04/10/2011 08:27 am ET | Updated Jun 10, 2011

Camilla's Advice on Being the Merry Wives of Windsor

In February, the Duchess of Cornwall had a very publicized lunch at Koffman's restaurant in the Berkeley hotel with royal bride-to-be Catherine. The jovial and high-spirited girls' lunch, which also included Camilla's daughter Laura and Catherine's sister Pippa, caught the attention of fellow diners, and snippets of their conversation was overheard, which then promptly made their way into all the papers.

One particular overheard sentence that had everyone riveted was Camilla saying to Catherine, "If I can give you one bit of advice..." Unfortunately, nobody heard the rest of that sentence, which was much lamented by the media.

While Diana's natural warmth, glamour and compassion for those less fortunate have earned her millions of admirers worldwide, and many have asked if Catherine might be the "new Diana," as far as the royal family is concerned, they don't want a repeat of the princess.

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Although it wasn't her fault, almost right from the start, Diana's star power and popularity eclipsed Charles' and the Prince of Wales was regulated to a supporting player position -- a position which he came to deeply resent. For a man who was used to being the center of attention as the heir to the throne (and rightly so), this stepping-aside for his wife was hard to take, and over time, it caused a great strain in their marriage. While Camilla has her share of detractors, she and the other merry wives of Windsor, such as the Countess of Wessex, know that overshadowing your husband is a critical mistake. You may shine, but never outshine. One must never forget who is the royal in the relationship. Like it or not, there's a vast difference between those who are born royal and those who marry into the family.

From what can be seen from the few royal engagements Catherine has carried out so far, it appears that she has taken Camilla's advice to heart. While she exhibits the friendliness and natural affinity with the crowds like Diana, Catherine is also mindful of her place in the royal hierarchy. For instance, at public engagements, she is careful to exit the car after William and makes sure the prince is always greeted first by the waiting dignitaries. Contrast this to the many occasions Diana arrived at an event with Charles and she stepped forward first to shake hands with their hosts, such as during their 1985 White House visit. It might seem like a small thing, but the royals tend to take protocol seriously.

Another thing I've noticed is that Catherine chose to wear gloves on many of her public appearances. This is keeping in line with the old-school royal ladies such as the Queen and Princess Anne who is almost always seen in gloves when shaking hands. However, Diana notably deviated from this tradition and had a different approach to royal walkabouts. No matter the weather, Diana would dive into the crowds clasping outstretched hands with her bare hands, and sometimes even warming well-wishers' cold hands between her own. Catherine seems to have reverted back to the more traditional way of doing things by bringing back gloves. Let's see if this continues, however, I suspect that she is not someone who's going to rock the boat at the palace. At the end of the day, she has cleverly grasped that staying on the good side of the royal family, and especially the palace courtiers, will serve her well in the future.

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