Kate Middleton makes pizzas with children in Islington in 2019
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Kate, Princess of Wales, is spearheading The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood’s latest campaign Shaping Us, which is focused on raising awareness of the importance of Early Childhood. The Princess carried out a week of engagements, including a star-studded event at the BAFTA and a visit to the University of Leeds where she chatted with students on the Childhood Studies BA. Social media also played an important role in the campaign’s kickoff, with the Centre opening a brand-new Instagram account as part of its efforts. Meanwhile, on her own account — which she shares with her husband Prince William — Kate shared a throwback photograph taken during her own early years.
As part of a photo-sharing initiative, the Princess shared a picture of her as a baby reaching out toward her father Michael Middleton’s face. The photo, taken by her mother Carole Middleton, shows Kate bearing a striking resemblance to her youngest child Prince Louis when he was a baby.
Kate captioned the photo: “Faces are a baby’s best toy,” before continuing: “On Tuesday we launched #ShapingUs to raise awareness of the vital role our early years play in shaping the rest of our lives.
“This weekend, we’d love for you all to spend time with your friends, families, colleagues and communities talking about your early childhoods and how they’ve shaped your lives.
“I hope you’ll also consider joining me in sharing a picture of yourselves before your fifth birthday to help with those conversations and to share some smiles and memories too.”
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In response to Kate’s callout, several celebrities dipped into their family photo albums and shared their own childhood memories online. Candid photographs came from the likes of Victoria and David Beckham, Fearne Cotton, Jamie Oliver and Amanda Holden.
However, as one royal commentator noted, other members of the Royal Family did not participate in the initiative.
Speaking on the latest episode of the Royally Obsessed podcast, co-host Roberta Fiorito said: “I did want to say too, though, that it bothered me a little bit because I loved the idea of sharing a picture of Kate as a baby and then so many celebrities from the UK and US — and influencers — shared their pictures of when they were little.
“But why did the Royal Family not participate? I wanted to see King Charles [III] as a baby, or Prince William, or Queen Camilla. I feel like the participation needs to be within and it needs to start from within. I think that’s one of my criticisms.”
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The Shaping Us campaign has faced further criticism since its launch, with some slamming its aim to raise awareness rather than committing to action.
Dr Mine Conkbayir, a member of the Practitioners of the Early Years Sector, told Sky News: “We are well accustomed to MPs and royalty visiting early years settings, praising the invaluable work of practitioners from David Cameron to Gordon Brown and the Queen Consort.
“But nothing is done. The time has long passed for ‘awareness’. We need action — long-term investment and funding in the early years.”
She added: “Childcare providers are having to turn to food charities to provide nutritious meals for children while stagnant Government funding still is not being directed to the sector. The paltry Government funding of early years that is provided does not cover the provision of any food.”
However, there is a limit to the Princess of Wales’s ability to advocate for Government programs, as senior royals are expected to remain politically neutral. Ms Fiorito explained: “That’s where this is so hard because the royals, as we historically know, really can’t meddle in anything Government-related or funding-related,” before admitting: “But awareness about the early years and their importance feels like [something] we all know is really important.”
Her co-host Rachel Bowie added: “The royals, of course, have to tread so carefully with the political aspect of it. And I think that’s where it comes across as so limited in terms of what they can actually do. Awareness isn’t enough.”
Nevertheless, Kate’s advocacy for the importance of children’s early years has been described as her life’s work. And Ms Fiorito and MsBowie claimed the Princess intends to follow in the footsteps of some of her royal relatives.
Likening it to Prince Philip’s Duke of Edinburgh Award, Prince Harry’s Invictus Games and King Charles’s Prince’s Trust, Ms Bowie said: “This is something that will live beyond Kate,” while Ms Fiorito added: “I immediately thought of the Prince’s Trust and how they’ve really done actionable work. That’s something where it’s not just awareness, it’s really action.”
Following the campaign’s launch, it emerged that the future Queen Consort had appointed a new private secretary, who is guaranteed to “shake things up” at Kensington Palace.
Alison Corfield, 51, a former flight attendant from South London who turned public relations guru and worked as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s head of campaigns, has been described as “persuasive” and “loud”, with a royal insider claiming she is an unusual choice for the Waleses’ staff.
They told The Sunday Times last week: “She is a bit out there for Kensington Palace, but there is a move to recruit more modernisers and people with private sector experience, not just civil servants.
“She will run rings around the courtiers and shake things up a bit. She will be a massive breath of fresh air at Kensington Palace. She is loud, tons of fun and full of energy and enthusiasm.”
Subsequently, royal commentators Angela Mollard and Louise Roberts discussed Kate’s attempts to “rebrand”.
Appearing on Sky News Australia’s The Royal Report last week, Ms Roberts said: “Kate is being very strategic and hiring some really hard-hitters. The fact that she’s got someone of that calibre in her camp, she’s not just willing to open the occasional working man’s club or go have tea and scones.”
Meanwhile, royal correspondent Nicholas Owen detailed the Princess’ “determination to set herself out a role”.
He said: “She’s 41 years old now (and) she’s really come into her own. There’s no point having royalty and monarchy unless they are seen and they’re getting involved in things.”
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