Prince William and Kate Middleton welcomed their third child on April 23, 2018, six days before their seventh wedding anniversary. But as they left the hospital together with their newborn son, the couple did something out of character. And their unprecedented behavior came as a big surprise.
Prince William, 36, first met his future wife, Catherine, 36, in 2001 while studying at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. But although they were both living in St. Salvator’s Hall of residence, they didn’t actually begin dating until 2003. From the beginning, too, they downplayed their romance and would not show affection in public.
Their relationship has not been without its bumps in the road, either. After all, the couple briefly separated and got back together before William’s graduation in 2005. Then they famously broke up again in 2007 amid speculation that the prince was about to propose. However, a few months later they reunited, and William and Kate finally got engaged in October 2010 during a trip to Kenya.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge subsequently married on April 29, 2011, at London’s Westminster Abbey. Their first child, Prince George, was born on July 22, 2013, and Kate gave birth to their daughter, Princess Charlotte, on May 2, 2015.
Then, in September 2017, Kensington Palace announced that the royal couple were expecting their third child. And seven months later, they welcomed a son at the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, London, where George and Charlotte were also born. Shortly afterwards, just as they had done with their first two children, Kate and William introduced their newborn to the world on the steps of the hospital.
The new prince was later named Louis Arthur Charles after his great-great-great uncle Lord Mountbatten and William’s father. But little Louis was just seven hours old when Kate and William presented him to the world. Some people, however, were seemingly more interested in how the royal couple were acting around their newborn son.
After all, Kate and William are normally very reserved with each other in public. Yet it was a different story when they left the hospital to return to Kensington Palace with Louis in tow. Indeed, the Duke and Duchess put on an uncommon display of affection.
For one thing, William was seen placing his palm on Kate’s back while she cradled Prince Louis and posed for photographs. They then held hands as they walked down the hospital steps together. Kate and William’s fingers even remained intertwined until they arrived at their car and left.
It wasn’t much, perhaps, but it was a rare glimpse into a side of a couple who usually refrain from any form of PDA. It should be stated, too, that the fact that they are seldom seen holding hands is not because they are restricted from doing so. Certainly, there is no royal rule that dictates that they cannot be affectionate with each other – although the Queen is said to frown upon such behavior.
Rather, it’s thought that Kate and William’s typically modest actions are a personal choice for the couple. Many believe that this is because William is the future King of England and second in line to the throne. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip have similarly abstained from openly tactile displays during their 70-year marriage.
“It is rare to see royal couples holding hands on official outings,” royal etiquette expert Myka Meier told People magazine in 2018. She explained that on top of being “a matter of preference for each couple,” their behavior “is also likely dependent on the nature of the event that they are attending.” Meier added, “A more serious engagement would warrant a more serious level of professionalism, which each royal is sure to follow.”
In comparison, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, are often seen cuddling and holding hands during their royal duties. Experts have stated that it’s likely that this is because Harry faces fewer pressures than his elder brother. He is now sixth in line to the throne, after all, with Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all ahead of him.
Plus, William and Harry’s former butler, Grant Harrold, revealed that members of the royal family will “adapt etiquette for what is best at that point in time.” He also told TIME magazine that William and Kate prefer to keep their romantic displays to a minimum. “We don’t need to see too much; they have a private life of their own,” he said.
And as previously mentioned, William is under greater scrutiny than Harry. “Prince William could one day be king. There are very strict rules around that,” Harrold said. “William and Kate have a modern feel, but they still do things by the book.”
However, the former butler explained that the royal family is still modernizing with the help of William and Kate and, in particular, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. “The younger royals are re-writing the etiquette rules,” Harrold added. “We should expect them to become more relaxed over time, especially with Harry and Meghan.”
Only time will tell this, naturally. But Harry and Meghan married on May 19, 2018, in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in a very loved-up display. And on October 12, 2018, William and Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie will wed fiancé Jack Brooksbank at the same venue. Just like Harry and Meghan, Eugenie and Jack are a royal couple who typically do not shy away from public displays of affection.
To be fair, though, Kate and William have had PDAs before – but they are usually subtle. In March 2018, for instance, William was seen placing a hand on Kate’s back twice in one week. And in December 2017 Kate put her hand on William’s knee during a British television appearance.
And, of course, the couple kissed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in front of thousands of well-wishers who had gathered there for their wedding. The couple tends to be more demonstrative, too, if they are watching sports or at a relaxed event. But when Kate and William are taking part in formal royal engagements, their behavior is characteristically discreet.
Fortunately, while the world clearly loves to see a sweet moment between the couple, online commenters seemingly believe that it’s “classy” that they are not overly affectionate in public. “How lucky is she? That’s the way that it should be,” one Twitter user shared, for instance. And others have pointed out that no matter how they behave with each other, it’s easy to tell that they are very much in love.
“They do not need to walk hand in hand and make movies. They have a true and long love, the look says it all: I LOVE YOU,” Isabel C. Martins tweeted. “I’m officially obsessed,” another commenter agreed. “They aren’t allowed to show that much PDA but you can feel the love between them.”