Duchess Kate shocks onlookers by driving herself to Buckingham Palace, eluding paparazzi

Maria Puente
Prince William, Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan of Sussex and Duchess Kate of Cambrige attend a service marking the centenary of WW1 armistice at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 11, 2018 in London.

So you're a typical tourist in London, hanging around outside Buckingham Palace because ... well, that's what tourists do in London. Suddenly a car drives up with a pretty young woman at the wheel, waving merrily, and you are stunned to realize: Hey! That's Kate Middleton!

So it went Wednesday around tea time at the palace, when a crowd of tourists caught a surprise glimpse of Duchess Kate of Cambridge, one of the three top-line royals in London next to Queen Elizabeth II and royal sister-in-law, Duchess Meghan of Sussex.

We only know about this thanks to social media photos, because the usually ever-present paparazzi were not around at that moment. Also, whatever she was doing at Buck House (having tea with the queen was the consensus) was considered "private" and was not announced in advance on her schedule. 

"At Buckingham Palace. When you're so lucky and get a shot of Kate Middleton right when she gets to the Palace," posted Melissagrflx on her Instagram page.

It features lots of selfies of "Melli" doing touristy things, plus the money shot of what looked like Kate in her car driving through the gates while surrounded by a crowd of tourists holding up their smartphones.

It might be a new media stealth strategy inspired by the approach of American former actress, Duchess Meghan: Don't tell reporters and photographers everything you're up to and maybe you can avoid them now and then.

Getting to see a senior royal off duty and doing normal things isn't entirely uncommon, especially since the dawn of Twitter. Since she married Prince William in 2011, Kate, 36, has been spotted doing the grocery shopping or driving around on her way to here or there where media cameras are not waiting.

But casually popping into shops is not something the queen, 92, ever does. Her schedule is packed, fixed ahead of time, announced in advance and rarely altered. When she appears in public, the media cameras are ready and waiting.

But Duchess Meghan, 37, who only just joined the family when she married Prince Harry in May, is starting to establish her own way of doing her job, informed by her American sense of independence, self-reliance and self-confidence.  

Three times in the last two weeks, she's turned up in public to widespread surprise, either because it was not on her official schedule, she was there under the radar, or it was considered a "private" matter.

On Dec. 3, she met with former first lady Michelle Obama during the latter's book tour for her best-selling memoir, "Becoming," at London's South Bank Centre. The ex-FLOTUS had a discussion with writer Chimamanda Ngozi before an audience of about 2,700 people, talking about issues close to Meghan's heart, including female empowerment and the challenges for black women in public roles.

Kensington Palace confirmed Meghan attended the event "privately" and spoke with Obama afterwards. No cameras were present, or at least no pictures have yet emerged.  

Meghan was "spotted by members of the public during the evening, and is understood to have enjoyed a warm personal discussion with Mrs Obama afterwards," reported The Telegraph.

Duchess Meghan of Sussex visits the Hubb Community Kitchen to see how funds raised by the 'Together: Our Community' cookbook she helped launch are making a difference in North Kensington, Nov. 21, 2018 in London.

On Dec. 6, she went alone to King's College London for a meeting with academics to discuss how higher education can help change the world.

The college and the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which convened the conference, both shared pictures of Meghan in a black top sitting at a round table with others, taking notes. 

"What is she up to? Meghan Markle’s SECRET meeting with academics at King’s College London," blared the headline on the Express.

"Pleasure to host @The_ACU yesterday for discussion on how #highereducation can help build a better world. We were honoured to host HRH The #DuchessofSussex, university leaders, academics and international scholarship students for this important conversation," King's College tweeted.

On Dec. 10, Meghan stunned the fashionable mob at the British Fashion Awards in London when she walked on stage to present an award to Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy, the designer of her much-admired wedding dress. 

No one expected this, least of all the media covering the awards show, who nonetheless instantly rallied to capture pictures of Meghan, hair pulled back tightly, looking chic in a one-shoulder black Givenchy gown that showed off her expectant belly.

First lady Melania Trump reads "Oliver the Ornament" to children at Children's National Hospital in Washington, Dec. 13, 2018.