Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born on January 9, 1982 at Royal Berkshire Hospital. She was the first child of Michael Middleton and Carole Middleton, nee Goldsmith, and arrived shortly after their June 1980 wedding. Catherine was baptised at St. Andrew’s Bradfield church, near their modest 3-bedroom Berkshire home. Her parents met while working for British Airways, with Michael as a flight dispatcher and Carole as the doting stewardess. Catherine was joined by two younger siblings, Phillipa Charlotte in 1984 and James William in 1987. Michael and Carole stayed with British Airways for a few years, even transplanting their family in Jordan for a short time. Eventually, Carole and her children settled in Berkshire while Michael continued to travel for work. While at home with her children, Catherine’s mother founded Party Pieces, a party supply company. What started in the Middleton kitchen soon grew into a private company estimated to be worth $50 million. The family business allowed the Middleton children to have an affluent and privileged upbringing, leading them to success in later life. While Catherine grew up to be the future Queen of England, Pippa is an esteemed writer, editorialist, and party planner while James founded his own company, the Cake Kit Company.
Kate was educated at St. Andrew’s in Pangborne, a children’s prepatory school for ages 3 to 13 years. According to the St. Andrew’s website:
“The School’s values are respect, kindness, politeness, teamwork, honesty, enthusiasm and perseverance. “
Based on this, it comes as no surprise that this was where Kate’s love of sports flourished, including her love for tennis and field hockey. Along with sports and her academic studies, Kate studied the flute, was very active in the school’s choir and participated in the drama club. When she was ten-years-old, Catherine starred in the school’s production of Cinderella. She played Prince Charming, an ironic part given her future husband. Three years later, Catherine starred again in the school’s production of “Murder in the Red Barn.” She played a lovesick woman who seeks help from a fortune teller. The fortune teller reveals that she will fall in love with a man named William, who was “a handsome man, a rich gentleman,” and he would take her off to London. This would prove all-too-true in the years to come. Kate thoroughly enjoyed her time at St. Andrew’s, affectionately bearing the nickname “Squeak” to her sister’s “Pip.” In 2012, Kate visited St. Andrew’s to christen their new Astroturf field. She spoke of her time spent at the school:
“I absolutely loved my time here; they were some of my happiest years, which makes it so incredibly special to be here today. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that when I had to leave, I told my mother that I was going to come back to be a teacher. While that didn’t quite happen, I was thrilled to have been asked back today on St. Andrew’s Day. It was while I was here at school that I realised my love of sport. Sport has been a huge part of my life, and I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunities I had to get outside and play in such wonderful open spaces – though sadly there was nothing quite as glamorous as this in my time!”
After graduating from St. Andrew’s at the age of 13, Catherine enrolled in Downe House, a prestigious sixth form school for girls ages 11-18 located near her home in Berkshire. Despite having a pleasantly memorable experience in her grade school, her time at Downe House can be called horrendous. Kate was mercilessly bullied at the school. Because she was a day student and not a boarder, she found it hard to fit in among the cliquish atmosphere. Kate was ostracized for her tall, gangly appearance and quiet demeanor. After a number of pranks, Carole and Michael quickly pulled Catherine out of the esteemed school after only a year.
Kate was then enrolled in Marlborough College, an elite boarding school located in Wiltshire. There, she was much more comfortable and accepted. Marlborough College was founded in 1843 and boasts a curriculum based on intellectual and person exploration. The school is building upon a triple foundation of “compassion, companionship and conversation.” The school is known for its high-status pupils, where students often come from stately homes and aristocratic families. Again, Kate excelled at field hockey, netball and tennis along with her studies, although she was less keen on acting by this time. While at Marlborough, Kate completed the “Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.” The award entails excellence in the following areas: volunteering, physical, (social/practical) skills, expedition, and residential experience.
Pippa would soon join her sister at Marlborough. The Middleton sisters were known for their “perfection,” with some parents saying they felt hopeless in comparison. The girls had the tidiest uniforms, complete with sewn in name tape, the cleanest tennis rackets and the nicest picnics on Family Day. However, the girls never let their perfection make them prissy. Kate and Pippa are remembered as being incredibly kind, warm-hearted, and nice young girls. Kate would graduate from Marlborough College in 2001 with excellent grades, a fantastic sports career, and great friendships.
After Marlborough College, Kate did what most British students do and took a gap year from her studies. Students will take a year to gain work experience, explore their interests or perform charity work and travel before deciding on their university degrees. For the first half of her Gap Year, she attended the British Institute in Florence. Kate was given first-hand views and knowledge of the art that would soon consume her university studies. She toured the palaces, museums, and churches of Florence which blossomed her love for fine art. While there, she also studied Italian. Following her studies in Florence, she joined a team through the Raleigh International program. Raleigh International takes teams of students on “challenging, life-changing experiences” to impoverished countries. Kate’s team traveled to Chile to build a fire station. Coincidentally, a few months prior, William went on a nearly-identical program with Raleigh International to the same area of Chile. The future Duke and Duchess of Cambridge missed each other by a few weeks. In the interim weeks between The British Institute in Florence and the Raleigh program, Kate participated in the Round the World Challenge rowing competition on the Solent and preparing for university.
Catherine applied and was accepted to the University of St. Andrew’s in Fife, Scotland in 2001. The prestigious and historic institution prides itself on being the world’s first university, with teachining beginning as early at 1410. It is respected within the upper echelons of education, rivaling Cambridge and Oxford. Kate chose to study Art History, one of the more popular courses of study. The university conveniently houses numerous works of original art, allowing for first-hand studies.
In her first year at St. Andrew’s, Kate dormed at St. Salvatore’s hall, where she met many lifelong friends – including Prince William. Their relationship began casually, as friends who shared classes, spent nights studying, and attended the occasional party. In her freshman and sophomore years, Kate was in a serious relationship with Rupert Flint, who was two years Kate’s senior. When Rupert graduated from St. Andrew’s in the spring of 2003, the couple tried to retain a long distance relationship but it eventually ended before the fall term.
In March 2002, Kate participate in the now-infamous Don’t Walk Fashion Show. The fashion show was performed to raise money for charity, with students modeling designs created by their peers. One of Catherine’s many outfits was a black strapless bra and panties covered by a sheer, netted dress. The “dress” was designed to be worn as a skirt over a slip, but Kate decided to make it a showstopper. The sheer dress sold at auction in 2011 for $126,000. It is widely reported that this was the first time Prince William started having romantic feelings for Kate, seeing her as less of a “buddy” and more of the beautiful woman she was blossoming into. Shortly after the fashion show, Kate worked as a professional model for Really Wild Clothing Co., appearing in their 2004 catalog and modeling their clothes in person.
She made plenty of dear friendships that still last today. In 2002, during her sophomore year, Kate moved into a flat near St. Andrew’s with William, Olivia Baker and Fergus Boyd, all of whom were close friends by this time. They rented a four-bedroom flat close to the university, but even closer to the group’s favorite pubs and restaurants. This was the real beginnings of speculation regarding William and Kate’s relationship. They remained close friends as long as they could, and let their budding relationship turn into more around 2003. When William tried to subtly woo Catherine, he would cook her elaborate meals, such as curry and lasagna. These attempts often ended with burnt food and Kate making supper, but he still managed to woo her. Their friendship and close quarters showed William and Kate at their best and at their worst – from celebrations to the flu.
William and Kate’s relationship became public knowledge in the autumn of 2003. They were photographed at a press call kissing on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. Their relationship remained low-key during their time in university, staying away from the prying eyes of the press. During their senior year, they moved to a private estate near their St. Andrew’s where they enjoyed a “normal” time as a couple.
Catherine graduated the the University of St. Andrews in 2005 with a 2:1 degree in History of Art, graduating with honors. Her time at university impacted her life greatly; not only did she meet her husband, but she made lifelong friends to support her in her future, learned valuable lessons that would help her royal career and developed her own character to become the “Kate” we know today.
After university, Catherine moved into a flat in Chelsea owned by her parents. The downtown location allowed her to enjoy the fabulous “Sloane Ranger” lifestyle she was settling into, as well as to continue her relationship with William.
In 2005, Kate approached Belle Robinson, owner of Jigsaw – a London-based clothing company – to inquire about working for the company. Kate had met Belle before at events hosted by Jigsaw and used her networking skills to land a great job. She began working part-time as a buyer for the clothing brand in the accessories department. Phillip Higgs, a colleague of Catherine’s during her time at Jigsaw, said about her:
““She’s very competent and professional and clearly knows what she’s talking about. She’s won a lot of people’s respect – many of them have been in the fashion industry for a long time. She’s always been treated as an equal at work. No one has mollycoddled her or acted differently around her. She’s just Kate. She’s made a lot of close friends a Jigsaw who are very protective towards her. “
Because of her high profile relationship with William, Kate’s life was never quite her own. She was constantly followed by the press at her home and place of work, and frequently photographed when out with her friends. She required some flexibility in her career, partly because of the constant media attention. It was hard to gain rapport with coworkers when a photographer follows you into work. Robinson, owner of Jigsaw, spoke of Kate’s unbreakable spirit:
“…I was so impressed by her. There were days when there were TV crews at the end of the drive. We’d say: ‘Listen, do you want to go out the back way?’ And she’d say: ‘To be honest, they’re going to hound us until they’ve got the picture. So why don’t I just go, get the picture done, and then they’ll leave us alone.’ I thought she was very mature for a 26-year-old, and I think she’s been quite good at neither courting the press nor sticking two fingers in the air at them. I don’t think I would have been so polite.
Kate would stay at Jigsaw for a year, leaving the company on good terms. In 2006, she began working full time for Party Pieces, her parent’s company. Working at Party Pieces allowed her to regain some privacy, and flexibility. Her family understood her needs and desires more than anyone, and she was able to use her skills in a positive outlet. Kate worked for the company as a website designer and photographer, as well as helping to plan parties for the family’s party planning business. She would continue to work for Party Pieces until 2011, when she resigned to take on full-time royal duties.
As most young girls do, Kate retained an exciting social life throughout this time. She was often photographed in and out of the hippest clubs, such as Boujis and Mahiki. With or without Prince William, she was hounded by photographers snapping her walking into the clubs and climbing into taxis at the end of the night. Rarely, if ever, was she seen stumbling drunk – Miss Middleton always knew when to stop drinking. Partying in these clubs was different than what you might see on television. Dressed in wrap dresses or jackets and boots, the young posh set would head into Boujis and gather around a booth. They would order cocktails, chat and laugh, often filling the dance floors. No sweating, bumping and grinding was to be seen. Photographs show Prince William twirling Kate on the dance floor or dancing around with their friends.
In March of 2007, trouble began to brew in Kate’s relationship with William. William was uneasy about his future, reportedly concerned about his career in the army, his relationship with Kate and the expectations of his family. William began to pull away, seeming distant when with Kate in public and going out without her. He would mingle with other women and even brought one back to his apartment, although she reported that the two were not intimate. When rumors of William’s cheating surfaced, along with an announcement that he would begin 3 years of RAF training, Kate had enough. Neither were happy in their current relationship, so they called it quits in April of 2007.
Kate took this as a learning experience. She knew this was a challenge she had to tackle, and she wanted to learn and grow from her relationship with William. But most of all, she wanted to remind William of what he was missing. Whether she wanted him back or just wanted him to feel bad, we will never know. Often accompanied by her sister Pippa, Kate started popping up at art exhibits, book release parties and late-night clubs all over London. Most notably, Catherine attended a Roller Disco themed charity event, in a sleeveless sequined top and hot pants. Pictures came out the next day of Miss Middleton lying on the floor laughing with her legs spread-eagle. She returned to her other love, athletics, by participating in a Sisterhood Challenge charity rowing competition. The team was featured in a multi-page spread in Hello! magazine, showcasing Kate’s toned body and flowing locks.
William clearly got the message; the two rekindled their relationship a few months later. According to rumors, they bumped into each other at a fancy dress party. Kate was dressed as a “sexy nurse” and William couldn’t take her eyes off her. Their “official” reconciliation happened during the Concert for Diana on July 1, 2007. After they were seen dancing and enjoying the night together, their reconnection was undeniable. Of the split, Catherine said:
“I think at the time I wasn’t very happy about it, but actually it made me a stronger person. You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realized. I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you are younger and I really valued that time for me as well, although I didn’t think it at the time.”
William and Kate would be an inseparable team over the next few years. Kate would support him during RAF training, fulfilling his lifelong dream to become a pilot. The two would become a real power couple, attending high profile events with equal amounts of prestige. At Peter Phillip’s wedding in 2008, William introduced Kate to the Queen, which let the world know just how serious they were.
Engagement and Marriage
In October 2010, Catherine went on holiday with William and their friends to Kenya. The group spent a few days together before going on separate tours. William took Kate to the Rutundu cabin near Mount Kenya. The rustic log cabin sits in the epitome of wilderness, inaccessible by car. To venture to the cabin, you must either travel by foot or by helicopter. Rutundu features a bed, kitchen and living space but no electricity. The “rough” accommodations lend to a great romantic retreat. Couples can snuggle under the thick, wooly blankets to keep warm. The sweeping views of the lakes, sprawling wildlife and the foothills of Mount Kenya made for the perfect proposal location. William, who had been hiding his mother’s 12-carat sapphire ring in his backpack for two week, asked Catherine to be his bride. Kate was so surprised, not expecting the question to come just yet. She was thrilled at the occasion. Prince William asked for Michael Middleton’s blessing, but not until after he proposed and Kate said yes! William was nervous that Michael might say no.
William’s choice to propose to Catherine with the famous sapphire ring was very touching. William said in an interview, “It’s very special to me. As Kate’s very special to me now, it was right to put the two together.” Kate loves the beautiful ring, especially the meaning behind it.
A few weeks later, on November 16, 2010, a formal press conference was held to announce the engagement. Kate stunned in a blue Issa jersey wrap dress, which instantly sold out. Her signature Chelsea blow-out became iconic. The couple announced that they plan to wed in the Spring of 2011. Shortly after the press conference, Kate and William gave a very rare interview. The two seemed at ease, making jokes and talking about their relationship openly. Interviewer Tom Bradby conducted the questions, which the couple answered together with ease.
In February 2011, Kate attended a lunch with Pippa, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Camilla’s daughter, Laura Lopes. The girls had a true “ladies lunch,” enjoying a 5-star lunch at Koffman’s restaurant. They discussed wedding plans and chatted the afternoon away. This quieted any rumours of Kate and Camilla not getting on. There was talk of trumpets and a bit of wifely advice at the very public, and yet very private lunch.
On April 28, 2011, Kate checked into The Goring Hotel to spend her last night as a Middleton. The historic hotel is minutes from Buckingham Palace. The Goring went above and beyond to accommodate Kate, even constructing an external tunnel to protect her privacy. Kate, Pippa and Carole stayed in the Royal Suite, specially renovated for the historic stay. The Goring was catapulted into fame after the Royal Wedding, thanks to Kate.
At 9 a.m. on April 29, guests began to file into Westminster Abbey for the wedding of the century. High profile guests, including major aristocratic figures, Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham, international royalty and state officials, filed into the historic seats. Around 10:15, Prince William and Prince Harry arrived at the Abbey. The groom looked relaxed in a red military uniform. Before the ceremony, William and Harry tucked into a private room to prepare for the event. At 10:51, Kate and her father climbed into the Rolls-Royce Phanton IV with a glass ceiling, allowing optimum viewing of Kate.
Kate arrived at the Abbey at 11:00 a.m. As she stepped out of the car, we were given the first looks at her breathtaking Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown. Made of ivory lace and duchess satin, Kate’s dress featured a v-neckline, long sleeves, corset bodice and full skirt. Her matching shoes were covered in lace. Her drop veil was accented with lace trim and sat delicately over her face. Catherine was a vision of royalty in the Cartier “halo” tiara, lent to Catherine by the Queen. Her half updo was accented by custom earrings, a gift from her parents featuring acorns an oak leaves to honor their new family crest.
Catherine’s bouquet was an elaborate homage to her marriage. The flowers were all grown in UK soil, either by local florists or from the Royal estates. She chose lily of the valley, for trustworthiness, myrtle for hope and love, hornbeams for resilience, field maples for humility, lilacs for innocence and Sweet William for her sweet William. The bouquet was notably small, especially compared to royal bouquets throughout history.
Shortly after 11 a.m, Catherine’s father escorted her into Westminster Abbey with Maid of Honor Pippa, four bridesmaids, and two page boys trailing behind. After a few words and laughs with the priest the ceremony began. Catherine made her way up the 300 ft aisle to “I was glad” sung by The London Chamber Orchestra. She looked filled with emotion yet impeccably composed as her groom William waited at the front of the altar with his back turned as is tradition. When the two finally met and Prince William saw his bride, he mouthed the words “you look beautiful” to her.
The Archbishop of Canterbury conducted the ceremony as the couple recited their vows early on, promising to have and hold each other from this day forward. At 11:20 am The Archbishop pronounced them man and wife. Traditional proceedings ensued including a reading by Catherine’s brother James Middleton, the singing of the national anthem, and the signing of the wedding registers. At 12:04 pm , the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge bowed to the Queen and made their way up the aisle hand in hand. As they exited the abbey, they paused to take in all of the cheers from the crowds and the ringing bells of the Abbey.
William and Catherine entered their horse drawn carriage and waved to well wishers on the sidelines as they made their way to Buckingham Palace. At 12:25 pm they entered the palace gates while a brief snippet of the National Anthem played. William then helped his bride out of the carriage and into the palace where the couple and members of both families posed for official photographs in the State Apartments.
The crowds made their way towards the gates of Buckingham Palace and waited anxiously for the Royal Couple to emerge on the balcony. William’s parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana started the tradition of sharing a kiss on the balcony after their nuptials in 1981, and everyone hoped William and Catherine would do the same. After an hour since they left the Abbey the couple emerged on the balcony at 1:25 pm to the roaring crowds. Catherine was taken aback when the doors opened and exclaimed “Oh wow!” when she saw the masses. The couple were joined by members of both the Royal Family and the Middleton family. Feeling the encouragement of the crowd and the romance of the moment, the couple kissed not once, but twice. RAF and Battle of Britain memorial planes flew overhead, and the couple gave one last wave before returning inside the palace.
At approximately 1:45 pm the couple then joined their 600+ guests for a buffet style wedding breakfast which included champagne and canapes such as smoked salmon on beetroot blinis, and quail eggs sprinkled with celery salt. William and Catherine had two wedding cakes which consisted of a traditional fruit cake, and a chocolate biscuit cake which is a childhood favorite of Williams. The traditional fruit cake was eight tiers high and covered in marzipan. It also embodied details of Catherine’s dress and bouquet including 16 different types of frosting based flowers and foliage.
At 3:40 pm after their first reception, the couple drove themselves to St. James Palace in Charles’ 1969 dark blue Aston Martin convertible with a rear license plate that read “Just Wed”. Streamers decorated the front of the car, while celebratory balloons including two with the couples first initials trailed behind. The couple beamed with joy as they waved to more well wishers along the Mall and made their way to Clarence House.
In addition to the more formal champagne and canape reception that was held earlier in the day, Prince Charles hosted a black tie evening reception for the newlyweds with 300 of their closest friends and family. Catherine changed into a gorgeous white satin strapless gown by Alexander McQueen with a sweetheart neckline and diamante detailing around the waist. She let her chestnut locks fall freely and completed the look with a white angora bolero. William looked as handsome as ever wearing a traditional black tuxedo with a white shirt and black bow tie. The couple, along with Prince Charles and his Wife Camilla, made their way through Clarence House and were driven back to Buckingham Palace where the reception was held.
The ballroom was outfitted with round tables covered with candles and white flowers. Each table was named after a meaningful place to the couple such as St. Andrews University. UK singer Ellie Goulding was asked to perform at the reception and William and Catherine danced their first dance to a rendition of Elton John’s “Your Song”. Guests dined on dishes such as dressed crab and lamb fillet with mini puddings for dessert. Speeches were given by both sides of the families including Prince Harry, Michael Middleton, and friends of William. There was a second room for late night dancing complete with a disco ball and DJ after Ellie Goulding’s two hour set. The guests must have worked up an appetite after all of the dancing as Prince Harry requested bacon butties to be served at 2 am. After all of guests shared a wonderful evening of merriment, the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge retreated to the Belgian Suite in Buckingham Palace where they spent their first night as a married couple.
On April 30, 2011 the morning after the wedding, William and Catherine strolled hand in hand along the grounds of Buckingham Palace looking calm, relaxed and happy. Kate wore a cornflower blue pleated dress from Zara, black Ralph Lauren jacket, and black patent leather wedges by LK Bennett. The couple were taken by helicopter to an undisclosed location in the UK to enjoy a peaceful long weekend together before their official honeymoon a few short weeks later.
After a long weekend together at a private location in the UK, the couple embarked on their proper honeymoon to the Seychelles Islands two weeks later. The couple stayed in a private villa on North Island and spent ten days swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying quiet dinners on the beach. When their romantic holiday was over, the Royal pair returned to their home in Anglesey, Wales where they began their new lives as husband and wife.