Duchess of Cambridge joins royal dancing queens

·6-min read

The Duchess of Cambridge did not just sit quietly and pose for her beautiful 40th birthday portraits. Instead, fashion photographer Paolo Roversi, who was tasked with photographing Kate, said he persuaded her to dance an "accelerated waltz mixed with a pinch of rock 'n roll" in the white Alexander McQueen dress she wore.

Reversi said it reminded him of a classical ballerina, and despite the Duchess's initial nerves, "in the end I wanted to take pictures in motion, so with that wonderful wide skirt I made her dance in front of my lens."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 24:  Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge smiles as she arrives for a visit to Nower Hill High School on November 24, 2021 in London, England. During the visit the Duchess joined a science lesson studying neuroscience and the importance of early childhood development.  (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Kate was persuaded to dance for the iconic photoshoot. (Getty Images)

He admitted: "Every day she is machine-gunned by photographers but not used to posing; knowing my photos with the models she was a bit fearful in facing a real session, which then required about four hours of work. But once she started it would be very easy, I reassured her."

Kate is not a stranger to dancing, however. On several occasions, the sport-loving royal, who keeps in shape with yoga, running and weights, has been required to dance on duty - once, with a life-sized Paddington.

The Duchess of Cambridge dances with a costumed figure of Paddington bear on platform 1 at Paddington Station, London, as she attends the Charities Forum event, joining children from the charities she supports and to meet the cast and crew from the forthcoming film Paddington 2.
The Duchess of Cambridge dances with Paddington bear on platform 1 at Paddington Station, at a Charities Forum event. (Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge dances with locals at Vaiaku Falekaupule during a visit to Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, during a nine-day royal tour of the Far East and South Pacific in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Duchess of Cambridge danced with locals at Vaiaku Falekaupule during a visit to Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, in honour of the Queen's diamond jubilee. (PA)

She's not the only royal who has taken to the floor. In fact, she joins a long line of regal movers, including her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana.

Diana was known for her love of dancing, and famously, danced on stage with ballet star Wayne Sleep, as a surprise for Charles. The pair danced to Billy Joel's Uptown Girl, and the moment was replayed in season four of The Crown, in scenes suggesting that the Prince was more embarrassed than delighted.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01:  Prince Charles Dancing With His Wife, Princess Diana, In Melbourne, During Their Official Tour Of Australia.  The Princess Is Wearing A Diamond And Emerald Choker (a Wedding Gift From The Queen) As A Headband With A One-shouldered Turquoise Satin Organza Dress Designed By David And Elizabeth Emanuel.  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Princess Diana had a habit of outshining Charles on the dancefloor. (Getty Images)

Sleep later explained, "There was a gasp from the audience, of 2,500 people, who took an intake of breath all at the same time. They were speechless."

Of their rehearsals, he said, "She was in leg-warmers and a leotard. My first thought was, she's too tall to dance with me, I'll be a laughing stock: I'm 5ft 2in and she's 5ft 11in.

Read more: Why Kate didn't receive this traditional royal honour on her birthday

"But I soon realised she had a good sense of humour, and that we could have some fun with our height difference. She'd already decided on the music: Billy Joel's Uptown Girl."

He also said, "There was a music video that went with the song and she must've seen the video. There's a lovely lady with a hat—she's very chic and gets out of a car. Diana knew she could play that role of sophistication."

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 9, 1985: In this handout image provided by The White House, Princess Diana dances with John Travolta in Cross Hall at the White House during an official dinner on November 9, 1985 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
Princess Diana danced with John Travolta, in December 1985. (Getty Images)

Vanity Fair's editor, Tina Brown, later wrote, "It was embarrassingly clear that he had not been ravished by the spectacle of his wife en pointe. His disappointing response, when it leaked, was interpreted as frigid disapproval of Diana's lapse in royal etiquette."

However, the same year, dance-loving Diana, who had been a ballet student and loved roller-disco, also danced with John Travolta at The White House, watched by the Reagans.

And back in 1983, she made headlines dancing with Charles on their official tour of Australia, when she wore a diamond and emerald necklace given to her by the Queen as a headband.

(Original Caption) 11/29/1954- London, England- Queen Mother Elizabeth is shown dancing with Hussar Colone Combe at the Balaclava Ball in London. Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, was also at the affair which was in observance of the Centenary of the Battle of Balaclava.
The Queen Mother, Elizabeth, is shown dancing with Hussar Colone Combe at the Balaclava Ball in London in 1954. (Getty Archive Images)

Previous generations of royals were expected to learn to dance as part of their duties - from coming-out debutante balls to state receptions, ballroom dancing to a competent level was considered a necessary skill.

The Queen and her late sister Princess Margaret learned to dance as children, at Vacani's School of Dance. The school, opened in 1915, is still going.

Read more: Prince William and the Kids Helped Choose One of Kate Middleton's Birthday Portraits — See Their Pick!

The website explains, "the young Earl of Harewood’s attendance at the school led to an invitation from the future Queen Mother to give private classes to the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose.

"Every week during the war, Betty Vacani and her aunt would visit Kensington Palace, and later Windsor Castle to teach the princesses and other children of the royal household.

"Later, Prince Charles apparently excelled at the Highland Fling. In the late 1970s, Lady Diana Spencer studied ballet and briefly taught at the Vacani school."

Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain dances with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, during her visit to Accra, Ghana, in 1961. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth danced with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, during her visit to Accra, Ghana, in 1961. (Getty Images)
Princess Elizabeth dancing with her fiance, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN, at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, when a ball was held to welcome the royal family to Scotland.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Princess Elizabeth dancing with her fiance, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN, at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. (Getty Images)

But while Princess Elizabeth has only ever danced formally in public, on the arm of Prince Philip, and various Kings and presidents, her younger sister, Princess Margaret, was known to love a good dance, whether it was jiving to rock n' roll or grooving to reggae.

Her former Lady in Waiting and best friend, Anne Glenconner, recalled, "tI hink some of the happiest times she had (were in Mustique), the people of the Caribbean loved her.

"They called her 'our Princess' and she loved dancing to reggae bands. We had a really good time."

Lord Snowdon et son épouse la Princesse Margaret dansent au Bal des Architectes le 19 octobre 1962 à Londres, Royaume-Uni. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Princess Margaret dancing with Lord Snowdon, her husband, in 1962. (Getty Images)

While Prince Charles is not known for his love of dancing - beyond the Highland Fling - the Duchess of Cornwall seemingly enjoys getting up and joining in, as she's proved on various royal tours over the years.

Even The Duchess of Sussex, whose entry into royal life didn't last long, looked overjoyed to be dancing with young children in Africa on her first royal tour.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visit a Justice Desk initiative in Nyanga township, which teaches children about their rights, self-awareness and safety, and provides self-defence classes and female empowerment training to young girls in the community, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
Meghan dancing with a girl in Capetown, on the royal tour of Africa. (Getty Images)
CRETE, GREECE - MAY 11:  Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall takes part in a traditional dance at Church Square on May 11, 2018 in Crete, Greece.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Camilla takes part in a traditional dance at Church Square in Crete, Greece. (Getty Images)

Every royal knows that at some point, they'll be required to hit the dance floor, whether it's gamely engaging with a traditional folk dance, or formally waltzing with a president.

Luckily, so far, few have put a foot wrong.

Watch: How Kate Middleton paid tribute to Princess Diana in her 40th birthday portrait

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