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Her jewelry choice also spoke volumes. For two of the portraits, the duchess accessorized with pearl drop earrings from the late Princess Diana. Diana, who tragically died at age 36, never made it to the milestone birthday Middleton was celebrating. Yet the duchess made sure that a piece of Diana moved into the future, when so often memories of her are rehashed in dramatized retellings of her past. One day, Middleton will inherit Diana’s old title. Women’s Sweatshirt Dress With Pockets — Pink By wearing those earrings, the duchess is paying subtle tribute to the previous Princess of Wales, who blazed a trail for Middleton to follow.

Diana wasn’t the only royal woman Middleton honored with her choice of accessories. In the second photo, where she wears the red Alexander McQueen dress, her earrings come from the collection of Queen Elizabeth. Now, the duchess will never become monarch of the United Kingdom, but she will eventually be queen consort—the highest-ranking woman in the royal family. By showing these earrings off to the world, rather than a pair of her own or Diana’s throughout, she’s showing respect for not only her grandmother-in-law but also the institution she represents. Those earrings, in time, will likely be hers through inheritance. But for the moment, they’re a symbol of what’s to come

The Duchess of Cambridge often projects a down-to-earth sensibility: Previous portraits have her in sweaters, blouses, suits, and other off-the-rack styles. Roversi’s shots, however, exude an aura of gloss, glamour, and grandeur. A viewer can immediately recognize that the subject is of historical importance.

It recalls another aesthetic era of the monarchy: the 1940s and 1950s, when Cecil Beaton served as court photographer. He captured his subjects of Princess Margaret and then Princess Elizabeth in flowing gowns in front of ornate sets. His pose of choice? Seated, serious, gazing off to the side. In her first portrait, the duchess seems to mimic this style of the past with her pose and facial expression and the black-and-white filter. Elegant Tweed Spaghetti Strap Bodycon Women Mini Dress Visually, she’s aligning herself with royal women of the past, just as she becomes more vital to the institution as well. The other photos—shot closer up, in color, and with a more casual pose—balance out the formality of the first.

The series will become part of the National Portrait Gallery in London’s permanent collection. But before that happens, it will be shown three different places across the United Kingdom: Berkshire, where Middleton grew up; St. Andrews, where she went to university and met Prince William; and Anglesey, where she and her husband lived during the early years of their marriage. Sexy One Shoulder Ruffle Evening Party Dress — Burgundy The locations were chosen for their significance as settings for the duchess’s royal journey.

After sharing all her portraits on social media, the duchess added a personal message: “Thank you for all of your very kind birthday wishes, and to Paolo and the National Portrait Gallery for these three special portraits,” she wrote, signing off with the personal “C,” indicating she’d written it herself, rather than her team. Considering the symbolism embedded within these images, and that they’re about to enter a museum collection, “special” might be an understatement.

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