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A look back at the Duchess of Cambridge’s life

One of the most popular members of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Cambridge comes from humble origins and will one day become Queen consort. Let’s take a look back at the life of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Birth and Childhood

Catherine Elizabeth Middleton on 9 January 1982 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, the oldest child of Michael and Carole Middleton. In 1984 she was joined by a sister, Philippa (better known as Pippa); and in 1987, younger brother James was born.

In April 1984, the Middleton Family moved to Amman, Jordan, for Michael’s work with British Airways. The family remained there for two and a half years, and Catherine attended nursery school. Upon their return to England in September 1986, the family settled back in West Berkshire.

Carole Middleton founded Party Pieces in 1987, a mail-order party supply company that has grown into a multi-million dollar business.

Education and Early Adulthood

Catherine attended Marlborough College and achieved A-levels in chemistry, biology and art. During her gap year in 2000, she studied art at the British Institute in Florence, Italy; participated in a Raleigh International program in Chile; and crewed Round the World Challenge boats in the Solent.

In 2001, she enrolled at the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, to study Art History. There, she met Prince William, who had also enrolled in the Art History programme.

“I actually think I went bright red when I met you,” Catherine told Prince William during their engagement interview in 2010.

She revealed to the interviewer, Tom Barnby, that William had missed ‘Freshers Week’ and so she didn’t meet him at the beginning of the school year.

“…It did take a bit of time for us to get to know each other but we did become very close friends from quite early.”

In March 2002, their friendship changed when, during a fashion show at the university, Catherine sported a sheer tube dress over a bandeau bikini and caught Prince William’s eye. It was then, reportedly, that he began to look at his friend in a different light, and the relationship grew.

At a charity appeal for the University’s 600th anniversary in 2012, Catherine joked to current students about the fashion show, “You never know what you are going to be asked to wear!”

During their second year, the couple moved off campus with two friends, Fergus Boyd and Olivia Bleasdale and their relationship grew. In their third year, they moved into a larger cottage. They became the first royal couple to live together before marriage with this act.

In March 2004, they were photographed at the Klosters ski resort in Switzerland, drawing international attention to the relationship.

The longstanding rumour for several years was that Catherine had a poster of her future husband hanging on her bedroom wall, but as she joked in their engagement interview, “He wishes. No, I had the Levi’s guy on my wall, not a picture of William. Sorry.”

Catherine graduated with a 2:1 in Art History in June 2005, alongside Prince William, who received a 2:1 in Geography. Although the Queen attended Prince William’s graduation, she did not meet Catherine at this point. The Queen would not meet Catherine for three more years.

Catherine’s first official function as Prince William’s girlfriend came in 2008 when she represented him at his cousin Peter Phillips’ wedding. It was there that she met the Queen for the first time, who she called “very welcoming.”

Catherine has gone on to praise The Queen’s service to both the Commonwealth and her family, saying, “I feel she’s been there sort of as a gentle guidance really for me.”


After graduation, Catherine moved into an apartment in the Chelsea neighbourhood of London with Pippa and worked for her parents’ company Party Pieces. She spent a period as an accessories buyer for Jigsaw.

The couple split in April 2007.

“I, at the time, wasn’t very happy about it,” Catherine said in her engagement interview. “But actually it made me a stronger person. You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realised.”

During their separation, Catherine joined the Sisterhood rowing crew, which planned to row across the Channel in a dragon boat. After she and Prince William reconciled later that summer, Catherine pulled out fearing that her presence would overshadow the aims of the charity.

After the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium, where Catherine was spotted sitting a few rows behind Prince William, the couple was confirmed to be reunited and working towards marriage.

Prince William joined the Royal Air Force, and once he received his wings, set up residence in Anglesey, Wales, as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, where the couple continued to live for the next several years.

Happily Ever After

Prince William and Catherine became engaged in October 2010 during a trip to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. He proposed using his late mother’s iconic sapphire and diamond engagement ring, as a way to keep Diana’s memory involved. Their engagement was formally announced on 16 November.

At their wedding on 29 April 2011, Catherine stunned the world when she wore a fashionable wedding dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. After their wedding, she formally became the Duchess of Cambridge, the Countess of Strathearn, and Lady Carrickfergus.

The Duchess holds several patronages with a focus in the areas of sports, art, childcare, addiction, and mental health awareness.

“It is our duty, as parents and as teachers, to give all children the space to build their emotional strength and provide a strong foundation for their future.”

On 20 December of this year, the Duchess took over patronage of Wimbledon from Her Majesty The Queen.

Since their wedding, Catherine has travelled to Canada, Tuvalu, Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, India, Bhutan, France, and the Netherlands in her capacity as a member of the Royal Family.

The couple’s official residence is Kensington Palace, in the apartments formerly occupied by Princess Margaret, but they divide their time between London and their country home, Anmer Hall on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.

The Cambridges are reportedly considering moving back to London in 2017, but no confirmation from the couple has been released yet.

On 3 December 2012, Catherine’s first pregnancy was announced by St James’s Palace. This was necessary as the Duchess had been admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum – extreme morning sickness. She was discharged the next day and kept a low profile until after the new year.

The media frenzy outside St Mary’s Hospital, where Prince William had been born 31 years earlier, was dubbed “The Great Kate Wait” as international media camped outside the hospital for several weeks beginning in early July, waiting for the first glimpses of the Duchess in labour. Finally, on 22 July 2013, the couple’s first child, Prince George Alexander Louis was born.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent the first couple of weeks after Prince George’s birth at the Middleton Family home. Afterwards, they returned to Anglesey for several months, before moving to London.

In September 2014, Catherine’s second pregnancy was announced, along with the news that she was again suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum. On 2 May 2015, the couple’s second child, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was born.

From the moment their courtship was revealed, the Duchess of Cambridge has been a focus of global interest. Her fashion sense has been traced since her Chelsea days, and, as she began undertaking official duties, her clothing has routinely sold out within days – sometimes hours, and even minutes. Websites devoted to her wardrobe, both actual pieces and inexpensive alternatives, have popped up since her marriage, offering women the chance to “repli-Kate” the Duchess’s looks.

The Duchess’s worth to the British economy has been estimated at £4.7 billion.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.


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