Kate the Caribbean Queen: How the Duchess juggled 4am WhatsApps with a dazzling fashion show

The Royal Suite at the San Ignacio Hotel in Belize has gorgeous jungle views and its own outdoor jacuzzi. But neither of those are much comfort when you are exhausted by jet lag and have your children’s play dates to organise — at 4am.

For the Duchess of Cambridge, a mother’s duties never end.

So when Kate’s jet lag kicked in during this week’s Caribbean tour, seeing her wide awake in the middle of the night, I’m told she has spent the time ‘tap-tap-tapping’ WhatsApp messages organising everything from George’s football matches to Charlotte’s ballet lessons and little Louis’s bedtime routine back in the UK.

Home life calls even, or perhaps especially, while on tour thousands of miles from home, even though the Cambridges have vowed never to undertake trips lasting much longer than a week while their children are young.

The Duchess of Cambridge has been balancing parenting while abroad with wearing a number of lavish and stylish outfits on their Royal tour of the Caribbean

Midi rhapsody in blue 

For the first full day of events, Kate chose a fabulous midi dress from Tory Burch, £455, in a fun floral print with white and red petals against Belize blue. The fit was perfect, with a smocked bodice, puff sleeves, and a tiered skirt that stopped mid-calf. It’s not surprising that this fail-safe summer dress sold out immediately afterwards. Kate completed her look with a striking pair of textile earrings from trendy French label Sezane. Not her usual delicate diamonds — but at £55 considerably more affordable. She finished the look off with Ray-Ban sunglasses.

For the first full day of events, Kate chose a fabulous midi dress from Tory Burch, £455, in a fun floral print with white and red petals against Belize blue. The fit was perfect, with a smocked bodice, puff sleeves, and a tiered skirt that stopped mid-calf. It’s not surprising that this fail-safe summer dress sold out immediately afterwards. Kate completed her look with a striking pair of textile earrings from trendy French label Sezane. Not her usual delicate diamonds — but at £55 considerably more affordable. She finished the look off with Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Fashion verdicts by Dinah Van Tulleken 

Do you swim here often? The only outfits they needed to meet a shark were wetsuits

Do you swim here often? The only outfits they needed to meet a shark were wetsuits

They even ensure that their departure and arrival times fit around kissing the children good night or giving them breakfast.

Their flight on the official RAF Voyager jet tonight will get them back just in time for a nice Mother’s Day brunch tomorrow.

It’s a new way to be working royals and one that the couple have developed through learning lessons from the past. The Queen’s own first trip to Jamaica in 1953 was part of a Commonwealth tour that took her away from her own young family for six long months.

William and Kate’s own highly anticipated tour of the Caribbean —their first major foreign trip since 2019 — has taken them from Belize to Jamaica and finally The Bahamas.

The pictures have delighted audiences abroad and at home, the speeches — particularly when William referred to his ‘profound sorrow’ over Britain’s ‘abhorrent’ past history of slavery — have been powerful.

Hot pink by cool label 

It’s not the first time she has worn one of founder Susie Cave’s unmistakable designs — seen on everyone from Natalie Portman to Alexa Chung — but this is by far the best.

Though Kate’s version is bespoke, the original style costs £1,650. Her choice was met with nods of approval from fashion editors everywhere, as pink is the colour of the season, with the Spring/Summer 2022 runways saturated with hot pink pieces.

Frivolity met formality for the reception to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in Cahal Pech, Belize. Kate slipped into a phenomenal metallic hot pink gown by the fashion world’s favourite label, The Vampire’s Wife. The Duchess opted for the full-length Light Sleeper silhouette, which has capped sleeves ideal for Caribbean evenings. She accessorised with O’Nitaa earrings, previously worn to the Bond premiere, a locally sourced Mayan design clutch and silver Jimmy Choo ‘Mimi’ sandals, £650.

Earring homage to her island host

Arriving in the Bahamas in another Emilia Wickstead dress, this time custom-made and estimated to cost £3,000, Kate paid homage to the turquoise of the Bahamian flag. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail to show off her statement turquoise earrings. Costing £100, this was the second time this tour she wore a pair of earrings from French mid-market brand Sezane

Arriving in the Bahamas in another Emilia Wickstead dress, this time custom-made and estimated to cost £3,000, Kate paid homage to the turquoise of the Bahamian flag. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail to show off her statement turquoise earrings. Costing £100, this was the second time this tour she wore a pair of earrings from French mid-market brand Sezane

Queen Elizabeth II wore the same earrings when she attended a royal gala in 2004 in Cardiff

Kate wore the earrings at a dinner hosted by the Governor General of Jamaica at King's House

Kate’s stunning knot-detail emerald earrings and matching bracelet were on loan from the Queen, shown here wearing them to a gala in Cardiff in 2004, (left).

 

The couple have swum with sharks on Belize’s barrier reef and played the drums in Bob Marley’s backyard, while well-wishers looked on and cheered.

That’s not to say there haven’t been elephant traps: far from it.

Before they even set foot on the official plane last Saturday the Cambridges were forced to play a delicate diplomatic game.

As the Mail revealed exclusively, they had to scrap their first major engagement in Belize after being caught up in a long-running battle over indigenous land rights.

Tellingly, a second demonstration later took place, with other villagers calling for the couple to return. They were angry to have lost the chance to meet the future king and queen — as well as valuable publicity for their sustainable cacao- farming initiative.

It is quite clear that despite the royal stardust the couple have sprinkled in this vibrant corner of the world, republicanism is thriving.

A yellow hello to Jamaica

Kate wore a custom version of Roksanda's £1095 Brigitte dress with a bright sunshine yellow, a tribute to the Jamaican flag

Kate wore a custom version of Roksanda’s £1095 Brigitte dress with a bright sunshine yellow, a tribute to the Jamaican flag

McQueen for a day with PM 

The duchess chose a chic white trouser suit to meet the Jamaican PM. It is by Alexander McQueen - £1370 for the jacket and £575 for the shoes

The duchess chose a chic white trouser suit to meet the Jamaican PM. It is by Alexander McQueen – £1370 for the jacket and £575 for the shoes

There were further protests in Jamaican capital Kingston shortly before the Cambridges’ arrival on Tuesday, with protesters calling for the Queen to be scrapped as head of state, a formal apology for Britain’s historic role in the slave trade and for reparations.

There has also been criticism from some quarters of the couple’s decision to travel in the Queen’s old open-topped Land Rover at a military commissioning parade. They said it crassly echoed the days of Empire. And they may have a point.

Others have tried to create a social media storm over photographs of the duke and duchess shaking hands with people in Kingston through a rusty metal fence — deliberately ignoring the fact that other VIPs, including football star Raheem Stirling, had just done the same. The alternative would have been to just stand at a distance and ignore the noisy well-wishers who had urged them to come over.

Optics is something their team have been acutely aware of, yet travelling with the couple (admittedly from one photo opportunity to another) I have seen genuine warmth in the welcome they received.

 

Kate attends the inaugural Commissioning Parade for service personnel from across the Caribbean

Queen Elizabeth II wears a slim-fitting white lace dress to a garden party in Sydney in 1954

This bespoke white lace Alexander McQueen dress with cap sleeves and a square neckline is cinched in beautifully at the waist and was clearly a homage to an almost identical dress the Queen wore at a garden party in Australia in 1954, left. Kate’s Jamaica outfit was custom-made and would cost upwards of £5,000. She paired it with white stiletto heels, a white Philip Treacy hat estimated to cost £1,350, and a £395 pearl-embellished Anya Hindmarch clutch for a monochrome look 

In Trench Town, Kingston — home to late reggae star Bob Marley —word of their visit got out despite a security black-out, and thousands lined the streets in anticipation.

England football star Raheem Stirling, as well as Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey, had both flown from the UK to play five minutes of football with William on the dusty local pitch.

Stirling told me he had been given special permission by England manager Gareth Southgate as it would be a fantastic opportunity for the sport and for the player’s own charitable foundation, which works to empower disadvantaged young people in both Jamaica and the UK.

As William and Kate got out of their car, the sound was utterly deafening: screams, cheers, hoots and whistles.

And they didn’t disappoint — shaking hands with hundreds of people, getting in the Jamaican bobsled team’s training sleigh and jammin’ on drums with reggae musicians in the courtyard of Bob Marley’s old home, now a museum. Its director Sophie Dowe, said she hoped their visit would shine an international spotlight on the place and reinvigorate Jamaica’s tourist trade after the pandemic.

Another local reporter covering the engagement told me that the Royals were welcome — even if he didn’t feel that William and Kate were particularly relevant to him as a young Caribbean man.

‘Jamaicans have far more important issues to worry about such as youth opportunity, unemployment and crime, than whether the British queen is our head of state,’ he said.

Sunny smiles in the rain 

The duchess glowed in a green chiffon dress from Self Portrait, £350, when greeting crowds in Nassau in the Bahamas

The duchess glowed in a green chiffon dress from Self Portrait, £350, when greeting crowds in Nassau in the Bahamas

Ever the diplomatic dresser 

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arriving at Lynden Pindling International Airport on in Nassau, Bahamas.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arriving at Lynden Pindling International Airport on in Nassau, Bahamas.

That’s how to dress down 

That's how to dress down: An unusual look from Kate on her way to visit Mayan ruins in Belize, dressed down in a pair of casual khaki trousers, £70, from G-star RAW and a recycled white t-shirt, £19, from John Lewis

That’s how to dress down: An unusual look from Kate on her way to visit Mayan ruins in Belize, dressed down in a pair of casual khaki trousers, £70, from G-star RAW and a recycled white t-shirt, £19, from John Lewis

‘If William and Kate can highlight those things, then good. I don’t think most young people care either way but they will always get a friendly welcome in Jamaica.’

And the Cambridges know this. They have no appetite to force themselves on places where they are not wanted and this week’s tour has had a different tone from previous ones.

Although it was designed to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, it wasn’t about triumphalism or cementing the role of the monarchy in the lives of Caribbean subjects.

Instead, it has been about using the couple’s power as senior royals to nurture good relations, helping to ensure that the Queen’s greatest legacy, the Commonwealth, endures.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed.

‘Relationships change and that is inevitable,’ an aide tells me. ‘This tour has been about ensuring that if and when that happens, it does in a spirit of friendship.’

While William is set to inherit his grandmother’s role as head of the family of nations, Kate has played no lesser part in this week’s charm offensive.

Taking him for a spin: Kate roars with laughter as William joins in with the dancing when they visit the village of Hopkins in Belize

Taking him for a spin: Kate roars with laughter as William joins in with the dancing when they visit the village of Hopkins in Belize

The royal beat: The Cambridges get rhythm in Trench Town, Jamaica, left — with Kate in a vintage 1950s coral and turquoise £369 dress from Willow Hilson — while she’s a dab hand with the maracas in Belize

The royal beat: The Cambridges get rhythm in Trench Town, Jamaica, left — with Kate in a vintage 1950s coral and turquoise £369 dress from Willow Hilson — while she’s a dab hand with the maracas in Belize 

Prince William wasn't afraid to dance in Hopkins, a small village on the coast which is considered the cultural centre of the Garifuna community in Belize

Prince William wasn’t afraid to dance in Hopkins, a small village on the coast which is considered the cultural centre of the Garifuna community in Belize

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge played the drums during a visit to Trench Town Culture Yard Museum where Bob Marley used to live

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge played the drums during a visit to Trench Town Culture Yard Museum where Bob Marley used to live

I like your look: Kate compares outfits with an equally colourfully dressed young girl in Belize

I like your look: Kate compares outfits with an equally colourfully dressed young girl in Belize

Although she has given only one public address during the tour — when, her hands shook and her voice was unconfident at the start — she has been a pitch-perfect partner.

‘Some days monarchy is about plaques and posies, others about leadership. And some days it is just about listening,’ a senior aide told me.

And Kate has shown herself to be an expert at the latter: at schools, hospitals and receptions across the region. Notably, she and William have also travelled everywhere together.

At Shortwood, a teacher training college in Kingston where the couple discussed the duchess’s passion for early-years intervention, William even admitted he was out of his depth, but still looked on at his wife with pride.

The message was clear: we come as a package.

Although not prone to grand gestures of affection in public, it is easy to see that after a decade of marriage and three children, they couldn’t be more comfortable in each other’s company — keeping just enough of an eye on each other while getting on with the job they are expected to do.

Vintage YSL she bought at uni 

On the fourth day of their royal tour, Kate wore a vintage Yves Saint Laurent red jacket she bought while studying at the University of St Andrews over two decades ago. Belted jackets are having a moment, and with its patch pockets and button details this is right on trend. Similar styles are available for £300. She teamed it with an elegant pair of tailored wide-leg trousers from Alexander McQueen, £590, Aquazzurra’s Cece pumps, £605, and £675 Mulberry Amberley handbag.

On the fourth day of their royal tour, Kate wore a vintage Yves Saint Laurent red jacket she bought while studying at the University of St Andrews over two decades ago. Belted jackets are having a moment, and with its patch pockets and button details this is right on trend. Similar styles are available for £300. She teamed it with an elegant pair of tailored wide-leg trousers from Alexander McQueen, £590, Aquazzurra’s Cece pumps, £605, and £675 Mulberry Amberley handbag.

The Duchess of Cambridge departing from Belize wearing her YSL she bought at university

The Duchess of Cambridge departing from Belize wearing her YSL she bought at university

At a military parade in Kingston on Thursday, Kate couldn’t take her eyes off her husband, who was channelling his An Officer And A Gentleman look in Tropical No 1s of the Blues and Royals for the first time.

When he came back to his seat, flushed, after standing to attention in the 30c heat, Kate turned to him and asked, concerned, whether he would like any water, before bestowing an open, affectionate smile.

It’s a double act that bodes well, and no doubt when William pops round to see ‘Gran’ at Windsor Castle next week, it is something she will take comfort from too.

For Kate, it will be back to the daily routine, juggling the school run and official duties.

Maybe just a little more bleary-eyed than she would like to be.

Shipshape in shorts 

Sporty Kate was in her athletic element as she showed her slender legs in a pair of khaki shorts with a woven brown belt as she arrived at Montague beach in Nassau.

Sporty Kate was in her athletic element as she showed her slender legs in a pair of khaki shorts with a woven brown belt as she arrived at Montague beach in Nassau.

She teamed her shorts with a white Gill Marine polo shirt, £45, and her perennial favourite white Superga trainers £40

She teamed her shorts with a white Gill Marine polo shirt, £45, and her perennial favourite white Superga trainers £40

Princess Diana in Hong Kong wearing an outfit described as the Elvis look

Kate at the inaugural Commissioning Parade for service personnel from across the Caribbean

An understated but important part of Kate’s all-white outfit in Jamaica was her delicate pearl bracelet, which once belonged to Princess Diana. The Nigel Milne-designed three-strand bracelet was paired with Diana’s famous ‘Elvis’ dress in 1989, with its turned-up collar and hundreds of delicate pearls. Kate has worn the bracelet before, at the Order of Garter in 2008, and during the Cambridges’ German tour in 2017.

A touch of Disney princess 

The Duchess went full Disney princess for a formal dinner hosted by Jamaica’s governor- general. Her jewellery included the Royal Family Order brooch and Kate’s Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order; a star that was worn on her waist.

The Duchess went full Disney princess for a formal dinner hosted by Jamaica’s governor- general. Her jewellery included the Royal Family Order brooch and Kate’s Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order; a star that was worn on her waist.

The shimmering green gown, an off-the-shoulder design with ruffle trim and beaded bodice, costing around £5,118, was by Jenny Packham, a favourite she has turned to time and again over the years.

The shimmering green gown, an off-the-shoulder design with ruffle trim and beaded bodice, costing around £5,118, was by Jenny Packham, a favourite she has turned to time and again over the years.

Looking back on a triumphant tour: Kate's mix of high style and every day warmth won admirers across the Caribbean

Looking back on a triumphant tour: Kate’s mix of high style and every day warmth won admirers across the Caribbean  

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