Magazine

Royal wedding: On being called Kate

  • 17 November 2010
  • From the section Magazine
Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, Kate Beckinsale
The Kate brigade: Moss, Winslet and Beckinsale

The engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton has given this most classless of names a royal warrant. But, the Magazine asks, why is Kate such a popular name?

Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, Kate Silverton, Kate Beckinsale - Britain seems to be in thrall to a legion of successful young women called Kate. News of the engagement of Kate Middleton to Prince William has only helped solidify the name's place at the heart of modern Britain.

Like most Kates I was born a Katherine, named after St Catherine of Siena by my Roman Catholic parents.

However, the problem with Katherine, and the beauty of Kate, is that while the former comes in a multitude of guises - Catherine, Catharine, Kathryn, Cathryn and Katherine to name a few - and thus a wealth of potential spelling errors, Kate invariably comes in just one simple, four-letter form.

Cate Blanchett has rocked the boat a little, but for most of us Katherines/Catherines etc - being called Kate offers blessed relief from spelling error hell.

But there's more to the success of Kate than it simply being easy to write.

It feels like Kate has assumed a sort of classless acceptability which chimes with the breakdown of old status and gender barriers.

To me, it seems Kate is the perfect name for a modern, successful but down-to-earth young woman.

Royal assent?

It is feminine without being girly, like Annabel or Emily, yet has the fortune of being perceived as more professional on your CV than some of the more modern names that enjoyed a vogue in the 70s and 80s.

Kate Middleton, who is destined to be Queen Catherine

It is traditional, without being old-fashioned like Heather or Margaret. Yet it retains an air of classiness without giving the impression that one lives off daddy's credit card.

Us Kates don't always assume this truncation effortlessly.

While the name that appears on my birth certificate is a rather Tudor sounding Katherine Jane, the beauty of being called Katherine, as any Elizabeth or Charlotte will know, is that it allows you to re-invent yourself whenever you see fit.

Yet even then there are many options.

As a child, I was known as Katie, a perfectly playful and girly name to match my chubby cheeks and long blonde hair. Around the age of nine or 10 I briefly decided that Katherine sounded much more grown-up, only to graduate to the more professional-sounding Kate when applying for my first jobs out of university.

I also spent two years working in France, and found that the simple "Kate" was much more preferable to the French pronunciation of "Kattee".

At 24, most of my friends now call me Kate, though I'll always be Katie to my mum and dad.

I may not like the name that appears on my birth certificate, but perhaps without realising it, my parents gave me a name that would never be a burden, a name that would always make a good impression.

Yet, just when Kate was on the verge of graduating from a mere nickname to one which might appear on birth certificates, it seems the ultimate validation will be denied.

When Miss Middleton assumes the throne in future years we're told she will become Queen Catherine.

But despite this setback, she has proved that Kate is the name that can land you a prince.