kate-middleton-ascot

Why Kate Middleton waited five years to make her Royal Ascot debut

The Duchess of Cambridge welcomed her third child in April

Ainhoa Barcelona

Members of the Queen's family will be out in full force this week for the opening of Royal Ascot, with newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle expected to attend. But while the Duchess of Sussex will be making her debut just one month after her royal wedding, her sister-in-law Kate waited five years before attending the prestigious horseracing event.

It's understood that the Queen has invited Prince William and Kate to Ascot every year since their wedding in 2011, but the Duchess politely declined until 2016, when she attended for a very special reason – to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday. HELLO!'s royal correspondent Emily Nash explains that the couple were focused on raising their young children, while William was also working as an air ambulance helicopter pilot. The Prince quit his job in 2017, and again the couple attended Ascot that year.

Kate made her Ascot debut in 2016

"William and Kate's focus was on his job and the children for a while, but they've stepped up their royal duties in the past couple of years," Emily explained. As for whether Meghan will be making her Ascot debut this week, Emily added: "If Meghan goes, it's in keeping with her doing so much else already." Just last week the former actress spent the day in Cheshire with the Queen, and a couple of days after her wedding, she attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles' 70th birthday.

MORE: Thomas Markle explains why Harry and Meghan haven't visited him yet

See the best moments from Royal Ascot...

Loading the player...

It's not yet known whether Kate, who is technically on maternity leave, will join the royal family at Ascot this week. She made an appearance at Trooping the Colour to celebrate the Queen's birthday and also attended the royal wedding, but other than that, Kate has kept a low profile since giving birth to Prince Louis in April.

MORE: What is Meghan Markle's net worth?

The Duchess again attended in 2017

Meanwhile, royal watchers and fashionistas alike can't wait to see what Meghan will wear, if she does attend this year. The strict dress code for Ascot can be a sartorial minefield, but Meghan has never put a foot wrong in her royal duties. When Kate made her debut in 2016, she stunned in a white lace dress by Dolce & Gabbana and a matching fascinator. The following year, she opted for a similar look, wearing another elegant mid-length white lace dress.

Kate was joined by her mother Carole Middleton and her royal cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and Mike and Zara Tindall, among other members of the Queen's family.

More on: