But when Kate Middleton sashayed down the catwalk at the University of St Andrews in a sheer black dress, causing Prince William to say: “Wow, Kate’s hot!” everything changed between the pair. By the end of the night, a close friendship had turned to romance, and Kate and Wills had taken their first steps towards becoming our future king and queen.
Yet Kate’s appearance at the charity fashion show could have been so different – student designer Charlotte Todd wanted her to wear the diaphanous skirt with a jumper, but Kate ditched the sweater, preferring to hitch it up and wear it as a dress. William, who had paid £200 for a VIP seat on the FROW, was mesmerised.
Fast-forward two decades and the couple are widely deemed to be the future of the monarchy – more so than ever since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle controversially moved to America last year.
William and Kate, who celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in April, have been a constant source of comfort to the public – along with their three children, George, eight, Charlotte, six, and three-year-old Louis – throughout the pandemic. It’s easy to feel like Kate has always been at William’s side but how did a middle-class girl from the Home Counties land Britain’s most eligible bachelor?
The fashion show was pivotal in changing the dynamic of their relationship. The pair met 20 years ago next month when they walked through the doors of Scotland’s oldest university. From the start it was inevitable that their paths would cross – not only were they both studying art history, but they also lived in the same halls of residence, St Salvator’s Hall. Even so, they got off to an inauspicious start.
“I turned bright red and sort of scuttled off,” Kate, 39, later revealed. But gradually their friendship blossomed over shared interests. They had both been brought up in rural surroundings – Kate in the Berkshire village of Bucklebury and William on his father’s Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire – and shared a love of the countryside (a prerequisite for fitting into the royal family, where hunting, shooting, fishing, watching polo and going to the races are the norm).
They had both been pupils at exclusive schools in the Home Counties – Kate went to St Andrew’s prep school in Pangbourne, Berkshire, and later Marlborough College, Wiltshire, while William was at Ludgrove in Berkshire, then Eton – and shared a passion for sport. In fact, Kate first clapped eyes on William when they were nine years old and playing opposite each other in a hockey match.
As students at St Andrews they often swam together in the university pool or went for early-morning jogs before lectures. Kate, the diligent student, would help William when he missed classes by letting him copy her notes.
At first their relationship was purely platonic as both were dating other people – William met Carly Massy-Birch at an audition for a college play, while Kate’s boyfriend was fourth-year law student Rupert Finch, who is now married to her close friend Lady Natasha Rufus-Isaacs, founder of ethical fashion label Beulah.
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