Kate Middleton is well-prepped for her royal role.
The Duchess of Cambridge has had a lifetime to learn from Queen Elizabeth — first as a subject from afar, then as a member of the royal family for 11 years.
Although her roots aren't royal (as the oldest of three children of entrepreneur parents, she grew up in an affluent but not aristocratic family), her instincts are —including a natural affinity for connecting with the public.
Karwai Tang/WireImage Kate Middleton
Kate, like the Queen, is "able to make each person feel that they are being seen for the three seconds she talks to them," author and historian Amanda Foreman, author of Queen Victoria's Buckingham Palace, tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story.
This quality, adds Foreman, "projects immediacy and makes it feel intimate, which is amazing — there are people who simply can't do that. It is training plus innate talent."
And diligent preparation.
"Catherine always does her homework and doesn't go on visits on a wing and a prayer," says an insider. "She has read the papers and puts in the effort. She is a hardworking person."
As patron of a number of charitable organizations, Kate stays informed on key projects and initiatives and spotlights their work through her various engagements.
John Sibley - WPA Pool/Getty Images Kate Middleton
Kate is also a modern woman who is nonetheless amenable to the centuries-old power structure of the family business.
"It's a personal willingness to conform to the requirements of the institution," says historian Sarah Gristwood, author of Elizabeth: Queen and Crown. "That sounds like an unappealing, unglamorous virtue, but it's an important one if you're going to be a successful cog in the royal wheel."
For more on how Kate Middleton has the perfect role model in the Queen, pick up a copy of the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands on Friday.
Not one to hand down explicit "lessons," it's unlikely the Queen has ever formally tutored Kate. Instead, Gristwood tells PEOPLE that the Queen may have approached her relationship with Kate the way she does with prime ministers.
"The Queen has always preferred to do rather than to say," Gristwood says. Adds the Queen's biographer Sally Bedell Smith: "Catherine has learned by observing. She knows what resonates. She will have absorbed a lot from this Queen."
GEOFF PUGH/POOL/AFP via Getty Queen Elizabeth, Prince William and Kate Middleton
Although they are separated in age by 56 years, the Queen and Kate share key qualifications for the job: quiet stoicism, unerring discretion and firm loyalty. Their opinions on contentious political issues are never heard; their commitment to the throne is unwavering, and their public images are tightly controlled. Kate also embodies the Queen's unofficial motto for public life: "Never complain, never explain."
As the Queen begins her summer holiday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland this week — two months after her 70 years on the throne was celebrated across the U.K. and the world — she's doing so with confidence in the fact that Kate and her husband Prince William are ready for their royal duties in the months and years ahead.