Kate Middleton’s pre-royal life – school beauty, childhood modelling and living abroad

For more than 10 years, the Duchess of Cambridge has thrown herself into a royal life of events and engagements.

As she approaches her 40th birthday, Kate’s day-to-day can see her meeting and chatting with ordinary people as well as a host of world leaders.

But her pre-royal life before she married husband Prince William or was a mum to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, was just as varied – although very different.

From her childhood travels to her adventurous gap year and her glam London life before her engagement, Kate certainly had an eventful time before becoming royal…

Living overseas

A five-year-old Kate after returning to the UK from Jordan


The Middleton Family)

Kate was born on January 9, 1982, to parents Carole and Michael at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

But when she was just two her family relocated from the UK to Jordan, where her dad Michael took a job with British Airways.

While there she attended an English language nursery and her family enjoyed living in the country until 1986.

Last year, Kate took her own family to Jordan for a holiday and a gorgeous photo of them in the country was featured on the front of their 2021 Christmas card.

School life

Kate (centre) with her school hockey team


Getty Images)

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On the Middletons’ return to England, Kate started school at the private St Andrews School in Berkshire aged four.

After she attended boarding school Downe House, where she allegedly experienced a tough time that left her “desperately miserable”, according to royal biographer Katie Nicholl.

She said: “Being especially slender and a head taller than her peers, she stood out for the wrong reasons and was teased for being gangly and lanky.”

Kate eventually left the school and joined the prestigious Marlborough College, where it’s said she found her feet playing sports, and her sudden turnaround in confidence left her fellow pupils stunned.

Former pupil Gemma Williamson told the Daily Mail that after impressing school pals playing hockey and going cross-country running, the future duchess became “an absolute beauty” and “every boy in the school fancied her rotten”.

Childhood modelling

Kate’s mum Carole, dad Michael and sister Pippa



Kate’s family were able to send her to some of the country’s top private schools thanks to their very successful business.

In 1987, her mum Carole set up mail-order company Party Pieces at her kitchen table, which grew into a hugely profitable venture.

And in the early days of the firm, Kate and younger sister Pippa would often model for the catalogue.

In a blog post in 2017 to mark Party Pieces 30th anniversary, Carol confirmed her daughter’s modelling days.

She said: “Over the years all my children have played a huge part in it, from modelling for the catalogue to developing new categories for the brand.”

Gap year

Kate out shopping with mum Carole



Kate’s time at Marlborough College proved successful and she gained three A-Levels – one in biology, one in chemistry and another in art.

But before heading straight to university, she embarked on a character-building gap year, which saw her study at the British Institute in Florence and crew Round the World Challenge boats in the Solent.

Kate also took part in a Raleigh International programme in Chile, where she spent 10 weeks on an expedition in Patagonia.

In a twist of fate, her future husband William also embarked on a very similar gap year programme in Chile in the same year – with their trips to South America just weeks apart.

It would be just months from this point that they would first lay their eyes on each other.

University days

Kate during her university days


Stephen Lock/REX/Shutterstock)

Kate modelled in a charity fashion show


Malcolm Clarke/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock)

In September 2001, both Kate and William started at St Andrews University in Fife, Scotland, and their strong friendship began just months into their university life.

William skipped the university’s Freshers’ Week, so their first meeting didn’t happen until Kate was well settled into student life.

Kate admits being quite shy during their first meeting, but awkwardly William doesn’t remember it at all.

During their time as friends, Kate even helped Wills escape the attention of several young women who were trying to catch his attention.

Kate met Prince William at university



As the first year came to an end, Kate and William decided to get a student house together with a few other pals for their second year.

And it was in their second year when Wills started to see Kate in a new light after a charity fashion show.

The future Duchess took to the catwalk as one of the models, wearing a now-famous see-through dress. William, in a £200 front seat, was sunk.

Apparently, he exclaimed to Etonian pal Fergus Boyd, now godfather to Prince George: “Wow! Kate’s hot!”

The subsequent relationship was kept under wraps, helped by agreed rules of privacy for the prince.

But on holiday skiing in Klosters in April 2004 they were snapped kissing and their relationship was revealed before they graduated together in 2005.

London life

Kate shared a flat with sister Pippa


Getty Images)

After university, Kate moved to London and shared an apartment in the upmarket Chelsea area with her sister Pippa.

She took a job as an accessories buyer with fashion firm Jigsaw, where she was said to be a popular member of staff and impressed her boss with her work ethic.

But during her time at the firm, her relationship with William is believed to have taken a nose-dive after he joined the military.

Prince William and Kate Middleton announce their engagement



And one book, Robert Lacey’s Battle of Brothers, claims William broke up with her by phone while she was at work due to their rocky patch.

Shortly after, Kate was spotted out and about on the town at London nightspots and joined a women’s rowing team.

She even gave a glimpse of a self-help book in her handbag, entitled Love Is Not Enough: A Smart Woman’s Guide To Keeping (And Making) Money.

But the split seemed to be short-lived as weeks later, William and Kate were seen kissing at an army party at barracks in Bovington, Dorset.

And in July 2007, Kate and her brother James were seen at the Concert for Diana, held at Wembley to mark 10 years since William’s mother Princess Diana’s death.

It wasn’t long before their romance was confirmed to be back on, and Kate moved into William’s Clarence House flat, where he would return from military duties on Friday nights for cosy weekends together.

And the rest they say is history as later William proposed, leading Kate into her new royal life.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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