Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Queen Elizabeth on Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding day
But she was even more emotional than expected. Courtiers have told PEOPLE that the monarch was uncharacteristically overjoyed on the couple's wedding day, content in the knowledge that the line of succession — so fraught in the years following the checkered marriages of three of her own children — was secure.
"Hearing from the Queen that you're doing a really good job, along with getting support from your husband you grow in confidence," a close royal insider tells PEOPLE of Kate in this week's cover story.
There was undoubtedly much that the Queen saw in Kate that day — and in the years that have followed — that remind her of herself.
Chris Ison/PA Images via Getty Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding day
For more on how Kate Middleton has the perfect role model in the Queen, pick up a copy of the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands on Friday.
Although they are separated in age by 56 years—the Queen, 96, and Kate, 40, share key qualifications for the job: quiet stoicism, unerring discretion and firm loyalty. Their opinions on contentious political issues are never heard; their commitment to the throne is unwavering, and their public images are tightly controlled.
They also married strong partners in life. Kate has said she's "in good hands" with William, while the Queen called her late husband Prince Philip her "strength and stay."
Chris Jackson/Getty Queen Elizabeth on Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding day
Before she wed, Kate "had tea with ladies-in-waiting and briefings from private secretaries. People wanted it to work," a royal insider tells PEOPLE. "And everyone has been rewarded with [the couple's] efforts."
Alongside her husband, second-in-line Prince William, Kate is poised to enjoy a long reign in which she and William will carve their own path while honoring the traditions of the past.
And she's doing so with the best role model available: the record-breaking monarch, 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth.
"Catherine has learned by observing," says the Queen's biographer Sally Bedell Smith. "She knows what resonates. She will have absorbed a lot from this Queen."