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British RoyalsThe Cambridges

William at 40: St Andrews – new challenges and a new chapter


Photo: Charlie Proctor/Royal Central

When the Prince of Wales announced in August 2000 that his eldest son would be attending the University of St Andrews in Scotland, it sparked an international frenzy. Not only because everyone wanted all the latest news about Prince William but also by young women who suddenly wanted to attend the university as well.

“Prince William has been accepted to attend the university of his first choice, the University of St. Andrews,” the short statement from St James’s Palace, then Prince Charles’s home base, read. But before he began his studies in St Andrews—initially to read for an art history degree—William took a gap year that saw him travelling and working through Belize, Chile and the United Kingdom.

In September 2001, William arrived in Fife to begin his studies, having missed the Freshers Week festivities that welcome new students, instead arriving later in the month alongside Prince Charles for a more subdued entrance into university life.

In their 2010 engagement interview, Kate recalled meeting William for the first time, saying: “Well, I actually think I went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off, feeling very shy about meeting [him],” and that because he’d arrived later, “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.”

The pair became close friends in their first year, and it was Kate that William relied on when he was struggling with his decision to study art history. He would later make the switch to read geography.

During their studies, the two moved in with roommates, with their romance developing from there. William recalled in their engagement interview, “[W]e moved in together as friends because we were living together, we lived with a couple of others as well, and it just sort of blossomed from there really.”

In 2005, Clarence House announced that William would graduate with a 2:1 degree in Geography. “William got an upper second class honours (degree). He’s delighted. Everyone is absolutely delighted. His father’s very proud,” said a spokesperson for Prince Charles. William wrote his dissertation on the Rodrigues coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.

On 23 June 2005, William and Kate graduated from the University of St Andrews in front of a crowd that included The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Lady Susan Hussey, one of William’s godmothers.

In the years since their graduation, Prince William has spoken about his time at the university. In 2021, when he represented his grandmother as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, he recalled his university years: “I spent four very happy and formative years studying in St Andrews. The town and the students left me alone to get on with student life, allowing me to share their freedoms and their pubs.”

He also added: “It was here in Scotland, 20 years ago this year, that I first met Catherine. Needless to say, the town where you meet your future wife holds a very special place in your heart.”

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.