Until Kate - Kate Middleton: Princess in Waiting was published, the only other book about her was Robert Jobson's William's Princess. I was looking forward to reading Claudia Joseph's biography if only to see whether one could be written that does Kate justice. This book does just that. From the first page it is very clear that Joseph has done her homework - unlike Jobson.
Starting with her great-great-great-great grandparents, the author traces Kate's paternal and materal lives back to Queen Victoria's time. Her ancestry continuously running parallel to that of the royal family. But it's difficult to compare backgrounds with the royals. Anyone, including Kate's family will always come up short. They will always appear humble and common, making them no more remarkable than yours or mine.
Yet the comparisons do not end there as the lives of Kate's maternal and paternal ancestry is reviewed. One thing that I had a hard time with is just as I was getting into the maternal life story, it ended and the next chapter moved on to the paternal side. Constantly going back and forth between families was distracting. Just as you feel as though one side has moved further away from their humble backgrounds, you are returned to the other side still working on achieving that goal.
But the details are extraordinary. Joseph doesn't just write that Kate's family worked in coal mines, she actually describes their lives filled with hardship, illness, death. Making it far more interesting than the brief glimpses of the comparative glittering royal existence, which only serves to highlight the hardships. This is unnecessary; Kate's humble beginnings stand on their own. However, they're constantly portrayed as social climbers for simply wanting a better existence.
Eventually both sides rise in status and we are brought to the lives of Kate's parents, glossing over their current backgrounds and Kate's early life. The book then switches to the relevant history of William and Kate's relationship, making it little different from Jobson's. It also occasionally deviates into romance novel territory, just phrased differently.
Without an engagement I think both books are somewhat premature, although should one be announced, Joseph's could serve as a good primer for Kate's early family history. Ultimately neither one reveals anything new in William and Kate's relationship that can't and hasn't be read elsewhere.
© Marilyn Braun 2009
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