As she celebrates her 30th birthday, the Duchess of Cambridge will no doubt take time to privately reflect on just how extraordinary the past 12 months have been.
In just a short space of time the young woman from the wealthy middle class background has gone from being plain Kate Middleton — or Catherine Middleton, as Royal courtiers are quick to remind us — to future Queen.
Of course, 30 is one of those landmark birthdays for everyone, but for the newest member of the Royal family, it must surely underline just how completely her life has changed.
For make no mistake about it, no matter how many times we read about her enjoying a quiet life as an RAF wife in Anglesey and, see pictures of her pushing a trolley from the local supermarket, Kate is already well on her way to becoming a global superstar.
The woman who wears the iconic sapphire and diamond engagement ring that once belonged to her tragic late moher-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, is already herself one of the most famous women in the world.
Shortly after her marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, she and Prince Wiliam embarked on what turned out to be a hugely successful tour of Canada and the US.
This year, as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the couple will travel to Malaysia, Singapore, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu in the South Pacific, one of the tinest nations on earth.
But it’s not just that untouchable royal brand of celebrity that has sent her popularity soaring, it’s the fact that — well — we reckon we rather like the woman whose titles also include Baroness of Carrickfergus.
Despite the rather unkind ‘Waity Katie’ soubriquet, too — a jibe at her apparent readinness not to carve out a career while waiting for her prince to propose — she has undeniably gained a substantial place in the hearts of the public. Is it because she at once seems one of us and one of them, as likely to drop into her favourite high street stores such as Whistles, Warehouse and Zara, as step out in a Sarah Burton or Alexander McQueen number?
Or because on her big day she was briefly upstaged by her younger sister Pippa’s behind, but didn’t seem to mind?
Or the fact that she seems to greet every royal engagement, every encounter with the public with a wave too enthusiastic to be truly royal?
Or simply that she somehow brings a welcome distraction to our lives, as we assess her hairstyles, her clothes, her “Scouse brow” and whether or not she did rub her tummy in a way that suggests she might possibly be pregnant? Whatever, we find out what local people make of her style, her charity work and her first eight months as a royal — and wish her many happy returns.
Danielle Markwell (22) is an activities assistant at the Crawfordsburn Scout Centre and also volunteers as a Cubs leader. She lives in Dundonald. She says:
I've been Scout leader since I was 13 — I started volunteering for my Duke of Edinburgh Award and I haven't stopped since. It was great when I graduated from Queen's University I was able to get a job full-time with the Scouts.
I think Catherine's choices of charities are very good but I'm particularly pleased that she's also chosen to volunteer with the Scouts. Scouting definitely needs more women in the organisation. The number of females is growing, especially in areas that don't offer Girl Guides' programmes. There are now lots of opportunities for girls within the Scouts particularly as they offer more balanced activities.
According to reports, Catheine is going to volunteer as an occasional helper, which woould mean she might not be at meetings every week but would still be there quite often, helping show the children things like arts and crafts in order for them to get their badges. It will be a learning curve for her as well as the children as she'll need to supervise what they're doing.
Personally I think she's doing really well. I think she has a lovely fashion sense and she appears to be very down-to-earth. She is constantly in the spotlight but she doesn't self-promote. She's an excellent ambassador for the UK.
Bronagh Cappa (33) is the chief executive of the Ocean Youth Trust Ireland, one of two charities in Northern Ireland to be recipients from the Royal Wedding Fund. She lives in Belfast with her husband Jonathan Campbell. She says:
The Ocean Youth Trust works with young people from all backgrounds to give them the benefit of sail training. Thanks to the Royal Wedding Fund we have worked with 659 more young people in the last eight months than usual and more than 600 of those had never set foot on a boat before. I think we've done well with that.
I think having a young woman like the Duchess of Cambridge turn the spotlight on the voluntary sector is a very good thing. It doesn't matter how little time you have to give, it all helps and all charities need volunteers. We have people who do nothing more than give a half-hour talk about the organisation in schools once a month but even that really helps to get the word out which is a life-saver in the current economic climate.
Catherine has chosen a wide range of charities to work with but I think the Scouts are going to benefit hugely from her involvement not just in Wales but all around the UK.
I think Catherine's starting to settle into her role and you can see her becoming more confident as time goes on. You could see that when she stepped in to host a charity dinner for Prince Charles in October last year. She always looks happy and relaxed and seems to take everything in her stride.
Pat Jordan is the owner of Jourdan boutique on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. She says:
As she enters her thirties Catherine will have a real influence in fashion — she's not quite Diana yet but she is doing it in her own way.
She has a marvellous figure which means she can switch between high street clothes and designer gowns very easily. She can make the odd mistake every now and again — for instance wearing tights with wedge shoes — but otherwise she looks impeccable.
We've seen her influence in my shop particularly among our younger customers. Girls coming in for dresses for school formals are requesting her look — Grecian style dresses that we've bought in especially.
She's doing very well and the charities she's chosen represent a good and varied age range. I think she's doing an excellent job and I hope the palace officials don't make her do too much too quickly, as they did with Princess Diana. In saying that, people who come into the shop who have met her are always very impressed with her.
Mary Rose McGrath (39) is a designer and created the first copy of the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress to go on display in the UK. She lives in Belfast with her son Christopher (11). She says:
I think Kate's style is flipping brilliant. With her athletic figure she looks fantastic in anything she wears. She gives her support to the fashion industry here by wearing both high street clothes and couture gowns that have been created by wonderful UK designers.
Her style is chic and elegant and the beauty of it is anyone can get her look because the clothes are available to them. People obviously want to copy her as any dress she buys from the high street will sell out just days later. Her charities show a fantastic range and her involvement in the Scouts shows she's taking an interest in the younger generation. She's going to be a great support to them and a credit to the Royal family.
Dolores Kelly (52) is an SDLP MLA and lives with her husband Eamon near Lurgan. They have four children, Catriona (27), Fionnuala (25), Matthew (21) and Kathleen (18). She says:
Kate appears to be a very impressive young woman with her feet planted firmly on the ground. She does seem to have some traits in common with Princess Diana and one hopes that the royals will have learnt to treat her better.
Her clothes are great she has her own style and a lot of the time wears the same off the peg clothes that everyone else wears. This will be a great influence especially as young people are so impressionable when it comes to fashion.
It's the same with the charities she has chosen to support too — you can see that she's reaching out to young people. I really wish her well.
Lynda Bryans (49), is a television presenter and lives in Belfast with husband Mike Nesbitt, a UUP MLA, and sons PJ (14) and Christopher (16). She says:
For Catherine, I think there is a certain amount of pressure to follow in Diana's footsteps and fit into her mould.
Maybe it's a generational thing or different era but Catherine and William seem to be more in touch with people and she hasn't put a foot wrong yet. She comes across as very dignified and at ease and that must be down to the support she is getting from the Royals and her family.
Usually royal romances are very quick, but Catherine and William were together a long time before they got married — some commentators even dubbed her ‘Waity Katie’.
As a consequence of that, however, I think Catherine has thought a lot about what she is getting herself into and she will be a great asset to the Royal family.
So far, she seems to be coping well. I don’t think the fact she is doing so much charity work with young people us any real surprise. I know myself when my boys were younger I started working with a lot of baby charities because that is what I was focused on, so it is only natural Kate wants to help young people because she is young herself.
And it's great she wears clothes from the high street. Maybe Kate’s decision to wear high street clothes is her modern take on frugality.
Gareth Harper (38), managing director for Peace Players Northern Ireland. He lives in Belfast with his wife and two children. He says:
Myself and a colleague were lucky enough to meet the Duchess of Cambridge last year when the Royal couple visited Northern Ireland Peace Players, which was handpicked by William and Kate for the Royal Wedding Charitable Gift Fund.
Initially the news that we had been chosen came as a real shock. There was no application process, and it isn't every day you get a call from St James' Palace. Initially, we thought is was a wind-up.
We met the couple at Belfast City Hall and Catherine really came across as straight up and genuine. She seemed very knowledgeable about our work in Peace Players and encouraged us to keep at it.
The fact that she and William personally chose the organisation as one they wished to donate money to really struck a chord with us and we were very grateful of the recognition.
Then again. they both have sporting backgrounds and our work using sport to improve community relations seemed really important to them.
I wish Catherine a happy birthday today and I really want to thank her and William for the positives that have come out of their decision to choose Peace Players as part of the Wedding Fund.
There was obvious financial gain, but as well as that the kudos and recognition we have received from it has really meant a lot to the volunteers, the schools and children we work with.
Fiona Lewis (40) is married to Regimental Sergeant Major Peter Lewis. She lives in Holywood with their children Rebecca (9), Rachel (8) and eight- month-old Robin. She says:
With both of us having a husband in the Armed Forces, the Duchess of Cambridge and I share a similar situation. I have been married to Peter for 10 years and he is currently on his fourth tour in Afghanistan, which will last seven months.
It is very difficult being a military wife — when Peter is deployed I obviously worry constantly.
But another major downside is that you are virtually a single mum when your husband is away. You have to help your children cope with the emotions they are going through, as well as deal with your own.
The day-to-day living can be difficult, juggling school, after school clubs, meals and everything that goes along with havong kids. It can also be very lonely.
From what I can see Catherine is a pillar of strength for William. She seems to be her own person and one that can stand on her own two feet.
She is always dressed so well and has become a fashion icon. It is great to see her dressing to suit her age.
If I had any advice for Catherine from a fellow military wife to another, it would be to make use of the Unit Welfare Office.
It helps provide support by organising events for other wives. That way we can help each other out.