On April 29, 2011, royal biographer Andrew Morton was among the masses gathered in the streets, revelling in the excitement.
The author, best-known for penning the landmark Princess Diana biography Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words, says the public sentiment at the time was overwhelmingly joyful.
“It was a great day,” he tells New Idea Royals Monthly.
Looking back a decade later, he goes as far as to say that the celebratory atmosphere went far beyond the normal levels of royal wedding excitement.
“I think it annulled the memory of the last big occasion that had taken place at Westminster Abbey, which was the funeral of William’s mother,” Andrew says.
“Someone even said there was a cloud hovering overhead that looked like Diana! In a way, the ghost of Diana was laid to rest that day – and I also think she was present as well.”
After being entrusted to tell Princess Diana’s life story, Andrew has subsequently followed William’s journey, and particularly his magnetic relationship with Catherine.
Here, the author of William and Catherine, Their Lives, Their Wedding reflects on Wills and Kate’s fortuitous meeting, the ups and downs they’ve faced as a couple, and how they’re forging their own path as modern day royals.
Prince William’s decision to study at the University of St Andrews set fate in motion as it would ultimately be the place he met his future wife, Catherine Middleton.
William initially chose the institution for its prestigious art history degree (although he later switched majors to geography) – but Andrew says the young prince got off to a rocky start at uni.
“After Prince William’s first term at university, he didn’t like it. He didn’t like the town and he wanted to go back to his family in Windsor,” the author explains. No one wanted the royal to throw in the towel, so Andrew says a plan was devised to better ingratiate William to college life.
“They surrounded him with people with positive vibes, positive voices – and one of those was Catherine Middleton. She was one of the four people asked to join him at a share house at St Andrews,” Andrew says.
“And she was the pin-up girl of that year: tall, leggy, very pretty. But at that time, she
was just a friend.”
However, it wasn’t long before something more blossomed between William and Kate, although Andrew notes they “were very careful” to keep the relationship status quiet in the early days.
Eventually the whole campus – and the entire planet – heard about William’s girlfriend Kate, and in their final year at St Andrews the serious couple even chose to move out of the share house and into their own pad.
Despite these signs for the long-term viability of the relationship, Andrew says at the time the royal family believed this was nothing more than a “university romance”.
“At the end of the three-year university course, after they both got their degrees, everyone from the Queen onwards thought that was the end of that… and that they would go their separate ways and that he would return home and meet someone [from] within the aristocracy,” Andrew says.
“So the palace were absolutely blindsided when he said she was the one and continued dating her after college. It came as a real surprise and shock.”
Life after university wasn’t all smooth sailing for the fledgling couple. After the relative privacy of their on-campus life in the small Scottish college town in Fife, the couple were suddenly propelled into the intense, unrelenting glare of the international media spotlight.
It was during these post-university years that Wills eventually made the decision to pull the pin, after all, on the relationship.
“They saw each other for several years [following university] and then they broke up and split,” Andrew says.
Dating a royal comes with enormous pressure and the author suggests this break-up was actually William’s way of offering Kate an exit route.
“It was a sign of William’s maturity that he was giving Kate a chance to bow out from being the future queen,” Andrew says.
But Kate didn’t flinch. In fact, Kate’s response, the author says, was “a textbook lesson in ‘How to get your man back’ ”.
“She didn’t cry, she didn’t mope. She didn’t hide in a corner. Instead, she went out on the town, her skirt was three inches shorter, her heels were an inch higher and she was all smiles. And she looked fabulous,” he recalls.
“Within a matter of weeks, William was on the phone saying, ‘Let’s get back together again.’ ”
Prince William took many lessons from the ill-fated relationship of his parents Charles and Diana – especially on marriage.
“The one lesson he learnt was: ‘Don’t rush into romance’,” Andrew explains.
As the long-term relationship continued apace – albeit without an engagement ring in sight – the public began to question whether the prince ever planned on popping the question, or if he was just stringing her along.
Furthermore, Kate was left in a holding zone when it came to her career prospects. She held a part-time role with fashion brand Jigsaw, curated the odd photography exhibition and eventually wound up working with her parents’ business: Party Pieces.
But she always seemed hesitant to explore anything more permanent in the event that she may one day be destined to join royalty.
“She was in a very difficult position,” Andrew notes. “She was waiting for the glass slipper, rather than trying to break through the glass ceiling.”
As a result, she was dubbed with the unflattering moniker, “Waity Katy”.
“She made a lot of sacrifices when it came to her career after completing her university degree,” The writer says.
“It all worked out for her in the end, but she did put her career on hold in order to dovetail her life into William’s and continue their relationship.”
Proposal Came Out Of Africa
The moment everyone had been waiting for arrived when William whisked Kate away to one of his favourite locations in the world, the East African nation of Kenya.
William planned to pop the question with a stunning piece of jewellery that held great sentimental value – Princess Diana’s blue Ceylon sapphire-and-white-gold engagement ring. But Andrew notes that transporting the precious jewel – all with Kate blissfully unaware – presented quite the logistical nightmare.
“He had kept his mother’s engagement ring and hidden it in socks and shoes – the poor guy was terrified of losing it,” Andrew says with a smile. Nevertheless, Wills did manage to pull of the perfect proposal moment!
“They went hiking and ended up in a little hut in the Kenyan outback,” Andrew explains. “And once they got to the hut, he proposed as the sun went down. It was incredibly romantic.”
Andrew adds that the prince’s “very thoughtful” proposal should have allayed any fears – including his own – that there was any semblance of commonality between his parents’ notoriously tumultuous marriage and his own.
“It’s not like his father’s proposal where he went into the nursery at Windsor Castle and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ – and that was it,” Andrew says. “This was a very thoughtful, romantic gesture. And – in a way – it was a precursor for what was to come.”
A Wedding Fit For A Queen
Watched live by 36.7 million British television viewers and more than 72m people, the wedding day of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was a royal fairytale for the ages.
Over a million people lined the streets between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace to catch just a glimpse of the royal bride and groom, with Andrew remembering the mood as being “joyous”.
A glowing Kate looked overjoyed as she wed an ecstatic and assured Prince William – and the happiness of the newlyweds was palpable.
“It was a very warm, happy occasion,” Andrew says.
The wedding day went off without a hitch, but the royal biographer notes that some of the most memorable moments of the occasion were borne out of the lighter and more unexpected events around the happy couple’s big day.
“For Westminster Abbey, the wedding felt very intimate. But it was almost like something out of a chocolate box with all the uniformed guards and funny hats,” he says.
“And remember there was the two sisters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, with their ‘mad hats’.
“Plus, who could forget Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton with the ‘rear of the year’.
“But I absolutely loved that moment of seeing the couple driving back to Clarence House in [Prince Charles’s] blue Aston Martin.”
Becoming A Royal Family
With the royal wedding behind them, Kate and Wills settled into the next chapter of their life as husband and wife.
“After they were married, they kind of bounced around a bit,” Andrew says. “He was working as a helicopter rescue pilot and they were trying to do royal work as well.
“But it wasn’t as easy as you might think.”
When Kate eventually fell pregnant, the couple set down more permanent roots – particularly wise as she began to struggle with morning sickness.
“Her pregnancies as we now know were extremely medically difficult and probably more severe than they let on at the time,” Andrew says.
He adds that Wills eventually came to “give up his helicopter pilot duties, which he found emotionally very difficult”. However, it was a necessary move for him as both a parent and a royal, which became abundantly clear once they welcomed their three children; Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
“They have now moved to Anmer Hall in Norfolk and dedicated themselves to the family firm,” Andrew says.
In addition to juggling their royal life and subsequent responsibilities, the author says it’s been intriguing to watch the evolution of Kate and William as parents.
He says, “You can see with William, he’s literally a hands-on parent who’s heavily involved in every aspect of the children’s lives – and is very protective. Whereas Catherine is more than just a parent. She’s now involved as a campaigner for early learning. So, she has used that experience of parenthood to reach out to the wider public.”
“That’s been an interesting watershed move from them. They’ve became a very convincing double act.”
Standing Tall In A Crisis
William and Kate have always been popular royals, but their spirit and attitude during the enduring COVID-19 global pandemic, which has ravaged the UK, has elevated their leadership to new heights.
As the country – and wider world – suffered the hardships of seemingly endless lockdowns, Kate and Wills emerged as a beacon of hope.
“I seriously think they’ve proven themselves individually and as a couple during COVID, showing initiative in promoting their causes, despite the problems that have arisen,” Andrew says.
Of course, adjusting to these horrendous circumstances took place against a uniquely trying period for the royal family who found themselves short of manpower after “Megxit”.
Andrew notes that although this equated to more of a burden of responsibility on William and Catherine’s shoulders, in some ways it was also freeing.
“There was no longer a competition between the Cambridges and the Sussexes. William and Kate just got on with it,” he says.
“Now, Catherine looks in full bloom while William is focused on his own family and his own charities.”
With the future of the monarchy one day set to fall to William and Catherine, Andrew believes they have all the makings of strong leaders.
“I think Kate has always had the cloak of being a future queen around her and she’s now grown into that,” he says. “And as king, William is going to be accessible and affable”.
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