does."

Prince William, Prince of Wales, known as the Duke of Cornwall and Catherine, Princess of Wales, known as the Duchess of Cornwall while in Cornwall visit the Dracaena Centre
Prince William and Kate Middleton. Ben Birchall-WPA Pool/Getty Images

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Royal correspondent Valentine Low, author of Courtiers, says there is a practical reason the royals are not commenting on Harry's book.

"They didn't want to fan the flames of the rift and the dispute," says Low. "They know that anything said in a statement or a briefing would prolong it. They wanted it to calm down as soon as possible. The longer it goes on, the less hope there is for reconciliation."

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