(CBS/AP) LONDON - After attending a gala film premiere Sunday night, the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out of the public gaze on Monday to celebrate her 30th birthday in private.
The former Kate Middleton turned heads - and dominated Britain's Monday morning front pages - by attending the London opening of Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" wearing a full-length lacy evening gown by Alice Temperley. Her husband, Prince William, used an umbrella to shield her from the rain.
Palace officials said the Duchess of Cambridge's birthday celebration will be a "low-key and private" affair. The choice of a muted event seems appropriate: After all, the duchess is not just starting the fourth decade of her life - she is also embarking on her career as a future queen, charged with renovating a monarchy that has become somewhat creaky with age.
"She's done very well, playing a very good supporting role to Prince William and complementing him as part of a team," said Robert Jobson, author of "William and Kate: The Love Story." "We've not seen much of her, but when she's in public she has performed with aplomb."
The past year has seen momentous changes for Kate, with a fairytale wedding to Prince William, travels around the world and glamorous appearances that marked her transition from commoner to the world's most talked-about princess and style icon. She has won rave reviews for her sparkle, her elegant sense of style, and her common touch with the public.
But now that the excitement around her grand wedding has subsided, she is expected to quietly settle down into her royal duties - and for much of this year, that means helping Queen Elizabeth II celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, without upstaging the monarch in her moment of glory, and also playing a supporting role at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Until recently, palace officials have been quiet about what exactly her role will be, keen to protect her transition into a fully fledged royal from the glare of the media limelight. The newlyweds, who live in a remote corner of north Wales, were said to favor a "quieter life" after the massive global media coverage of their April wedding.
The former Middleton ventured out on her first solo engagement in October - a private charity dinner for about 30 guests - but is yet to make a public speech on her own.
That is set to change. This week, royal officials finally gave the first insight into her new role when they announced which charities she's supporting, including the Scouts, an organization that helps drug addicts and a group of children's hospices. More organizations will follow later, officials said.
She has already taken on an unofficial role as a champion of the British fashion industry, wearing the creations of British designers at home and abroad, showcasing their work in the best possible light.
On top of such duties, the duchess also has a busy year ahead with the queen's jubilee, a major celebration of the monarch's 60 years on the throne that will see numerous celebrations throughout Britain and the Commonwealth, peaking in a major celebration in London in early June.
The royals are expected to play a supporting role by traveling overseas to represent the queen. William and Kate are due to journey to Malaysia, Singapore, the Solomon Islands and the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu as part of the festivities.