Just one year ago, Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton were in dramatically different places in their lives. As Meghan navigated her new royal world, Kate juggled the demands of three young children. Now they both share in the bond of motherhood — and their connection is putting reports of a royal rift behind them.
“There is a sense of [Meghan and Kate’s] relationship strengthening,” a royal source tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.
Attending Wimbledon together last weekend, Meghan and Kate “were genuine and sweet together,” says an insider. When Meghan’s friend Serena Williams lost the match, “Kate put her hand out and rubbed Meghan’s back to console her,” says a close observer.
It was a charming moment between the two women, whom tabloids have cast as royal rivals ever since Meghan came on the scene in the fall of 2016.
“It illustrated a warm relationship between these women who have young babies and are in similar situations in their lives,” says royal commentator Victoria Arbiter, whose father Dickie Arbiter was a press spokesman for Queen Elizabeth.
Just three days earlier the sisters-in-law had teamed up for an inaugural playdate—the first time Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, 1, had all been together with their 2-month-old cousin Archie.
“They’re each a little more relaxed,” says the insider. “They have more in common now.”
What’s more, Meghan and Prince Harry’s move out of Kensington Palace — where Kate and Prince William live with their children, has provided distance that has helped them reconnect, “allowing them more time to be like family” rather than colleagues, a royal source says.
Palace sources emphasize that there is room in the public space for Kate and Meghan’s distinct strengths and interests to shine. “Coming from different backgrounds, I think, they have more the makings of a team than people imagined,” says longtime royals author Robert Lacey. “And they have a common interest as partners to these two men who are so crucial to the monarchy, along with their children.”
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As Meghan adjusts to new motherhood, no one understands the pressure Meghan faces under the royal spotlight more than Kate, who has said that it can be “lonely” and “isolating” at times.
“Babies are a great leveler,” adds Arbiter. “The minute you’re bonding over your stories and sleepless nights, suddenly all the stuff that mattered before doesn’t matter anymore.”