They’re the hottest couple on the planet. They’re young, good-looking and in love. When they marry at Westminster Abbey on Friday an estimated two billion people worldwide will watch the royal wedding ceremony. She was born on January 9 1982 (a Capricorn) at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, the daughter of Carole and Michael Middleton, and christened Catherine Elizabeth at St Andrew’s Church.
He was born five months later on June 21 (a Gemini) at St Margaret’s Hospital in London, the first son of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Prince William Arthur Philip Louis was christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace.
While “Baby Wales”, as his mother called him, was growing up in Kensington Palace with his younger brother, Harry, and attending Wetherby School, Kate was thriving. She lived in a semi-detached house in the village of Bradfield, and attended Bradfield Church of England Primary School.
After a brief interlude living in Jordan the family returned to Bradfield, then moved to Bucklebury when Kate was five. William’s early childhood was also a happy one. At Highgrove he enjoyed hunting, shooting and fishing with his father; with his mother and Harry he had marvellous adventures.
Kate left Downe House, a private school, in 1995 because she was bullied. Her parents sent her to Marlborough College. From then on she blossomed. Liked for her sense of fun, reliability and loyalty, she excelled at sports; her flair for acting won her the lead part in school plays.
As Kate came into her own at Marlborough, William went to Eton College. Shy and self-conscious, he was haunted by family troubles from the first day. Once his parents were divorced, things settled down. Like Kate, he was a diligent student, excelled at sports and made good friends.
In August of 1997 William and Harry went with their father to stay at Balmoral for their summer holiday. They were both asleep when Prince Charles woke them to break the devastating news that their mother had been killed in a car crash in Paris. Whatever Kate was doing on September 6 1997, more than likely she paused to watch the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, just as the rest of the world did. It was William who insisted he and Harry escort their mother’s coffin through London.
In 2000 Kate left Marlborough and William Eton. Both took a gap year. She spent the year travelling abroad, as did he. They both went to Chile, but at different times. Their first meeting took place in January of 2001 at the University of St Andrews, where they were reading art history. They met on the day William arrived, billeted to St Salvator’s Hall, known as St Sally’s. They got on well from the start, and quickly joined up with a former Etonian, Fergus Boyd, and Olivia Bleasdale and Ginny Fraser.
The romance began as a friendship; they were both involved with other people at the time. Kate sat with him for hours when he felt homesick, suggesting he must stop going home to Highgrove so much. When he wanted to leave St Andrews she persuaded him to stay.
William found Kate appealing. She was quieter than the other girls, shy, a little reticent, and he liked that. They usually had breakfast together; when William was forced to miss a lecture she took notes for him.
It was in March of 2002 that Kate stepped on to the catwalk at a student charity fashion show. She was wearing the now-famous dress (just sold at auction for £78,000). See-through black lace over skimpy black underwear supposedly caused William to exclaim to Fergus, “Wow, Kate’s hot!” She was discreet, but she could be daring.
By September of that year Kate was such a trusted friend that she was chosen to share a house off-campus in Hope Street with William, along with Fergus Boyd and Olivia Bleasdale. They all did the cleaning and cooking, or bought takeaways from Tesco. In the next two years their relationship became an open “secret”.
They attended each other’s birthday parties; seeking more privacy, they found a little farmhouse on a nearby estate, and rented it with Fergus. William and Kate took long walks; she cooked his dinner every night; their friends knew they had fallen in love. Some weekends were spent at Balmoral.
But even fairytale romances can have problems. In the summer of 2004 William told friends he needed space, and planned a yachting trip in Greece with a friend, Guy Pelly. Kate was annoyed when she discovered that Guy had arranged for an all-girl crew.
Accepting sage advice from her mother, Kate decided to give William some space. It worked. Within a few months they were back together.
Kate and William both graduated in the same ceremony in front of their families at St Andrews in June 2005. Their university days were over, and they both felt sad as they packed up the farmhouse.
William went to Sandhurst to begin his Army training in January 2006. Kate was not a career girl, and for a time she worked for her mother’s online business. But in November she got a job as an accessories buyer with Jigsaw, the fashion chain.
In December William graduated from Sandhurst. Looking stylish in a bright red coat and a chic black hat, Kate made heads turn with her appearance at the ceremony. She and her parents were given front-row VIP seats. Everyone believed that she was his permanent girlfriend. But trouble was brewing again. William felt that he was being pressured to propose to Kate, and believed that his Army career should come first.
In early 2007 William started a two-and-a-half-month course at Bovington Camp in Dorset. In March he and Kate took a skiing trip to Zermatt, but they were spending less time together. He explained that his training schedule would continue to keep him busy for months. Obviously, she was upset when William came to London and was seen in nightclubs, like Boujis in South Kensington, without her.
The relationship became increasingly difficult. The night William had been seen at Boujis had embarrassed Kate; she was humiliated again when he was photographed with an 18 year-old student in Bournemouth. Kate gave William an ultimatum. She needed a full commitment if they were to remain together. It backfired. William decided they should have a break from each other. They separated for the second time.
Kate pulled herself together. She was not going to feel sorry for herself. Instead, she put on a big smile and a stylish dress and went to a girls’ night party at Kitts nightclub in Chelsea to announce her single status again. She also joined Alicia Fox-Pitt and became part of the Sisterhood, a group of 21 girls planning to row from Dover to Cap Gris Nez to raise money for charity. Alicia put her at the helm of the boat.
But William and Kate were ready for a reconciliation. They spoke on the phone every day; they were missing each other. At this point Kate left the rowing team. She knew it would become a media circus because of William’s presence in her life again. In August William invited Kate to a fancy-dress party at his barracks in Bovington. That night he never left her side. They were back together once more.
The announcement that William wanted to join the RAF to become a search-and-rescue pilot in 2008 was unexpected. Kate was apparently stunned. But there was no break-up. She supported him. And waited.
When they announced their engagement last November the chemistry and happiness between them was obvious. While some were surprised by the news, others were not. Friends say they “pledged their troth” to each other in 2007, and that under the radar there have been holidays with her parents and visits to Birkhall, with Prince Charles’s house on the Balmoral estate. Since William became an RAF pilot they have been openly living together in a rented cottage in Anglesey near his base.
Today Kate looks radiant, never more beautiful. And chic. Some say she’s revived “the Sloane”. Certainly she’s a style icon. Whatever she wears sells out overnight. Sloane or not, she’s no longer “Waity Katie”. She’s the future Queen of England. She hasn’t put a foot wrong in seven and a half years. She got it right. “Whatever in love means”, to quote Prince Charles, Catherine has shown us.