Senin, 16 Januari 2012

The Little Girl Who Grew Up To Be A Princess

Every little girl dreams of falling in love with a handsome prince and living in a palace... and Kate Middleton was no different.

As the young Kate grew up and started school, she never stopped believing in the fairytale.

And now, amazingly, her childhood wish has finally come true.

Even in her early teens, the pretty girl from the Home Counties had a crush on dreamy, handsome Prince William – although Kate yesterday laughed off reports that she once had a poster of him on her wall.

Now it will be her beaming smile and glossy, chestnut locks that will adorn posters, tea-towels, mugs and commemorative plates as Britain and the rest of the world prepares to celebrate her marriage next year to the heir to the throne.

Yesterday’s engagement announcement has been a long time coming – it is eight years since William and Kate first got together.

And as the years ticked by and a sparkly diamond ring failed to materialise on her left hand, she was nicknamed Waity Katie.

In those eight years we have witnessed their first public kiss, a traumatic break-up and their heart-warming reunion. We have also seen their growing poise and maturity.

Yesterday’s impeccable performance in front of the cameras, as they announced their engagement at St James Palace, proved that Kate has developed the confidence to cope with the huge public interest in her life.
Joking with her new fiance and speaking assuredly about her future in-laws, she seemed completely calm and in control.

It was in marked contrast to the way William’s parents announced their engagement. With hindsight, the writing was on the wall for Charles and Diana before their wedding plans had even been drawn up.

There was Lady Diana Spencer, a quiet, timid 19-year-old, in the gardens of Buckingham Palace showing off her white gold and sapphire engagement ring on February 24, 1981.

Asked if they were in love, she gushed: “Of course!” But Prince Charles could only muster the gruff response: “Whatever love means.” And Diana looked demurely downwards, trying to keep the smile pinned on her face.

Their body language was awkward – stiff and formal on his side, nervous and bashful on hers.
Fast-forward 29 years and her oldest son and his fiancée adopted an almost identical arm-in-arm pose to make their announcement.

They even proudly sported the same engagement ring.

The big difference was that William and Kate looked relaxed, happy, and genuinely in love. When she gently teased William about his cooking and laughed off those rumours that he was a pin-up on her wall at school – “He wishes. No, I had the Levi’s guy on my wall!” – this looked as equal a relationship as we can hope for from our future King and a “commoner” Queen.

And when William recalled the moment he popped the question last month – and the way he asked her dad Michael’s permission for Kate’s hand in marriage – it was clear this was an engagement planned by two young people deeply in love, rather than by a team of courtiers organising the royal succession.

If Kate can keep this normality in their relationship once she is Princess Catherine, then there is every reason to be optimistic that the marriage lasts a lot longer than the union between William’s parents.
Indeed, their romance has already survived some rocky patches.

They have endured time apart due to William’s RAF career and had to cope with intense public scrutiny.
They first met at St Andrew’s University in Fife in 2001. Both were studying History of Art, although the prince swapped to geography.

William instantly became good friends with the good-looking, sporty and popular Kate, who is five months his senior. In fact, their paths had almost crossed earlier.

After leaving Eton with A-levels in geography, biology and history of art and 12 GCSEs, William decided to take a gap year before starting his university studies.

In 2001 he went to Mauritius, spent some time in Africa, trekked with the Army in Belize and worked as a Raleigh International volunteer in Chile. Kate volunteered on the same project just one month later.
Rachel Humphreys, who looked after the volunteers, says that even then Kate stood out. Rachel said: “She had a certain presence.”

That quality was later recognised by Dr Brian Lang, former vice chancellor of St Andrews University.
He said: “Kate was a very mature girl. She was a very attractive girl, she was a very popular girl, particularly with the boys. But she was always very in control of herself and impeccably behaved.”

The pretty girl-next-door was thrust into the limelight during their first year when she modelled a racy ensemble for a charity fashion show at the university in 2002.

Kate tottered down the runway in a sheer strapless mini-dress through which you could see her black bra and knickers. William – who had splashed out £200 for a front-row seat – watched her transfixed. He was clearly attracted to Kate but it was a while before they became more than just good friends.

It was she who persuaded William to continue his studies when he had a wobble at the end of his first year and considered leaving.

He later graduated with a 2:1 degree in geography, making him one of the most academically successful royals. In their second year, the couple shared a four-bedroom town house with some fellow students. A year later they lived with friends a cottage on a farm outside the town.

Still they had not started dating. Kate, who worked part-time as a waitress at a local restaurant, was seeing another student, Rupert Finch, while William paired up with close friend Jecca Craig.

It was not clear exactly when their relationship blossomed from friendship into love – William reportedly calls Kate “Babykins”, while he is apparently her “Big Willie”.

Thanks to their protective group of friends, and loyal locals in St Andrews’ close-knit community, they were able to get to know one other relatively free from intrusion.

Kate enjoyed several holidays with William and was one of a group of close friends invited to his 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle in June 2003.

They were definitely an item by the Christmas of that year – although they were so discreet, and their friends, including Jules Knight from the singing quartet Blake, were so loyal, that few outsiders suspected it.

The couple would be seen with friends at the local bars and restaurants in Fife and they enjoyed a romantic skiing holiday in the luxury Swiss resort Klosters in March 2004. According to Dr Lang, being at St Andrews gave William and Kate normality. “Four years,” he said, “in which they could get to know one another, free of intrusion, glare and publicity. We gave them four years in which they could find themselves and find one another.”

At their graduation in June 2005, they heard a speech by their university principal, who described St Andrews as the country’s top matchmaking university. He said: “You may have met your husband or wife.”
But royal watchers might have thought Kate’s demeanour was less than regal – she flashed her legs in a daringly short skirt beneath her long black gown.

Even some friends doubted the romance would last once the pair left Fife and went their separate ways – Kate to work in the fashion business in London and William to start his military training at Sandhurst.

And if Kate had hopes of a whirlwind engagement, the second in line to the throne had other ideas. “Look, I’m only 22, for God’s sake. I am too young to marry at my age. I don’t want to get married until I’m at least 28 or maybe 30,” William announced, very pointedly, in a TV interview.

Kate was notably absent from Prince Charles’s wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles the following year. But just three months later she was on the prince’s arm at the wedding of his good friend Hugh van Cutsem.

It was the first of many weddings that they attended together, but the romantic atmosphere and flowing champagne did nothing to sway William towards a proposal. Even so, their relationship apparently flourished during weekends alone at a secluded cottage on the Queen’s Balmoral estate, given to princes William and Harry as a bolthole.

For a while, at least, William and Kate were guaranteed some privacy, following an agreement worked out between the palace and press while he was a student.

They had lavish holidays together including a visit to the Lewa Downs game reserve in Kenya, and another ski trip to Klosters where they were pictured kissing for the first time.

During breaks in William’s army training at Sandhurst, they went on more luxury holidays to Mustique and Ibiza.

Inevitably, public attention and interest in the couple’s romance became enormous, and in 2005 Kate’s lawyers – who also act on behalf of Prince Charles – asked the media to leave her alone.

But she didn’t escape the limelight for long – especially after she flashed a fishnet-clad thigh while climbing into a car after a night out with William and Harry in December 2006.

Speculation that William has finally proposed was sparked in February 2006, when it was suggested that Kate would receive her own royal security – something which would only be available following an engagement.

The rumours were taken seriously enough for Woolworths to put souvenirs into production – plates, thimbles, mouse mats and even “Will and Kate” Pick-n-Mix sweets.

Rumours of an engagement emerged again around the time of Kate’s 25th birthday in January 2007, when the paparazzi surrounded her Chelsea home.

Then three months later, hopes of a royal wedding were dashed when the couple suddenly split up. Apparently William thought that “all the fun had gone out of the relationship”.

There were also reports that some of the prince’s friends would whisper “doors to manual” whenever Kate walked into the room – a sly reference to her mother Carole’s former career as an air hostess.

Yet two months later William was seen smooching and dancing with Kate at an army party. By the following May, they were an item again – and things were more serious than ever. Even so, reports of a reunion were denied in June 2007, with the couple insisting they were “just good friends” after they were spotted together at the Concert for Diana at Wembley.

After that they were seen together in public on a number of occasions. And although Kate turned up to the wedding of William’s cousin Peter Phillips to Autumn Kelly on her own, while William was guest at another wedding in Africa, they were never apart for long. Kate was there when the prince received his RAF wings from his father at RAF Cranwell in April 2008 and in Windsor when he became a Knight of the Garter in June.

And as the pair have become more serious, they have spent increasing time in the company of each others’ parents.

They spent New Year together in 2008 at Birkhall, Prince Charles’ private residence on the Balmoral estate, and in March William joined the Middleton family on a skiing holiday in Courcheval.

Their courtship felt the full glare of the public spotlight when William, who was beginning his RAF career as a search and rescue pilot, attempted a romantic gesture in April 2008 by landing an RAF Chinook helicopter in the garden of Kate’s parents’ home.

But it was when Kate’s parents were spotted at a shooting weekend at Birkhall that royal watchers became increasingly expectant that a proposal was in the air.

While Princess Diana was from an aristocratic background – her father was an Earl and her grandmother was a confidant of the Queen Mother – Catherine Elizabeth Middleton is distinctly middle-class. But despite her lack of blue blood, sensible Kate’s down to earth nature and mature outlook have her pegged as an ideal royal consort.

Her parents Carole and Michael run a mail order company and have lived in Bucklebury, Berks, for 30 years where they are regulars at village shows, local pubs and shops.

Carole, a builder’s daughter from Southall, Middlesex, and a former air stewardess, was spotted chewing nicotine gum during William’s highly formal passing-out ceremony at Sandhurst in 2006. It was also said that she blundered by using the words “toilet” and “pardon” in front of the Queen – an etiquette crime in royal circles.

Michael, 61, the Leeds-born son of an airline pilot was a British Airways air steward when he met his future wife Carole Goldsmith, now 55, in the mid-1970s.

He was promoted to the role of flight dispatcher for BA at Heathrow, where he monitored the airline’s fleet on the ground, and in 1979, the couple bought a modest Victorian semi in Bradfield Southend, a village near Reading.

They married in 1980 and seven years later started their successful Party Pieces, selling toys and games from a converted barn near their home.

Their booming business meant they could move to a modern five-bedroomed house, set behind trees in the neighbouring village of Bucklebury, in 1995.

It also meant they could send their three children – Kate, Pippa, and James – to expensive Marlborough College in Wiltshire, after their rural prep school.

Kate was a clever, likeable student, and a force to be reckoned with on the hockey pitch and tennis court.

One former classmate Charlie Leslie recalled: “Kate is an absolutely phenomenal girl – really popular, talented, creative and sporty. She was captain of the school hockey team and played in the first pair at tennis.” And a college master said: “I don’t think you’d find anyone in Marlborough with a bad word to say about Kate.

“She excelled in all her subjects and was an A-grade pupil across the board.”

Yet Kate was not as academically bright as her sister Pippa, now 27, who works part-time in marketing and PR for Table Talk, an events catering company, and also works for the family business. Pippa was also voted No 1 in Tatler magazine’s 2008 poll of the “200 coolest kids in town”.

Their brother James, 23, dropped out of his English degree course at Edinburgh University to start his own cake-making business, a spin-off from his parents’ firm.

Despite her excellent education, Kate has been criticised for her lack of career ambition. She has had just one job outside the family firm since graduating from St Andrews. She was an accessories buyer with the high street fashion chain Jigsaw, owned by family friends John and Belle Robinson, but she quit in November 2007.

Now she spends her time at William’s side – at charity functions, polo matches and parties, while he works as an RAF search and rescue pilot.

After eight years, the willowy brunette has proved tough enough to cope with the pressure of the high-profile role of a royal bride.

Confident and self-assured, she has been able to handle the intense speculation and interest in her personal life. Supremely photogenic, she also appears totally at ease in front of the camera. Kate seemed unflustered at her first high-profile public event at William’s graduation ceremony – she calmly entered the parade ground with his public secretary as everyone but the Queen and Prince Charles was seated.

Since her university days she has effortlessly transformed herself from student to socialite and has already established herself as a trendsetter.

The simplE black and white patterned Topshop dress she wore to work on her 25th birthday in January 2007 sold out. In 2008 she featured on Vanity Fair’s list of the Top 10 best dressed women in the world, alongside Carla Bruni and Sex And The City star Sarah Jessica Parker.

During the day she favours floral skirts and dresses with cardigans, often from LK Bennett, Whistles and Jigsaw.

Her long brunette locks are worn down and trimmed in a classic style and her make-up is natural and flawless. But her public image has not always been so perfect. In 2008, Kate helped to organise a charity day-glo midnight roller disco.

What is remembered most is the picture of her giggling while flat on her back on the ice after taking a tumble. That and her bizarre skating outfit – yellow hot-pants, a sequinned turquoise halterneck and pink leg-warmers.

Yet more controversially, she attracted the wrath of animal rights campaigners when she teamed a mink hat to Cheltenham .

Despite these blips, those who know Kate best say she is always in control of herself and impeccably behaved – and that these qualities alone mean she is up to the task of, being a princess and one day a queen.

Not that she is in danger of letting it go to her head. When her friends tell her she is lucky to be with William, Kate replies: “He is lucky to be with me.”

Friends of the couple point to her sensible, loving and caring nature and remark that that is what William adores about her.

They add that William and Kate are compatible and completely committed to one another – and after eight years together they still know how to make each other laugh.

Of course, Kate’s good looks and compassionate manner have drawn inevitable comparison’s with the late Princess Diana.

Unlike Diana, Kate has A-levels and a degree, and has had more time and help to get used to the pressures of royal life. At 28, she is nine years older than Lady Diana Spencer was when she got engaged to Prince Charles. And she will be 29 when she gets married in London next year – making Kate the oldest spinster to marry a future king. When William becomes king, she will be our sixth Queen Catherine.

It is a huge commitment to the country as well as to the man she loves. But Kate is no stranger when it comes to sacrificing her own wants and desires. This Christmas will be no different as she will be without her fiancé – William has volunteered to work at RAF Valley in Anglesey on Christmas Day.

But she has finally got her fairytale ending. And while the nation prepares to celebrate a royal wedding, there is every chance that they live happily ever after.

One thing’s for sure... They certainly haven’t rushed into anything.

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