JAN MOIR: In the Duchess Olympics, Kate gets the gold

My gold medal for 2020, if there were a Duchess Olympics, would be pinned on the uncomplaining chest of the Duchess of Cambridge.

The past year has shown that Kate can ride the turbulent waters on the Windsor flume of fame and still keep her wits about her.

She can soar over the hurdles of royal scandal, jump clear of the whiny affronts lobbed her way from Team Sussex and somehow accomplish it all with a smile and a wave, while the world’s most perfect blow-dry remains intact.

Look at that thing! Is it carved from teak and glossed with gossamer by 1,000 hair elves on the minimum wage? How does it stay just so, even when she is toasting marshmallows with Scouts or playing hockey or attending a banquet in a gilded palace?

And how does she do it all? With grit, quiet determination and a tailwind of Elnett Max Strength, I suspect.

My gold medal for 2020, if there were a Duchess Olympics, would be pinned on the uncomplaining chest of the Duchess of Cambridge

My gold medal for 2020, if there were a Duchess Olympics, would be pinned on the uncomplaining chest of the Duchess of Cambridge

My gold medal for 2020, if there were a Duchess Olympics, would be pinned on the uncomplaining chest of the Duchess of Cambridge

Whether baking cakes with Mary Berry or colour co-ordinating her husband and her children in a rhapsody of blues for various photo opportunities, Kate has emerged as a perfectionist, a duchess of steel.

She is clearly a stickler, a woman whose cushions are always plumped and who never puts a foot wrong in her immaculate suede heels.

From Jigsaw to international draw, has any other lowly outsider embedded themselves so successfully into their royal role as this middle-class former accessories buyer from Buckinghamshire?

It is pretty remarkable, when you think about it. Most royal wives and husbands are drawn from the empathetic ranks of the aristocracy, while the lower born rarely fare thee well at the royal court.

Princess Anne’s brace of husbands kept to the shadows, while the Countess of Wessex keeps a relatively low profile and an endless collection of twinsets and sensible skirts at her Bagshot Park digs.

Princess Anne’s brace of husbands kept to the shadows, while the Countess of Wessex keeps a relatively low profile and an endless collection of twinsets and sensible skirts at her Bagshot Park digs

Princess Anne’s brace of husbands kept to the shadows, while the Countess of Wessex keeps a relatively low profile and an endless collection of twinsets and sensible skirts at her Bagshot Park digs

How insufferable it must have been for Kate to read the petty slights in Finding Freedom: the Sussexes biography in which she is accused of not ‘reaching out’ to Meghan and once failing to give her sister-in-law a lift to the shops

How insufferable it must have been for Kate to read the petty slights in Finding Freedom: the Sussexes biography in which she is accused of not ‘reaching out’ to Meghan and once failing to give her sister-in-law a lift to the shops

Princess Anne’s brace of husbands kept to the shadows, while the Countess of Wessex keeps a relatively low profile and an endless collection of twinsets and sensible skirts at her Bagshot Park digs

Fergie seems to have found a fitting role for herself, wearing silly hats and reading children’s stories out loud every afternoon — shush, I know, but let’s just leave her be.

Meanwhile, the short tenure of the Sussexes was ended by their piping hot sense of pique and failure to understand royal protocol and the hierarchy stitched into the line of succession like an impregnable ermine flounce.

As we know, a chilly antipathy now exists between the two commoner duchesses following a battle for status within royal circles — a battle that only one woman could win: she who will be Queen.

How insufferable it must have been for Kate to read the petty slights in Finding Freedom: the Sussexes biography in which she is accused of not ‘reaching out’ to Meghan and once failing to give her sister-in-law a lift to the shops.

Fergie seems to have found a fitting role for herself, wearing silly hats and reading children’s stories out loud every afternoon

Fergie seems to have found a fitting role for herself, wearing silly hats and reading children’s stories out loud every afternoon

Fergie seems to have found a fitting role for herself, wearing silly hats and reading children’s stories out loud every afternoon

But the Duchess of Cambridge has risen above all this nonsense, neither complaining nor explaining and just getting on with the job. The only indication of her true feelings was her glacial demeanour at Westminster Abbey in March, her little red hat set to battle stations as she ignored the traitorous Harry and Meghan on their last public appearance as royals.

How I wished for a court painter like Holbein to do justice to this scene of magnificent royal seethe as the Duchess of Cambridge sailed down the nave, froideur incarnate in her red velvet cuffs.

These days she has been getting down to the meat and potatoes of royal life; holding an audience with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and First Lady Olena Zelenska at Buckingham Palace; donning an enviable Alexander McQueen trouser suit to announce the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards; and meeting medical experts at the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London.

She seemed typically thrilled to be doing all of this while even managing to look fabulous in a white lab coat; no mean feat.

The Countess of Wessex keeps a relatively low profile and an endless collection of twinsets and sensible skirts at her Bagshot Park digs

The Countess of Wessex keeps a relatively low profile and an endless collection of twinsets and sensible skirts at her Bagshot Park digs

The Countess of Wessex keeps a relatively low profile and an endless collection of twinsets and sensible skirts at her Bagshot Park digs

To be honest, I used to think that Kate was a bit boring, but have now had to reconsider and reshuffle my pack of royal favourites. In this modern world, amid the turbulence on social media and the clamour to matter, the Duchess of Cambridge manages to care about issues without making the issue about herself.

She pitches an image of intelligent interest in a cause instead of exuding howling self-interest and always hits the right note of raising public awareness instead of grabbing the moral high ground and lecturing the public. Unlike other royals I could mention.

Speaking of which, the defection of Harry and Meghan has had enormous implications for her family, leaving the Cambridges with a heavier burden. But she bears all this with a slightly wintry smile.

Of course she has help — and lots of it — but achieves all the above while being a hands-on mother. She’s no saint — who is? — but to have remained visible, cheerful and elegant throughout this difficult time makes her my duchess of the year.

Arise, D of C. You deserve it!

The bad news keeps on coming. Sharon White, the chairwoman of the John Lewis Partnership, says that in future the company will be a 60 to 70 per cent online business. No!

She says its shops remain important, but may need to be smaller, more flexible and local in future.

This is devastating. At times of personal crisis, I find it more soothing than I can say to visit Peter Jones in London’s Sloane Square and wander around the counters in a kind of reverie; groping the bath towels to compare Plush Supima with Silky Suvin, admiring the cleaning products in the basement (lemon oil for wood!), cruising the ribbons in haberdashery and perusing the storage solutions and then the unlikely lamps in the lighting department wondering who would pay £200 for one of those creepy monkey table lamps.

If things are really bad, I go to Selfridges and work my way down the store from the top floor, folding jumpers as I go. The soothe factor is off the scale.

If you take away department stores you take away my comfort zone.

Please don’t do it, Sharon.

The actress January Jones has taken to posing in a pink bra to promote something or the other, but mostly, one suspects, the great cause of being January Jones.

The actress January Jones has taken to posing in a pink bra to promote something or the other, but mostly, one suspects, the great cause of being January Jones

The actress January Jones has taken to posing in a pink bra to promote something or the other, but mostly, one suspects, the great cause of being January Jones

The actress January Jones has taken to posing in a pink bra to promote something or the other, but mostly, one suspects, the great cause of being January Jones

But it did remind me of something, which is this — when did bras get so complicated?

I tried to buy one last week, but was baffled by all the different types.

The Sports Bras, the Bralette, T-Shirt, Full Cup, Half Cup, Minimiser, Strapless, Plunge, Balcony, Total Support, High Impact, Long Line, Cami, Multi, Push Up, Swiss Designed, High Apex, Soft Touch, Bandeau, Balconette and Wireless.

Just twiddle the knobs for your station of choice?

They sound like a rap group or new members of Top Cat’s gang, not a piece of lingerie.

Why does everything have to be so confusing?

And aren’t they all supposed to be Total Support, otherwise what is the point?

Gossip issue of the week — are Dominic West and Lily James having an affair? Or do those photographs from Rome show an innocent flirt and nothing more?

A network of experts (my pals) have had their say. Luke says it was innocent flirting after a boozy lunch in the sun. But surely the image of Dominic’s hand on Lily’s bottom in the church was pretty damning? ‘It was her upper buttocks,’ pleads Luke, as if the higher reaches of bum de Lily were some kind of Nato no-man’s land.

It’s not virgin territory says Sally and no one argues. Victoria gasps at the paparazzi following the couple into a church in the Holy City of Rome, God forgive them and He probably will. But why were the couple there, is what I am wondering? Claire (She Who Knows Everything) says Lily likes her wine, but don’t we all, says Morwen on Zoom, uncorking her post-work magnum, and I don’t mean an ice cream treat. Claire says remember those reports that Lily had an affair with Ben Chaplin, the 51-year-old actor who played her father in that Disney film?

Well, listen, Dominic (also 51) plays her father in The Pursuit Of Love, which is what they have been recently filming, so Claire has decided Lily has a daddy complex, but I said perhaps she has just got a smokin’ hot dude complex because, we all agreed, both men are extremely attractive. Morwen said if it was a flirty date she hadn’t made much of an effort, scuffing about in those espadrilles, and Claire said they are Yves St Laurent and cost £195.

Gossip issue of the week — are Dominic West and Lily James having an affair? Or do those photographs from Rome show an innocent flirt and nothing more?

Gossip issue of the week — are Dominic West and Lily James having an affair? Or do those photographs from Rome show an innocent flirt and nothing more?

Gossip issue of the week — are Dominic West and Lily James having an affair? Or do those photographs from Rome show an innocent flirt and nothing more?

Luke says Dominic is ‘a really nice bloke’ but that he is very flirtatious. Tell us something we don’t know chorused all, while some of the more forward members added that he could flirt with them ‘any time he wanted’. Susie said his wife should hang onto him no matter what, because ‘why should another woman get all the fun of him?’

Regarding those photographs he and his wife Catherine posed for and the handwritten note assuring the world all was well with their marriage, Andy said if Mrs West had been a Tory wife she would have been out there in her best frock and pearls. I said it was molto aristo to pop out to face the cameras in ballerina flats and old jeans.

Ultimately, Mrs West seems to have taken a pragmatic view of her husband’s — shall we say — friendly nature and whatever happens next, we wish them all the best.

Still, wasn’t that note — written by him of course — absolutely cringe?

But he has got lovely handwriting, says Luke.

Former Blue Peter star John Leslie is in court this week. A woman, whose identity cannot be revealed, alleges he touched her breasts at a party in Soho in 2008. She was 30 years old at the time and went over to the television star to introduce herself.

Mr Leslie, 55, denies sexual assault.

The woman said she was shocked following the ‘solid grab’ that lasted for ‘a couple of seconds, I think’. Since being identified in 2002 by Matthew Wright as the alleged perpetrator of a sexual attack on Ulrika Jonsson — never confirmed by her — Leslie has been accused by several women of sexual assault, but despite several court cases, has yet to be convicted on any charge.

And now this. I don’t know if John Leslie is guilty or innocent of this latest offence (the trial continues). But a two-second grope at a party 12 years ago? Is this really a productive use of a court’s time?

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