Like millions of young women, Kate Middleton dreamt of marrying her Prince Charming someday. But unlike most girls, she actually realized that dream. Before Middleton became known all over the world as a potential future Queen of England, she was just an art history student at Scotland's St. Andrew's University who enjoyed socializing with friends and playing sports. That all changed in 2001, after Middleton, a commoner, started dating Prince William Windsor, the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. At first, they managed to keep their romance a secret from the press, but after photographs of the two vacationing together were leaked, all bets were off. Middleton and the Prince's relationship was not all-smooth sailing, however, due in part to the intense media scrutiny. After years of having an on-again, off-again relationship, Prince William proposed to Middleton in November 2010. The royal engagement not only set off a massive media frenzy leading up to their April 29, 2011 wedding day, but it also marked the beginning of Middleton's new life as a modern-day, real-life princess.
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born on Jan. 9, 1982 in Berkshire, England to commoners Michael and Carole Middleton, who owned a mail-order business selling toys and games for children's parties. The eldest of three children, Middleton attended Marlboro College, an exclusive school in Wiltshire, England. Her former classmates described Middleton, who was captain of the hockey team, as popular, talented and sporty. In 2001, she went on to study art history at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, where she met Prince William Windsor, the first-born son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. The two hit it off and became fast friends. But their relationship grew into something more after the Prince saw Middleton modeling a sheer outfit during a school fashion show, and reportedly told a friend, "Kate's hot." Soon, the two spent more time together and eventually moved into an apartment with two other university students. At first, the couple managed to keep their relationship private, following an agreement between the Royal Family and the British press that allowed regular updates about the Prince while he was studying in exchange for his privacy. But the media blackout did not last too long, particularly after photographs of the couple vacationing at a Swiss ski resort surfaced. In December 2006, Middleton attended Prince William's graduation from the Royal Military Academy, which many considered her first appearance as the Prince's girlfriend at a high-profile public event attended by Queen Elizabeth II and other senior royals.
In early 2007, the couple reportedly split up, due to the intense media pressure and Prince William reportedly feeling "suffocated." During that time, Middleton worked as an accessories buyer for the exclusive fashion chain, Jigsaw, in Kew, London. Conversely, Prince William was often photographed flirting and dancing with other girls at nightclubs. His partying upset Middleton initially, but soon she too was also spotted hitting clubs, seemingly all smiles for the cameras. The couple reunited two months later, and she reportedly moved into the royal residence at Clarence House by the end of the year, fueling rumors of an engagement. In June 2008, the couple seemingly confirmed their relationship when they attended the Prince's birthday at a charity polo event. With their relationship back on track, the media started hounding Middleton again about a possible royal wedding. She quit her job at the clothing chain and reportedly spent all her time shopping and attending social events while waiting for a proposal, earning her the nickname "Waity Katie."
In November 2010, Prince William finally proposed to Middleton using his late mother's sapphire engagement ring while they vacationed in Kenya. From the moment the engagement and plans to marry at Westminster Abbey were announced, the media frenzy reached an all-time high, reminiscent of the furor created when "Shy Di" married her prince in July 1981 to a then record-breaking viewing audience. Worldwide, there was round-the-clock coverage of William and Kate's wedding plans - everything from who made the guest list to what wedding dress would Middleton wear. In the days leading up to the April 29, 2011 wedding, there was also an onslaught of wedding- and royal-themed television shows, particularly in America, including a critically panned made-for-TV movie "William and Kate" (Lifetime, 2011) that showed supposed highlights of the couple's relationship.The fairy tale dreams of a nation - if not the world - at last came to fruition on April 29, 2011 in the greatest royal spectacle England had enjoyed since William's parents' wedding 30 years prior, when Kate and William were married in a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Declared a national banking holiday, the ceremony and celebration boasted a guest list that included luminaries like the Sultan of Brunei, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Elton John, and was covered obsessively on such British television specials as "The Royal Wedding" (BBC, 2011).
After a period of speculation and intense secrecy, it was later revealed that Middleton and William had enjoyed a brief honeymoon on the secluded Indian Ocean island of Seychelles before returning home to resume their official duties as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Over the year that followed, Kate and William maintained their profile with a series of scheduled events and promotional trips. The royal couple was named as the official ambassadors for the 2012 Summer Olympics, held in London, and the Duchess delivered her first public speeches in the fall of 2012 while on a publicity tour of Southeast Asia as part of the ongoing Diamond Jubilee, celebrating the Queen's 60th year on the throne. The festive atmosphere was tarnished somewhat by a minor scandal that erupted while Middleton was still on her publicity tour in September. After expressing their dismay and personal outrage, the royals successfully filed an injunction against the French tabloid Closer after the magazine published surreptitiously taken photos of Middleton sunbathing topless while the couple vacationed at a chateau near the French Riviera. A tempest in a teapot, the fleeting embarrassment was soon forgotten when in December 2012, it was announced that the couple was expecting their first child. The news was greeted enthusiastically by the global press, with many outlets making mention of the recent reevaluation of royal law by Parliament that would ostensibly allow the couple's firstborn child to be the successor to the throne, regardless of sex. On July 22, 2013, Middleton gave birth to a baby boy, and the proud parents named the newborn heir George Alexander Louis.