The last few years have seen a lot of enormous changes in the British Royal Family, an entity known more for tradition than rapid growth. After the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled over the U.K. most of the 21st century, some people may be looking for some stability. If there’s any couple in the family who offers that, it’s Prince William and Kate Middleton.
William and Kate have had what appears on the outside to be a bit of a fairytale romance, from the storybook wedding to the picturesque family of five they have now. Sure, the full details of that fairytale aren’t known, and some of what’s been shown may be in part to help the royal family’s image. But optics aside, there’s something about them that has captivated people since the beginning of their relationship. Here’s a look back at their journey, from college sweethearts to royal power couple.
Prince William and Kate Middleton meet while both studying at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Rumor has it that William was won over after seeing Kate modeling at a student fashion show for charity (a show for which he reportedly paid £200 for a front row seat).
Other rumors suggest that her reason for being at St. Andrews was entirely related to meeting her future husband.
The Crown historian Robert Lacey wrote in his 2020 book Battle of Brothers: William and Harry—The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, that Kate was trying to manifest her future relationship with William when she was only 19.
“Kate was very strategic,” Lacey said. “She gave up her place at one of Britain’s premier universities, Edinburgh, and opted for another one [St. Andrews] that probably didn’t have the same academic standard. She had already been to Edinburgh to get her flat accommodations sorted out but switched universities and switched her courses to history of art because that was William’s. She delayed her own education by a year and even takes the chance she won’t get into St. Andrews.”
She was not the only person making these choices. Applications to the school reportedly went up by 44% after it was announced that was William’s choice of university. They might not all have been marriage hopefuls, but some probably were like Kate.
Hello! magazine reported that Prince William was moving from his dorm into a flat with three college friends, one of them “a pretty 20-year-old brunette” who, as you might guess, turned out to be Kate Middleton.
He allegedly started out as just her friend, before seeing her walk in a fashion show in this see-through dress on March 26, 2002.
“She’s there and about to walk down the runway on the fashion show, and she strips off an extra layer of clothing,” Lacey explained. “Here is a very strategic lady who knows what she wants and has got it.”
They began dating soon after.
William and Kate are photographed together for the first time during a ski trip in Klosters, causing then-Prince Charles to threaten to sever ties with The Sun, the outlet that published the photos. Charles was said to have been “very disappointed” by the breach in an agreement between the press and Buckingham Palace that ensures royal children can continue their education without having their privacy intruded upon.
Both William and Kate graduate from St. Andrews. The Middletons later share a photo of them together on the day.
The couple attend Camilla’s daughter Laura Parker-Bowles’ wedding, marking one of their first big public appearances together, and sparking speculation that they were serious enough to one day walk down the aisle together themselves.
In 2007, William and Kate took a time-out and broke up for a couple months. Kate took a vacation to Ireland with her friends afterwards, while William awkwardly fielded questions about “how things are going” with Kate.
Kate later said in 2010 during an interview after their engagement that in hindsight, she thinks it was healthy for them to have time apart.
“I think I at the time wasn’t very happy about it, but actually it made me a stronger person…You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realized,” she said. “Or I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you’re younger. I really valued that time for me as well although I didn’t think it at the time, looking back on it.”
By July of that same year, rumors began to swirl about a possible reconciliation as Kate is seen attending a Princess Diana tribute concert—though she sat two rows behind William with her sister Pippa.
The two are seen together again, back where it all began: the ski slopes. Photos show Kate and William together in Klosters as sources told newspapers that they were very much back together.
William graduates from his RAF training, with Kate at his side.
William proposes to Kate while on a trip to Kenya, with Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring. “We had a little private time away together with some friends, and I just decided it was the right time really,” William later said in their engagement interview. “We’d been talking about marriage or a while, so it wasn’t a massively big surprise, but I took her up somewhere nice in Kenya.”
April 29, 2011
Prince William and Kate Middleton get married in a fairytale ceremony at Westminster Abbey witnessed by nearly 72 million people worldwide. The bride did her own makeup, the groom wore sweat pads so that he wouldn’t sweat out of his uniform, and Ellie Goulding performed at the reception.
In marrying William, Kate gained the title Duchess of Cambridge, the Countess of Strathearn, and Lady Carrickfergus.
After the wedding, the married couple settle in Wales and adopt a dog, an English Cocker Spaniel named Lupo.
St. James’ Palace announces that Kate is pregnant with the couple’s first child. During her pregnancy, she’s hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe morning sickness.
July 22, 2013
Kate gives birth to Prince George, and steps out for post-baby photos.
Kensington Palace announces that Kate is pregnant with their second child. Kate had not reached the 12-week stage, but the Palace made the announcement because they felt they couldn’t keep the pregnancy under wraps from the press for much longer. Once again, Kate suffers from extreme morning sickness.
May 2, 2015
Kate gives birth to Princess Charlotte, who becomes fourth in line for the throne after Prince Charles, her father Prince William, and her older brother Prince George. She’s also the first to take up the title of Princess in 25 years, and is the highest ranking female in line for the throne.
February 12, 2017
The coupled made their red carpet debut at the British Academy Film Awards, where Prince William presented a BAFTA Fellowship award to Mel Brooks. Kate wore an off-the-shoulder tiered Alexander McQueen gown in a floral print.
Kensington Palace announces that Kate is pregnant with the couple’s third child. As with her previous two pregnancies, she suffers from hyperemesis gravidarum.
April 23, 2018
Kate gives birth to Prince Louis, who is now fifth in line for the throne. Though tradition dictated that Louis, as a male, would overtake Princess Charlotte for a place on the throne, the policy was amended prior to George’s birth with the Succession to the Crown Act 2013. That made Charlotte the first female royal to trump a younger male sibling.
May 19, 2018
Kate and Prince were front and center at the marriage of his little brother, Prince Harry, to Meghan Markle.
The couple helped Harry and Meghan celebrate on their wedding day at their nuptials at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, England. “William was in a jokey, wonderful mood at the party,” a wedding guest told People at the time, adding that Kate was also in “great form.”
They added, “She and William were saying how thrilled they were to have their children there taking part.”
October 12, 2018
At Princess Eugenie’s wedding, Kate and William are seen showing each other a little affection. Eugenie was marrying her husband Jack Brooksbank when the royal couple were seen holding hands in the pew.
Kate and William tend to be hands off when out in public.
After lockdown began in the U.K., the couple spoke with the BBC in a rare joint interview, discussing what it’s like to parent through a pandemic.
“It’s been ups and downs, like a lot of families self-isolating,” Kate said. “The children have got such stamina, I don’t know how. Honestly, you get to the end of the day and you write down the list of all the things that you’ve done in that day. So, you pitch a tent, take the tent down again, cook, bake. You get to the end of the day—they have had a lovely time—but it is amazing how much you can cram into one day, that’s for sure.”
Nine years after welcoming their cocker spaniel, Ludo, into their lives, the couple announced they had bid him farewell. They shared a handsome portrait of the dog on Instagram with a heartfelt goodbye.
“Very sadly last weekend our dear dog, Lupo, passed away,” the post read. “He has been at the heart of our family for the past nine years and we will miss him so much. – W & C.”
April 29, 2021
April of 2021 was the 10-year anniversary of the couple’s marriage, otherwise known as the tin anniversary. To celebrate, they shared some new portraits by Chris Floyd at Kensington Palace.
They also posted a video of themselves with their children walking through the sand dunes in Norfolk, England, thanking everyone for the well wishes on the occasion of their anniversary.
June 29, 2021
Queen Elizabeth appoints Kate Middleton as a sponsor of the naval battleship HMS Glasglow. The office requires Kate to maintain a “strong and enduring personal connection to the vessel and her crew, often supporting milestones, events and deployments.”
“Her Majesty the Queen has approved the appointment of my wife Catherine as Sponsor of the superb ship we see taking shape outside—HMS Glasgow,” Prince William said in the announcement. “I know that Catherine will be delighted to join you here in Glasgow for the naming ceremony in due course.”
September 28, 2021
The couple got all dressed up for the No Time to Die premiere in London, posing with Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. The royal family members were guests of honor at the event.
Kate wore a Jenny Packham capelet gown covered in gold sequins.
October 20, 2021
Kate and William enjoyed their first Earthshot Awards, at Alexandra Palace in London. The environmental initiative was launched by William, and he was tasked with giving a speech at the ceremony. A photo shows them sharing a sweet moment together behind-the-scenes.
Also at the event was Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, David Oyelowo, and Mo Salah. Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, KSI, and Coldplay performed.
May 19, 2022
Enjoying another fun premiere, the coupled hit the red carpet for Top Gun in the U.K.
Kate wore a black Roland Mouret gown, with an off-the-shoulders, white wraparound detail.
June 23, 2022
The couple’s first official portrait was unveiled at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum. Originally commissioned in 2021 by the Cambridgeshire Royal Portrait Fund, it was painted by Jamie Coreth. Coreth is an award-winning portrait artist.
September 7, 2022
The Duke and Duchess take their three children to visit the Lambrook school, where they will be newly attending. The preview day offered the family a chance to get to know the facilities and teachers.
Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis were all wearing their school uniforms.
September 8, 2022
Queen Elizabeth II dies on September 8, sending the family into mourning. There is also a great deal of change in terms of titles and responsibilities. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge became the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and of Rothesay, and on September 9, his father conferred the title of Prince and Princess of Wales.
In his address to the nation following the immediate news of his mother’s death, King Charles III said, “With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the centre ground where vital help can be given.”
The Princess of Wales was a title once held by William’s mother, Princess Diana.
September 10, 2022
Along with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, William and Kate visit Windsor Castle to view flowers and gifts left by citizens to honor the late Queen.
September 19, 2022
The couple attends Queen Elizabeth’s funeral at Westminster Hall after escorting her coffin from Buckingham Palace.
They post their farewells to her on Twitter with a photo of the procession.
November 12, 2022
Kate and William attended the Festival of Remembrance, a ceremony dedicated to the day the Allies and Germany signed the armistice that ended World War 1 in 1918 for Europe.
At the commemorative concert at the Royal Albert Hall later that evening, Kate paid tribute to the late Queen by wearing some of her famous jewelry: her Japanese pearl choker necklace along with her Bahrain diamond and pearl drop earrings.
December 15, 2023
The Princess of Wales shared her Together at Christmas carol service on ITV after filming it at Westminster Abbey, for the second year in a row. The event was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth’s memory and attended by William, George, and Charlotte.
December 8, 2022
Harry and Meghan’s docuseries is released on Netflix, and it was reported that Kate and William refused to watch it.
Vanity Fair wrote, “While aides will be watching the series closely, along with the royals’ lawyers, the palace are reluctant to comment on the show because they don’t want to feed what has become a media frenzy.”
Another source told Page Six that William and Kate haven’t watched the series.
“William and Kate’s aides have briefed them on the show, but don’t expect the couple to sit down in their cottage with a bowl of popcorn to tune in themselves,” the insider said.
Later in the month, they must have acquired more details, because a source told Us Weekly on December 22 that Kate felt “betrayed” by the situation.
“Kate feels hurt and betrayed that Harry would do this to her, too, especially as the pair used to be so close,” they said.
As for William he “isn’t planning to give his side of the story or openly retaliate.”
January 12, 2023
After the docuseries, Kate and William were hit with another wave of bad publicity when Harry’s memoir Spare was officially released, making things even icier between the two couples. A source who knows both couples told Entertainment Tonight in a report published January 12 that “[their] relationship has completely broken down.”
A separate source said Kate felt “hurt and disappointed” over what Harry shared about her in Spare because she believed “private matters had been made public.”
March 19, 2023
Kate and William marked British Mother’s Day on their Instagram, sharing new photos of Kate with the couple’s three children. “Happy Mother’s Day from our family to yours ❤️,” the couple wrote.
Aimée Lutkin is the weekend editor at ELLE.com. Her writing has appeared in Jezebel, Glamour, Marie Claire and more. Her first book, The Lonely Hunter, will be released by Dial Press in February 2022.