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William & Kate: the Love Story
A Celebration of the Wedding of the Century
By Robert Jobson
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2010 Robert Jobson
All rights reserved.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE
'A multitude of rulers is not a good thing. Let there be one ruler, one king.' Homer, the Iliad
16 November 2010, St James's Palace, London
Tightly holding the arm of the only man she had ever truly loved, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton tried her best to maintain her poise. With a beaming smile and gently leaning on her royal prince – Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant William Wales – they looked a couple deeply in love, completely at ease with each other. He had given countless interviews in the past, usually with his younger brother Prince Harry, a natural performer in front of camera, stealing the show with one-liners and derogatory quips about his older, more considered brother.
Giving 'the boys' that experience had been part of palace strategy, to help both princes, second and third in line to the British throne, to learn the ropes of royal life as well as how to cope with the ever more demanding modern media. In the past, royals didn't do interviews – Queen Elizabeth II still hasn't after nearly 60 years on the throne – but this new generation has no choice but to do them unless it wants to seem completely out of touch.
This time William took the lead, gently guiding his bride-to-be through the minefield of her first outing before the unforgiving British press. After all, this was a new experience for Kate, but it was one that she would have to get used to. She knew her every move and nuance was being scrutinised, her every word reported around the globe to millions of television viewers, who until now had seen her image only in glossy magazines and newspapers; but they were now at last hearing her voice for the first time. She was clearly nervous; who wouldn't be? But she was not about to show it. After all Miss Middleton was honed from sterner stuff.
That morning William's father, the Prince of Wales, had released a press statement that had made headlines on the 24-hour news channels around the globe. It began, 'His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton are engaged to be married.' It continued, 'The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton.
'The wedding will take place in the spring or summer of 2011, in London. Further details about the wedding day will be announced in due course.
'Prince William and Miss Middleton became engaged in October during a private holiday in Kenya. Prince William has informed The Queen and other close members of his family. Prince William has also sought the permission of Miss Middleton's father.
'Following the marriage, the couple will live in North Wales, where Prince William will continue to serve with the Royal Air Force.'
At last the marathon courtship of the second in line to the throne, more than eight years in all, was over. Life for this handsome young couple, both 28, would never be the same again.
Prince Harry, who had been in flying training at Middle Wallop that day – the young man with whom he had suffered so many of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in life, not least their mother Princess Diana's death in 1997 – was the first to comment on his big brother's happy news: 'I'm delighted that my brother has popped the question! It means I get a sister, which I've always wanted.'
Back in London Kate was taking her first tentative steps in public life. 'It's obviously nerve-racking,' she admitted in a cut-class, English, public-school accent when asked whether she was excited or nervous about marrying into the Royal Family. She said the Queen had been 'welcoming', as too was her new father-in-law Prince Charles. Now, with Princess Diana's 18-carat, oval, sapphire ring on her finger, she had realised her destiny. Containing 14 small diamonds surrounding the blue stone, in a cluster setting from the royal jewellers Garrard, the engagement ring had cost Prince Charles £28,000 thirty years earlier, when he had placed it on the finger of the shy Lady Diana Spencer, a young woman not long out of her teens. In today's money it would have cost £100,000, so perhaps in this age of austerity giving his fiancée a recycled ring wasn't a bad PR move. But that had not been William's motivation.
'It was my mother's engagement ring, so I thought it was quite nice because obviously she's not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement of it all – this was my way of keeping her close to it all,' he said. It was a touching gesture that some commented on: after all, hadn't it been an ill-fated ring that marked an ill-fated marriage and doomed match? It took Kate's breath away when William produced it from his rucksack out of the blue while they holidayed together in Kenya. 'It's beautiful. I just hope I look after it. It's very, very special.' In a single deeply significant gesture, William had brought his iconic mother right back into the public consciousness and onto the newspaper front pages that she had graced during the latter part of the 20th century, when she ranked as one of the most famous people in the world.
But this soon-to-be-royal princess was no innocent girl like Diana. Nor was she a shy aristocrat caught up in a fairytale whirlwind. When Diana had second thoughts before the ceremony, she could not escape because her face was already on the commemorative tea towels, as her sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale reminded her. Kate's image was already imprinted on a special £5 commemorative coin with her husband-to-be, produced by the Royal Mint. It has started. But, unlike Diana, Kate is already a woman, and somebody who had already endured the trials and tribulations of a modern long-term relationship. With William she had experienced the pain of perceived betrayal, she had suffered the stress and self-doubt caused by splits and long periods of separation too. 'We did split up for a bit,' William said. 'We were both very young. It was at university. We were both finding ourselves as such and being different characters and stuff. It was very much trying to find our own way and we were growing up. It was a bit of space and a bit of things like that, and it worked out for the better.'
He was of course not quite on the money. They had split at university, but the split people remember was later than that one – just three years, in fact, before their engagement was announced to the world. She, however, was more specific. '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 realised. I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you're younger, and I really valued that time for me, although I didn't think it at the time.'
Of course, there had been great highs and joys of real love, too, and this moment, when this intensely private couple declared their love to each other in front of the world, ranked among the highlights so far. There would be many more to come.
During the bitterness and recriminations of divorce from William's father, Diana later described herself as 'a lamb to the slaughter'. That troubled princess always felt her much older Prince Charming – Charles – had betrayed her with his refusal to abandon his extramarital affair with his married lover Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana never truly forgave, although, thankfully, she had mellowed towards the father of her boys by the time of her sudden, tragic death in a car crash in 1997. Kate was different. She was older, wiser. She was going into this marriage with her eyes wide open. She wouldn't, if she could help it, make the same mistakes. She would be a traditional wife and mother. She would, as one senior palace adviser told me, 'walk one step behind her husband'. She would not take on solo engagements and instead would team up with her husband at the outset at royal engagements to present a united front. She had had a long time to think about what sort of princess she would be, had studied what had happened to Diana, and had taken it on board. The monarchy is after all a fiercely traditional organisation. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, walks one step behind the Queen and nobody says it makes him less of a man. It is just his royal duty.
Kate had already suffered the heartache and public ignominy of a very public split with her prince in 2007. They had split up a couple of times before that too, but every time the power of their love, like a magnet, had pulled them back to each other during their roller-coaster eight-year courtship. This English lady was a new breed of outsider who dared to marry into the Royal Family. She may be compared to the 'people's princess' throughout her royal career as she tries to carve out her own role and reputation, but in truth she is a true 'Princess of the People'. A middle-class girl born and raised in the country from loving, solid, hard-working parents with high aspirations who had worked tirelessly to earn the money to do the very best for their three children. Catherine, the eldest, had simply met and fallen in love with a prince when they were both undergraduates at the ancient Scottish seat of learning, St Andrew's University. Now she is on the cusp of becoming our new 21st-century princess and in line to be our future Queen Consort. With luck, if fate smiles on her, she will be mother and grandmother to future sovereigns, too.
Kate and William's first public appearance as a newly engaged couple was all but outshone by a shocking blaze of camera flashes from the battery of handpicked photographers invited from the world's media outlets to meet them in a state room at St James's Palace for their first official joint engagement. They had tried their best to answer the quick-fire questions but they were almost drained by the frenzied clicking cameras shutters. A little earlier, sitting in a quiet side room at Clarence House, his father's London home, it had been a calmer atmosphere, although the questioning, while soft, was still testing. William and Kate gave the first glimpses of the intimacy of their relationship. Seated side by side in their first interview together, the happy couple spent more than 15 minutes chatting informally to ITV News's political editor Tom Bradby, a newsman the prince liked and had chosen as the conduit of his good news, much to the chagrin of the BBC. Relaxed and often sharing a joke together, William and his bride-to-be talked about their happy news and revealed that they wanted to start a family. That, of course, was a foregone conclusion for a prince entrusted with securing the line of succession of one of the oldest and most celebrated monarchies in the world with a thousand-year history. Now, at his side, looking stunning in a beautiful peacock-blue dress by her favourite designer label Issa, was the woman with whom he would start that family.
When they were asked if they wanted lots of children, William was the first to speak: 'I think we'll take one step at a time. We'll sort of get over the marriage first and then maybe look at kids. But obviously we want a family so we'll have to start thinking about that.' In truth, his number-one priority, securing the line of succession, is one of the prerequisites of the job as an heir to the throne. But these children would be special: they would be princes and princesses born from the people. For an accident of birth had meant Catherine's ancestors had toiled underground for generations to earn slave wages in coal mines in County Durham in the North of England. In a twist of fate, they were the mines owned by the family of Prince William's great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon before she too became one of the first 'commoners' (albeit a landed aristocrat) to marry into the British Royal Family. Lady Elizabeth became the darling of the nation as Queen Consort to George VI during World War Two and in later life as the beloved 'Queen Mum'. She enjoyed a wonderful life that spanned just over a century (born in 1900, she died in 2002), but it had not been all plain sailing. She had played a key role in guiding her stuttering, tempestuous husband through the tears and tempers of the Abdication crisis of 1936, a crisis that nearly rocked the monarchy to its foundations.
In the media frenzy that followed William and Kate's royal engagement announcement, comparisons between William's fiancée and his iconic mother Diana were inevitably splashed across the press. If Catherine could emulate any royal career, that of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon would be, perhaps, a better role model. King George V, the father of her husband, Albert, Duke of York (later George VI), had made that union possible. He had decreed in 1917, to secure the interests and survival of his newly christened Windsor dynasty, that the usual custom of marriages with German princesses was outmoded. His children, he said, could wed British commoners if they wished, a politic move given that German Gotha bombers were launching the first ever bombing raids on London from the air in the so-called war to end all wars, World War One. At the time, old royal houses across Europe were being toppled amid clamour by the masses for enfranchisement. The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was killed off so that the newly christened, English-sounding House of Windsor could survive. George, a canny king with his finger on the nation's pulse, feared the worst. The wild spread of socialism had cost his lookalike cousin, the bumbling but ruthless Russian tyrant Emperor Nicholas II, his life. George was not about to follow, not if he could help it. He knew that, if his royal dynasty was to avoid the same bloody fate, he had to get the newly enfranchised working man on his side.
Kate's working-class forebears had helped make the Bowes-Lyons family and fellow colliery owners just that little bit richer. As they sweated their lives away deep underground, scraping a desperate and dangerous living, her ancestor James Harrison, a miner at the Hetton Lyons colliery in 1821, would never have believed his great-great-great-great granddaughter would one day be Queen. (More on James Harrison later.) But these are changing times for us all, and for the British monarchy too.
Like his great-great-grandfather, George V, William is a man with his finger on the pulse of his people too, mainly because his mother had impressed upon him from an early age that, while he was special, he had to be himself, to make his own choices. Like so many of the people he will one day serve as King, he lived with his girlfriend before he wed, something that in George V's day would not have been accepted. During the engagement interview William explained why he took so long to pop the question, saying he wanted to give Kate a chance to 'back out' if she felt she couldn't cope with life as the future Queen Consort. 'When did you first set eyes on each other?' Bradby probed. 'It's a long time ago now, Tom,' the Prince replied. 'I'm trying to rack my brain. We obviously met at university – at St Andrews. We were friends for over a year first and it just sort of blossomed. We just spent more time with each other, had a good giggle, lots of fun, and realised we shared the same interests and had a really good time. She's got a really naughty sense of humour, which kind of helps me because I've got a really dry sense of humour, so it was good fun.'
Kate was less polished, speaking more slowly and in a more considered way as she turned to her husband to be, as if for reassurance, and said, 'Well I actually think I went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off, feeling very shy.'
The proposal has been truly romantic. Exactly out of the textbook for princes on white chargers sweeping their chosen damsels off their feet. His mother, whose step-grandmother Dame Barbara Cartland made a fortune peddling such stories in slushy romantic novels, would have been proud. William revealed in his engagement interview, 'It was about three weeks ago on holiday in Kenya. We had been talking about marriage for a while, so it wasn't a massively big surprise. I took her up somewhere nice in Kenya and I proposed.' Kate added, 'It was very romantic. There's a true romantic in there. I really didn't expect it. It was a total shock ... and very exciting.'
Bradby asked, 'And he produced a ring there and then?' She replied with a beaming smile, 'Yes.' William explained, 'I'd been carrying it around with me in my rucksack for about three weeks before that and I literally would not let it go. Everywhere I went I was keeping hold of it because I knew this thing, if it disappeared, I would be in a lot of trouble; and, because I'd planned it, it went fine. You hear a lot of horror stories about proposing and things going horribly wrong. It went really, really well and I was really pleased she said "yes."'
But why had he waited so long to propose? 'I wanted to give her a chance to see in and to back out if she needed to before it all got too much. I'm trying to learn from lessons done in the past and I just wanted to give her the best chance to settle in and to see what happens on the other side,' he said.
Excerpted from William & Kate: the Love Story by Robert Jobson. Copyright © 2010 Robert Jobson. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
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