Why Kate Middleton’s wheelchair appearance is a huge change for the Royal Family

The Princess of Wales took part in a game of wheelchair rugby as part of her role as patron of the Rugby Football League – and it marks a massive change

Kate Middleton took part in wheelchair rugby
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Catherine, Princess of Wales took part in a game of wheelchair rugby this week as part of her role as patron of the Rugby Football League. The Princess wanted to spotlight inclusivity in sports – and her taking part also shows how traditional rules and protocols might have shifted within the Royal Family.

Kate Middleton can switch things up on a dime. From academic chic to a classic pinstripe blazer, there’s not many occasions that can take her by surprise.

And this week, she proved she really was game for anything as she donned a sporty, tracksuit look and took part in a wheelchair rugby game.

The Princess of Wales took part in the match to highlight the inclusivity in the sport, and she also joined a training session run by members of the world-cup-winning England Wheelchair Rugby League squad.

The visit on October 5 was part of her role as patron of the Rugby Football League – a position she took over from brother-in-law Prince Harry when he quit royal duties.

Kate Middleton's appearance marks a change from traditional royal attitudes towards being seen using a wheelchair

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Kate joined in the activities hosted by the Rugby Football League, Hull FC and the University of Hull where members of Hull FC’s Wheelchair, Physical Disability and Learning Disability Rugby League teams played in matches and training skills sessions.

Part of the main focus of the Princess’ day was to highlight the positive impact the Disability Rugby League has on those who play the sport.

Princess Kate also wanted to show how sports can help tackle inequalities and provide a platform for people to develop their skills and fitness regardless of their circumstances.

Kate Middleton was representing as her role as Patron of the England Rugby Football League

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While it might just seem like another example of the Princess being down for anything – from playing tennis against a former world number one to getting on the floor to play with children – Kate being more than willing to use the wheelchair does herald in a huge change for royals.

Previously, it’s been suggested that many senior royals – including the late Queen Elizabeth II – were against being seen using one. When the late Queen’s mobility issues were widely reported before her death, it was suggested she was using a wheelchair to get around, but there was a rigorous operation in place to avoid her being seen using it.

At the time, various sources including Christopher Biggins who spoke on GB News, said, “I have heard that the reason she's not doing a lot of the events that she should be doing and cancelling them is because she is in a wheelchair.”

Princess Margaret's appearance in a wheelchair reportedly left Queen Elizabeth furious

(Image credit: Getty Images)

And Princess Margaret being photographed in a wheelchair was the centre of a controversy which left the Queen furious – and Backstairs Billy, a lifelong aide of the Queen Mother’s, ousted from his job.

Billy – William Tallon - was the man photographed wheeling out an unwell Princess Margaret in 2001. The famously larger-than-life Margaret was wheelchair bound, with heavy sunglasses on to shield her eyes.

The photos rocked the nation and it was widely reported that the late Queen was furious at her sister being seen in such a way, and William found himself out of a job.

Kate embracing the wheelchair could be seen as a more inclusive, modern approach that dispels any ableist views that a wheelchair is somehow a sign of weakness or frailty. 

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.