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A poll published in the Sunday Times just after the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton was announced showed that 56 per cent of respondants believe William would make a better king than his father Prince Charles. If one were to set aside for a moment all considerations of constitutional subtleties, there is no doubt that, in many important respects, Prince William would be the institution's dream ticket. In his person is united traditional support for the monarchy and that still extant, disaffected rump of support for a "wronged" Diana. And he is about to marry a beautiful and stylish young woman, emphatically not of the aristocracy but from a solidly self-made family who, one day, could become Britain's first genuinely middle-class Queen. On the evidence of that poll, more Britons than not would prefer that day to be sooner rather than later.

Kate Middleton (or Catherine, as from now on she should apparently be called) is just about the best thing that could have happened to the British monarchy in generations. That was once said — erroneously — about Lady Diana Spencer. The difference between the two women is instructive. When she married Charles, Diana was also technically a "commoner" but her aristocratic pedigree meant that she had already by that point had a lifetime of close proximity to the royal family and all it entailed. That she should then have been so unprepared for the rigours of royal life says more about her than the supposedly cold and unfeeling establishment about which she was to complain so much later on. Kate Middleton, on the other hand, came from a milieu distant from her future husband's circle but seems to be made of sterner stuff. She has been on the scene for seven years, and from the start never seems to have put a foot wrong — and there must have been some provocation during that time.

When the couple had their first media interview together, she revealed herself as both poised and informal. The realisation that we hadn't really heard her speak in all those years came as a surprise (quite a posh voice, but not "objectionably" so). She has a more sophisticated type of beauty than Diana's, more open, less coy (or, if you like, less passive-aggressive). She has continued, in the run-up to the wedding in April, consistently to strike the right note. She has more natural grace than the Queen's own granddaughters, combined with a sense of wanting to please, as was shown on her recent trip to Belfast. In these respects she is more in the tradition of the late Queen Mother than the other non-royal brides who've married into "the firm" in the past few decades. 

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