Kate Middleton Releases Rare Photos of Princess Charlotte, Continues Quest to Become More Popular Than Meghan Markle

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There was a time when Kate Middleton might have been the most famous and fawned-over woman on the planet.

These days, Kate's popularity in the UK remains unmatched, but globally, she's taken a backseat to her sister-in-law by marriage, Meghan Markle.

That might not seem like a very big deal, but it's important to bear in mind that unlike Meghan, Kate will probably be queen consort someday.

And since the royals don't have any actual political power, their clout as the UK's top diplomats derives entirely from their social status among world leaders.

Kate Middleton at Wimbledon 2021

In other words, this is an extremely important popularity contest.

And Kate is probably not happy with the fact that Meghan appears to be walking away with it -- which may explain her recent charm offensive.

Yes, in recent months, we've been seeing a much more personal side of Kate.

Will and Kate Sip Some Wine

Previous generations might have enjoyed living vicariously through the royals' world of curtsies and diamond tiaras, but modern-day peasants have made it clear that they want more relatable, down-to-earth behavior from their monarchical figureheads.

And so, beginning with Kate's 40th birthday back in January, she and Prince William have been letting their guard down.

(Not literally, of course. These two are still very well-protected everywhere they go.)

Kate Middleton on her 40th Birthday

It started with dressed-down photos of Kate and candid comments about aging.

And now, the trend continues with some casual photos of Princess Charlotte that Kate released in honor of her daughter's seventh birthday.

In the pics, Charlotte sits in a field of bluebells and flashes a toothy grin that calls to mind her father's megawatt smile.

Princess Charlotte Is Seven

It's unclear where the photos were taken, but since sunshine is a rare commodity in the UK this time of year, the pics might have been snapped during the Cambridges' recent continental vacation.

Whatever the case, Charlotte is clearly growing like a weed!

According to Kate, Charlotte loves ballet and horseback riding, as well as "getting her hands messy" while making homemade pizzas.

Princess Charlotte and Pet

In some of the photos, she can be seen posing with the family's new dog, a cocker spaniel who was adopted into the family from a litter raised by Kate's brother James Middleton.

As People magazine points out, Charlotte gets to do as she pleases with her big day:

Schools in the UK were closed on Monday for a national holiday.

Princess Charlotte in 2022

And what does all of this have to do with the intercontinental war between Kate and Meghan?

Well, nothing really, but insiders say Will and Kate are in preparation mode these days, as they know that their ascendancy to the throne is likely to happen within the next few years.

We're not trying to be morbid here, but the Queen is 96, and Charles is 73.

Kate, Will, Elizabeth

William's father could easily reign for two decades -- but he could just as easily wear the crown for only a short time, making William a relatively young king.

Coronations are a big deal, and the crowning of an unpopular monarch is very bad for a nation's morale, as well as its status in the global community.

Insiders say that Will and Kate are being calculated about every move they make these days, with the goal of polishing their reputation before they take power.

So while we wouldn't go so far as to say they're using Charlotte, the girl definitely played an unwitting role in a carefully coordinated PR campaign.

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