How Kate Middleton Is Preparing for Her Life as Queen

Watch: How Kate Middleton's Keeping Calm After Harry & Meghan's Exit

If she weren't, you know, one of the more recognizable faces on the planet, Kate Middleton could easily be mistaken for just another harried mom at Prince George and Prince Charlotte's school drop-off. 

Because unlike every one of her carefully thought-out work appearances, before the Duchess of Cambridge makes the four-mile trip from their Kensington Palace spread to Thomas's Battersea in south London, she doesn't bother with her signature blowout or a consult with longtime stylist Natasha Archer

"There are no blow-dries—it's always hair up in a ponytail," a longtime friend noted to People of the "very chilled" royal's low-maintenance routine. "She's either in her gym clothes, or a dress and sneakers, very little makeup, apologizing as she's late for the school run before dashing off." 

Pretty standard fare, really, not all too different from the other mums and dads in lineup, the friend insisted: "It's the life of a working mom with three young children—just a different sort of day job to most."

photosPrince William & Kate Middleton's Royal Train Tour

One that comes with quite the hefty promotion.  

Viewed for years in certain circles as Prince William's soft-spoken, mild-mannered college sweetheart who set her sights on the young prince long before they crossed paths in their freshman dorm, she's long since done away with that tired narrative.

Nearly a decade after officially accepting her post, she's more than proved her worth as a senior royal, deftly filling the void left by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's swift departure and carving out her space in the areas of early education, child development and mental health awareness, proving she's ready to embrace the role that awaits. 

Describing the duchess, who will quietly mark her 39th birthday Jan. 9, a source told People, "If she needs to step up to the plate, she does it—and she always has."

If that means juggling an increased workload—responsibilities of representing the royals' future now largely resting on her slim shoulders—while homeschooling George, 7, and Charlotte, 5, and chasing around after 2-year-old Prince Louis, consider it handled. 

"She is an adoring mother, and she is contributing publicly in the way we would want her to," a royal household source told People. "You see it more and more. The young student has turned into our future Queen."

Matt Porteous

Good thing she's a quick study. 

Because before the titles, the 20 some odd patronages, the crash course in security protocols, Kate was an accessories buyer that Queen Elizabeth II fretted wasn't up for such a blue-blooded existence. 

The chatter, royal reporter Phil Dampier told UK paper The Express, was that the Queen felt William's then-girlfriend wasn't accomplishing enough following their 2005 graduation from the University of St Andrews. "There was a phase where she appeared to be doing very little really," Dampier told the newspaper, adding, "The Queen once remarked Kate doesn't do very much." 

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At the time it was actually William pressing Kate into a background role, not wanting to fully indoctrinate her into The Firm until he slid Princess Diana's sapphire onto her left hand. But a decade after a newly engaged Kate pledged her willingness "to learn quickly and work hard," she's done just that, committing herself to fostering real change in the nation and the world at large and mastering the art of the walkabout. 

All the while, she's injected a much-needed dose of relatability into the oft-stodgy royals, whether she's recycling another Zara find, stocking up on enchilada fixings while grocery shopping near their Norfolk home or admitting during an appearance to discuss her nationwide childhood study that she, too, would love some tips on handling "toddler tantrums." 

No wonder a source told Vanity Fair that "The Queen is a fan. Kate is unflappable. Her mantra is very like the Queen's keep calm and carry on approach in life, and she has the added benefit of making the royal family seem almost normal and in touch."

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