Duchess Kate’s Hold Still Photography Book is Already a Bestseller as she Launches Treasure Hunt by Leaving Copies Hidden Around the UK with a Letter Inside

The new book includes an introduction from Kate, in which she explains why launching Hold Still was so important to her

Two Duchesses made a foray into publishing this week, with Kate Middleton releasing a volume of photography charting people’s lives during the pandemic, while Meghan Markle announced her first children’s book.

It’s unclear how Meghan’s book, which goes on sale next month, is going to perform, but Kate is already reigning supreme in the publishing stakes with her book Hold Still becoming an instant bestseller.

To mark the release, the Duchess of Cambridge, 39, is meeting with contributors at the National Portrait Gallery and this morning launched a royal treasure hunt in collaboration with the Book Fairies organisation.

Kate, along with judges of the Hold Still competition and participants, have left ‘copies at places that gave us hope during lockdowns’ around the UK, with a letter from the royal tucked inside.

Wearing a bespoke red coat from Eponine, who charge £1,650 for similar styles, Kate was filmed placing a copy next to a fountain outside Kensington  Palace.

The mother-of-three, a keen photographer, started her campaign during the first lockdown last year to ask the public to submit images which captured the period and the result is Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020, features 100 final ‘poignant and personal’ portraits selected from 31,000 entrants.

The proceeds from her book will be equally split to support the work of the National Portrait Gallery and Mind, the mental health charity while Meghan’s is believed to be a commercial venture.

The Duchess appeared animated as she arrived at the gallery in central London today, cutting a striking figure in a vibrant red coat from London boutique Eponine.

The piece, which is from their Autumn/Winter 2018 collection but hasn’t been seen on the Duchess in public before, features a mandarin collar and pretty button detailing.

The Duchess paired the striking coat with simple brown accessories, including her new DeMellier micro-handbag, and opted for a pleated tan midi skirt beneath the coat.

Online, the £295 bag is described as a ‘perfectly proportioned statement piece’ which can fit ‘handbag essentials’ including ‘most phones’ as well as keys and a small purse.

Later, she visited The Royal London Hospital to hear how art is commissioned by its award-winning Arts & Health service, Vital Arts, and displayed throughout its wards, waiting rooms and corridors to enhance the environment and, in turn, improve the patient and staff experience.

The Duchess saw examples of arts projects and installations at the hospital delivered by the Vital Arts programme.

She also heard more about how the National Portrait Gallery has collaborated with the hospital to bring workshops to young patients and their families through the Gallery’s Hospital Programme.

Kate spoke with a small group of hospital staff who told her about their experiences of working throughout the pandemic, and showed examples of some photographs which have been taken by staff from Barts Health NHS Trust to document this period in history.

At the peak of the second wave, The Royal London was caring for COVID-19 patients from across North East London including 150 patients who required critical care, and treated more than double the number of COVID-19 patients they did during the first wave.

The Duchess also viewed a framed portrait of Melanie, March 2020 by Johannah Churchill, which appears on the front cover of the Hold Still book.

The portrait, which has been gifted to The Royal London by The Duchess and the National Portrait Gallery, will hang in the hospital’s main corridor as a reminder of the phenomenal efforts of NHS staff throughout the pandemic. Further portraits will be given to locations around the UK for public display over the coming months.

Kate’s book, created in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, is available in UK bookshops and online from today, one year since the project was first launched.

Earlier today, The Book Fairies shared photographs of the Duchess as she placed the book outside Kensington Palace, tweeting: ‘We are delighted that The Duchess of Cambridge has not only harnessed the power of The Book Fairies today but became a book fairy herself to hide copies of Hold Still!’

Another tweet from The Book Fairies, an organisation set up in 2017 which encourages people to share their books, revealed one of the Hold Still books had been wrapped in a green ribbon and hidden outside a hospital.

Other Hold Still participants and judges were quick to reveal snaps as they hid their copies of the book for others to find.

One person in Bishop Auckland posted an image of the book nestled in a flower bed, while another person shared images of a copy hidden in Northern Ireland.

The Book Fairies is a literary movement which urges readers to share books which they have read and enjoyed by leaving them in public spaces for others to find. Book fairies leave literary gifts all around the UK, and worldwide, every day, and to date have distributed over 300,000 books.

And it wasn’t long before members of the general public started finding Kate’s books in different locations across the UK.

Twitter user Richard Ovenden shared a snap as he found a book on his daily walk and posted a photograph of the letter written by the Duchess within.

It reads: ‘Dear Finder, The Hold Still book documents a photograph project which captured a portrait of our nation as we lived through the first Covid-19 lockdown last year.

‘The images tell the stories of the challenges we all faced, but also how we came together in the most extraordinary times.

‘I am proud to have worked closely with the National Portrait Gallery on this project and thrilled that the Book Fairies across the country are returning the images to the communities at the heart of Hold Still.’

Signing the letter off, ‘Catherine’, she wrote: ‘Once you’ve finished looking through the book, please leave it somewhere else in your community for the next person to enjoy.’

Meanwhile the book immediately shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller list.

As well as being number two on the charts overall, the photo book was number one in the Art, Architecture & Photography.

Net proceeds raised from the sale of the book will be split between the mental health charity Mind and the National Portrait Gallery.

The funds will help to support arts and mental health projects across the UK, including Mind’s work in local communities and the National Portrait Gallery’s education and community projects.

Earlier this week, Kate shared a video which flicked through the pages of the book to their Instagram, with the caption: ‘Coming this Friday #HoldStill2020’.

The fast-paced video shared by the Cambridges on Instagram showed the different pages of the Hold Still book, and some of the 100 portraits that were selected.

Excited royal fans praised the Duchess’s work, as some said she was ‘smashing it’. ‘Wonderful. I love the way this woman goes about her business,’ one said.

The new book includes an introduction from Kate, in which she explains why launching Hold Still was so important to her.

She writes: ‘When we look back at the COVID-19 pandemic in decades to come, we will think of the challenges we all faced – the loved ones we lost, the extended isolation from our families and friends and the strain placed on our key workers.

‘But we will also remember the positives: the incredible acts of kindness, the helpers and heroes who emerged from all walks of life, and how together we adapted to a new normal.

‘Through Hold Still, I wanted to use the power of photography to create a lasting record of what we were all experiencing – to capture individuals’ stories and document significant moments for families and communities as we lived through the pandemic.’

She goes on: ‘For me, the power of the images is in the poignant and personal stories that sit behind them. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to some of the photographers and sitters, to hear their stories first-hand – from moments of joy, love and community spirit, to deep sadness, pain, isolation and loss.

‘A common theme of those conversations was how lockdown reminded us about the importance of human connection and the huge value we place on the relationships we have with the people around us.

‘Although we were physically apart, these images remind us that, as families, communities and as a nation, we need each other more than we had ever realised.’

She concludes by thanking everyone who took the time to submit an image, adding: ‘Your stories are the most crucial part of this project.

‘I hope that the final 100 photographs showcase the experiences and emotions borne during this time in history, pay tribute to the awe-inspiring efforts of all who have worked to protect those around them, and provide a space for us to pause and reflect upon this unparalleled period.’

As well as showcasing the final 100 images and the stories that accompany each of them, the book – which has been put together with support from the Co-op – will look back at highlights from the community exhibition which took the portraits to billboards and outdoor poster sites in 80 towns, cities and areas in October 2020.

Over the course of the project the Duchess shared a number of her favourite images on the Kensington Royal Instagram page, including a Black Lives Matter protester holding a sign reading: ‘Be on the right side of history.’

Another of the snaps was a black and white image showing a man embracing his daughter, while one shows a child kissing their godmother through a window.

Meanwhile others featured a student holding her exam qualifications, and a young girl seen drawing a huge rainbow onto a window pane.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of The National Portrait Gallery said: ‘The public response to Hold Still, which was spearheaded by our Patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, has been phenomenal.

‘The photographs submitted have helped to create a unifying and cathartic portrait of life in lockdown. We are honoured to have been able to share a selection of these photographs with the nation, first through the online and community exhibition and now through this new publication.

‘The proceeds raised from the book will help us to continue to care for and share our national Collection and to provide free access, inspiration and learning, through the work we do at the Gallery and our UK wide community and education projects.

‘Hold Still is an important record of this extraordinary moment in our history – expressed through the faces of the nation – and we hope will remain so for generations to come.’

Let the search begin! The Duke and Duchess shared a video of Kate placing a copy of the book outside her home of Kensington Palace
And it wasn’t long before members of the general public started finding the hidden books, with one revealing the letter written by the Duchess and tucked within

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, added: ‘The coronavirus pandemic is a mental health emergency as well as a physical one. The devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, and any recession that lies ahead means there has never been a more crucial time to prioritise our mental health.

‘This inspiring collection of portraits illustrates the impact of the pandemic in all its complexity, but also how creativity, art and human connection can help us find meaning in unprecedented challenges.

‘Thank you to everyone who submitted a portrait to tell such a moving and deeply human story of the pandemic. And to the National Portrait Gallery and The Duchess of Cambridge for choosing Mind as a joint beneficiary of proceeds from the sales of this book.’

Kate’s book has been released days after Meghan announced she would be releasing a children’s book, which will be published on June 8 by Random House, inspired by a poem she wrote for Prince Harry at the time of the birth of their son Archie.

It will be illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson, who called it a ‘celebration of the relationship between father and son.’

Kate’s book has been released days after Meghan announced she would be releasing a children’s book, which will be published on June 8 by Random House, inspired by a poem she wrote for Prince Harry at the time of the birth of their son Archie.

It will be illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson, who called it a ‘celebration of the relationship between father and son.’

A publicity release said Meghan, who chose to use her title on the cover of the book, wanted the story to be told through an ‘inclusive lens’ and will feature a ‘diverse group of father and sons’.

In one illustration, a red-headed soldier wearing an American-style Army cap is seen holding his young son aloft as a woman watches on crying from a window. This is a likely reference to her and Harry, who served in Afghanistan with the Blues and Royals. The words read: ‘This is your bench, Where life will begin, For you and our son our baby, our kin’.

In another, a father and son can be seen from a birds-eye view as they rest together on a park bench.

Sources told Vanity Fairs Katie Nicholl Meghan plans to write more books in the future, revealing: ‘She wanted to have a go at writing a children’s book first and depending on the success of this, there will be more. She is also keen to write books for adults too.’

SOURCE: Daily Mail, Harriet Johnston