So, as perhaps you royal-watchers and Kate-aficionados are aware, the Daily Mail correspondent/Vanity Fair contributor and oft-royal biographer Katie Nicholl has a new book out today, which purports to be all about Kate’s pre-Wills existence (such as it was, someone out there just sniffed dismissively) and the up and downs of their relationship, all the way up to Prince George making his blessed appearance this summer. It’s called Kate: The Future Queen and Nicholl spoke to Celebuzz’s Royal Correspondent Kelly Lynch about it in an interview that we’re also happy to bring you here on GFY:
“I try very hard to really bring the young royals to life and to uncover things that we never knew about them,” Nicholl told me over the phone.
“Kate had met William at least once before university, having known some members of the ‘Glosse Posse,’ (Nicholl’s nickname for the Gloucestershire-based group of posh teens who were friends with William and Harry, whose father owns a house there).
“Two of her really good friends from Marlborough College lived in Gloucestershire, and because of that connection they knew William and Harry. I suppose it was inevitable that Kate was going to meet William through those close girlfriends, and indeed she did.
“It happened to be the summer of 1999 when she first met William,” Nicholl said. “Now, I don’t know how many times they met, but I do know that Kate told at least one person because I interviewed him,” she added.
“That was very interesting to me, because I’d always assume, along with the rest of the world, that those two had met at St. Andrews. They didn’t. They’d met before.”
The Duke of Cambridge had applied to the same universities as Catherine: Edinburgh and St. Andrews, both in Scotland.
“William found out he was admitted to St. Andrews before he took his gap year in August,” Nicholl informed me, referring to the year between high school and university that many British students opt for. “The palace issued a press statement releasing William’s grades [from Eton]. Kate, (along with the rest of the world) was aware that was his plan, and as soon as the palace made that announcement, applications to St. Andrews shot up by 44%. A lot of those applicants were female, wanting to be on the same course, and at the same university as a prince.
“Edinburgh was one of William’s top choices, and in fact I believe he went to visit it. He liked it very much. It was in a very buzzy, vibrant, exciting European city, and he had a lot of friends that were going there.
“But advisers thought he might be better suited to a smaller university,” Nicholl said. “He saw St. Andrews and liked it very much and agreed that he’d be better protected there.”
Catherine, Nicholl found out, initially had her heart set on going to Edinburgh University as well. It was a plan she and her two close friends had decided on while at Marlborough.
“She changed her mind,” Nicholl said, citing her previous run-ins with William and the fact that he was going to St. Andrews.
“When you look at those two facts, in conjunction, you do think, ‘How much was pre-meditated?’ I believe the only person who really knows is Kate.
“To that degree, she does remain an enigma. But we now know that she’d met him before, and that she changed her mind [regarding university].
“That change of mind was out of character, according to her teachers, and her friends. It was unexpected, and it was a real surprise.
Not to mention a risk. Catherine withdrew her acceptance to Edinburgh almost as soon as she was accepted, and decided to reapply to St. Andrews.
“She didn’t have any guarantee that she’d get accepted,” Nicholl explained. “It was a big risk, especially when she had a great place at Edinburgh.
“It was very out of character for Kate to change her mind like that. Was it because she truly believed that having met William, he was the one for her? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows except for Kate.”
Until Nicholl spoke with everyone from teachers to tutors and everyone else involved in the application process, it was only a rumor that Catherine decided upon St. Andrews rather than her first choice.
Fast-forward to March 2002, William and Catherine’s freshman year at university. Catherine took part in the famous “Don’t Walk” charity fashion show, coordinated by Charlie Moretti. It was there, both Nicholl and Moretti believe, that their relationship changed.
“What I discovered about Kate, through talking to people that were in that fashion show working with her, and people who happened to relay the story, was that the night of the fashion show really did change everything,” Nicholl said.
“Charlie described it to me as a ‘crystallizing’ moment. He believes that was the moment that William saw Kate in a very different light.”
At an after-party, several accounts insist that Catherine refused William’s advances. That’s not how one witness remembers it.
“I spoke to another of Kate’s friends, Andrew Sands,” Nicholl said, “who actually saw them kissing that night at an after party.”
The couple lived together throughout university, and finally graduated in 2005. They moved down to London, and William got serious about joining the military. It was at this point that the Palace realized Catherine was going to be around longterm.
“I know she did [watch footage of Diana dealing with the paparazzi],” Nicholl said. “William made it clear from the outset that he wanted Kate supported. So, he made his press officers available to her for advice. She had a hotline to his head of press, and his father’s legal team.
“She would smile at the paparazzi rather than scowl, since she was told that they would get a better picture that way. One of the things she was advised on was to watch pictures of the Princess to see how she dealt with them, because Diana was the most photographed woman.
After going through a brief split in 2007, then making a pact to be together forever while on holiday, William was ready to seal the deal. Before taking Catherine to Kenya, the Duke paid a visit to Buckingham Palace, where his mother’s blue sapphire Garrard ring was kept in Her Majesty’s safe.
“The ring was always due to go to Harry,” Nicholl explained. “All of Diana’s things had been kept in a safe at Buckingham Palace in the Queen’s private apartments. My understanding of it is that William asked his brother if he could have the ring, and Harry agreed, knowing that William had a more pressing use for it.”
The rest, as they say is history. William and Catherine announced their engagement on November 16th, 2010, and were married the following April at Westminster Abbey.
I had to ask Nicholl what she thought of American coverage of the Duchess.
“In many ways, the Americans are more in love with Kate than the Brits,” Nicholl said. “I think there is an absolute fascination in everything about her and how she dresses, who her friends are, what she really does behind the palace walls.
“What’s so intriguing is not just every American, but every girl around the world can relate to Kate because she was and is such a normal girl. That’s part of her charm. That’s what endeared her to us.”
On July 22nd, Kensington Palace announced that Catherine was safely delivered of a baby boy, weighing 8 lbs, 6 oz. Just 24 hours after giving birth, Catherine emerged from St. Mary’s Hospital carrying His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.
“I think she was amazingly brave,” Nicholl said when I mentioned Catherine’s post-birth appearance. “I’m told that she was incredibly nervous about the photocell, and I think they [she and William] were both overwhelmed by emotion, and who wouldn’t be? These are two normal, loving people who suddenly become parents in the most public of spotlights, and I think she dealt with it incredibly.
“I loved her choice of dress,” Nicholl said of the polka dot Jenny Packham piece. “I know everyone compared it to Diana’s, but I thought she was so brave to show her bump. Of course she had her makeup done and her hair done, but beneath all of that was a real natural charm and bravery that I just take my hat off to her for.
“She is a woman who will change world history,” Nicholl said of the future consort. “I just thought that there were so many unanswered questions about her past, about her family, about her former life, about her school years, her first boyfriend. All of those things that I thought ‘I really want to get to the bottom of.'”
End transmission. I don’t know about you, but my suspicion is that the Middleton faction isn’t going to be thrilled with any of this; as positive as much of Nicholl’s commentary certainly is, she’s also basically saying Kate set her cap for William eons ago and that, my friends, is not really part of the current PR message around these two. Does it ultimately matter, as long as they’re happy now, which they appear to be? Probably not. But I suspect that somewhere the Queen is eating toast points and rolling her eyes over the entire thing. (In my imagination, Her Madj eats a lot of toast.) As shall I be, as soon as my copy arrives — well, the toast part, anyway.