How Kate Middleton Was Inspired by Royal Portraits of the Past for Her 40th Birthday Photoshoot

·4 min read
Princess Alexandra of Denmark; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
Princess Alexandra of Denmark; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Alamy Stock Photo; Paolo Roversi/Handout/Kensington Palace via Getty Image Princess Alexandra of Denmark; Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton's 40th birthday portraits are a royal blast from the past.

Italian photographer Paolo Roversi got behind the camera in November at London's Kew Gardens to capture new photos of Kate, three of which were released over the weekend to celebrate the Duchess of Cambridge's milestone birthday. Royal fans were quick to draw comparisons between the portraits of Kate and photos of royal queens and princesses of the past.

Both the style and Kate's ensemble are reminiscent of a June 1864 photo featuring Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who went on to become the Princess of Wales and Queen consort to King Edward VII following the death her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, in 1901. From the sepia tones to the off-the-shoulder white gown featuring bow sleeves, Kate clearly took some inspiration from the 19th-century shot.

In fact, Kate did her final dissertation at St. Andrews University (where she met Prince William!) on Victorian photography when she was studying art history in college. She also selected several images and wrote the foreword to the exhibition catalogue for "Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography" at London's National Portrait Gallery in 2018.

"This period in the history of photography has long interested me," Kate wrote ahead of the exhibit in 2018. "As a student at the University of St. Andrews, I chose it as the subject of my undergraduate thesis."

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PORTRAITS TO MARK THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE’S 40TH BIRTHDAY
PORTRAITS TO MARK THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE’S 40TH BIRTHDAY

Paolo Roversi Kate Middleton

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

Roversi opened up to Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera about working with the Duchess of Cambridge for the portraits, revealing that Kate showed him works by mid-19th century artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Sir David Coyle Burne-Jones "to give me inspiration."

The two royal women also shared another similarity: Queen Alexandra was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, and Kate is also known for the hobby, often getting behind the camera for official portraits of her three children.

Kate's portraits also seemed to be inspired by Cecil Beaton, the photographer who captured Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother in the 1930s and 1940s. He was also chosen as the official photographer at Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1953.

Princess Margaret Rose of England
Princess Margaret Rose of England

Bettmann Archive Princess Margaret

Beaton often photographed the royal women in profile, and even their gowns feature a similar neckline.

"She looks incredibly beautiful and glamorous, but there's also a really personal element to it, not only with the royal family references but also with her own personal interest in photography and her studies in the history of art," says Bethan Holt, fashion news and features director for The Telegraph and author of The Duchess of Cambridge: A Decade of Royal Style. "There are references to the photographers that she has studied in the past such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Lewis Caroll. It's tying together her personal interests with the weight of the royal family history."

"I think the comparison with the Queen Mother is really interesting because she was the last person really that was the wife and mother of a monarch and she really dedicated her life to supporting her husband and then her daughter and Kate will be doing the same with William and George," Holt tells PEOPLE.

Queen Elizabeth (Consort of King George VI of the United Kingdom), By Cecil Beaton circa 1939
Queen Elizabeth (Consort of King George VI of the United Kingdom), By Cecil Beaton circa 1939

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images The Queen Mother

"I think there was a huge resemblance to the Cecil Beaton pictures that were taken of the Queen Mother in the late 1930s and I think there's a lot of comparisons to make with those time periods when there were a lot of the seismic changes going on with the royal family and in the world, just like today. I think they offer reassurance that we can still remain excited about the future of the royals, that it's not all going to crumble," she continues.

Kate also paid tribute to the Queen by wearing a glittering pair of diamond earrings that belong to the 95-year-old monarch in a photo where she wears a glamorous red one-shoulder gown.

Princess Elizabeth, the futur Queen Elizabeth II.
Princess Elizabeth, the futur Queen Elizabeth II.

AFP via Getty Images Princess Elizabeth

The Duchess of Cambridge's new photos will be displayed over the course of 2022 in three places that hold special meaning to Kate: Berkshire, St. Andrews and Anglesey.

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Kate grew up in Bucklebury, Berkshire, and often returns to spend time with her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, who still live in the quiet village.

St. Andrews is an important spot for both Kate and Prince William as they met as freshmen at the University of St. Andrews in 2002.

And Anglesey is where the couple lived after their royal wedding in 2011. William and Kate rented an isolated cottage in Anglesey, Wales, as William trained nearby for the Royal Air Force. They moved to Kensington Palace with Prince George in 2013. At the Anglesey Show in 2013, William said: "This island has been our first home together, and it will always be an immensely special place for us both."

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