I got tagged a few times with this Vanity Fair story and I agree with everyone, it’s kind of bizarre. The VF headline is: “How Kate Middleton Became the Data-Driven Royal Expert on Early Childhood Education.” Written by Erin Vanderhoof, but I believe the piece was probably written in concert with Kensington Palace, especially given that their talking points and keenery are throughout. There’s no new information here, no new work, no new data. There’s not even a new promise to be keen about Early Years. It’s just a rehash and repackaging of old stories with the twist of “Kate loves data!” Loving idiotic pie charts and nonsensical bar graphs doesn’t make someone “data-driven.” Here’s one excerpt from the piece:
Because Kate is a mother herself and so clearly comfortable with children—she and Prince William have a running joke that she gets “broody” at events where she holds infants—it often gets lost that the duchess’s interest in this is very scientific. That statistic about the prevalence of mental illness during and after pregnancy comes from the NHS, but it was discussed extensively in a June 2021 report from the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which Kate founded last year.
The report, which is a fascinating read, lays out a credible plan for changing Britain’s approach to early childhood by raising awareness, building a mentally healthier society, and supporting parents and childcare workers. From her new patronage to her appearance on the BBC Children’s show Bedtime Stories in February, Kate is trying to drive home the fact that the first five years of life are decisive for a child’s development and that parental well-being can affect a child’s emotional state. Throughout the reports that the Royal Foundation has released on the subject, the organization has established itself as being “informed by the data” and focused on spreading the scientific consensus that crucial brain development happens in infancy, with major consequences for a child’s—and a society’s—future. Without breaking a sweat, Kate has spent the last few years becoming the world’s most visible spokesperson for developmental neurology.
[From Vanity Fair]
Vanderhoof also mentions that during a March 2018 speech, “A fully formed future queen had arrived, and few noticed.” There are also mentions of Kate “mastering the Diana playbook for charity appearances” and turning her Early Years project into a “socially relevant career.” As I said, it reads like a puff piece organized by Kensington Palace. I would expect this from People Magazine. It’s a bit weird seeing it in VF.
So let me say this, about data and Kate’s Early Years work… there’s not much there. Her Five Big Questions project was unscientific busy work thrown together at the last minute so that Kate could have a “project” like Meghan. The whole idea that Kate even needed a big, signature project didn’t come up until Meghan got engaged to Harry. Vanderhoof mentions that Kate has organized “her spheres of influence into a coherent scientific paradigm with measurable goals” and I have to ask: where and how? Where is this coherent scientific paradigm? Even Kensington Palace has quietly briefed reporters that no one should actually *expect* anything to come of this. There will be no program, no campaign, no book, no lobbying effort, no fundraiser. This is Kate telling and not showing. This is Kate’s team continuously telling people that Kate is “credible” and she’s a serious academic on the subject of child development, all because she wanders around saying “the early years are important.”
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid, WENN, Instar and Kensington Palace.
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