The romance that redefined the monarchy

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In the 1980s the Middletons were far from being able to send their children to private schools and four year-old Kate was enrolled at Bradfield Church of England Primary School, which was next door to the family’s home. Kate would be followed by little sister Pippa. On April 15, 1987, the family celebrated the arrival of a new addition, Michael and Carole’s third child, a son named James. Around this time Carole was also setting about turning her party bags sideline into a full time business. ‘Party Pieces’ was born and soon rented a small premise in nearby Yattendon to store the merchandise. Kate was growing up fast and fortuitously ‘Party Pieces’ was taking off, with the benefit of Carole’s business acumen and the internet. It meant that when Kate was seven her parents were able to send her to a private prep school, St. Andrew’s School in Pangbourne, a short distance from Bradfield.

The characteristics that would attract the attentions of a prince were already beginning to show themselves. Kate, a little ungainly and skinny, loved outdoor activities and sports. She also enjoyed drama and involved herself in school pantomimes as well as taking piano and dancing lessons after school. By the mid 1990s the family’s fortunes were very much on the rise. ‘Party Pieces’ moved to larger premises and Michael and Carole felt able to consider moving house. In July 1995 they moved a short distance away to the outskirts of Chapel Row in the parish of Bucklebury. The family had arrived – this was ‘millionaires row’ set in a genteel and very English village with a population of around two thousand, boasting an admixture of celebrities and sports stars amongst the neighbours. The large five- bedroom house became the family’s permanent home and the Middletons became a fixture of village life. The family’s finances now matched their aspirations and the next step was for Kate, who had just turned fourteen, to enroll at Marlborough College. Kate had been unhappy during her two terms at the nearby Downe House boarding school, where she suffered from bullying, and her parents decided to move her. Carole took the lead and waded through the brochures to find the best option.

She opted for the best, Marlborough College. The college, thirty-three miles away from Bucklebury, located in the market town of Marlborough was founded in the 1840s to cater for the sons of the clergy but has an eclectic list of famous pupils to its credit: poet laureate Sir John Betjeman, art historian and the Queen’s art historian and infamous soviet spy Anthony Blunt, the actor James Mason and more recently singer/songwriter Chris de Burgh. Marlborough became fully co-educational in 1989 and when Kate arrived in 1995 the fees were the equivalent of £30,000 today. A huge sum but Marlborough boasted extensive facilities, a Victorian gothic chapel, extensive playing fields, an observatory and a driving range. If the move was initially a daunting one and Kate spent the first few weeks in isolation, studying and missing her family, she was soon thriving in the competitive, sporty atmosphere. Socially Marlborough was also an adventure as many of Kate’s fellow pupils were from titled families of one sort or another. The social atmosphere at the college was, however, representative of the times with its share of teenage drunkenness, smoking and, for some, early sexual relations. Kate kept her distance from the wilder side of college life, although she was known to enjoy a drink with her girlfriends. Her restraint aside, Kate was good fun and a reliable friend and she soon became a popular girl with plenty of potential boyfriends. But her teenage attitude toward romance was just that, thoroughly romantic, and the object of her daydreams was her future husband.

We know that Kate had a teenage crush on William (whether or not she ever had a poster of him is moot) but it would be silly too read too much into Kate’s teenage musings. For millions of young girls William was a pin-up, a real life prince who one might just meet and fall in love with. On the other hand, to give cupid his due and given how things turned out, we cannot entirely discount intuition or even fate . . . stuff happens! And they were joined together once before they even met when they both had their photographs printed in the Marlborough newsletter for their sporting exploits. Kate noted it and felt that her dreams might just come true. As Kate was finishing her time at Marlborough College, William was completing his studies at Eton after which they both decided to take a ‘gap year’ break. William spent much of it in South America with Raleigh International; Kate, along with other girls from Marlborough, had a more romantic option of Florence as she prepared herself for university life. In the renaissance capital they studied at the British Institute. (Extract from Royalty Magazine vol. 21/12)