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Kate Middleton and Prince William return to St Andrews where they met 20 years ago

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today returned to the University of St Andrews where they met as students 20 years ago. 

Prince William, 38, and Kate Middleton, 39, spoke to students about their pandemic experiences and visited St Salvator’s, the halls of residence where the young prince met his future wife.

The couple became friends in their first year before romance blossomed after William saw ‘hot’ Kate strut down a charity fashion show catwalk in a sheer dress. They graduated in 2005 and William proposed five years later. 

The couple, who share Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, six, and Prince Louis, three, celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary this year. 

William and Kate were in excellent spirits as they took a trip down memory lane before continuing to Fife where they met local fishermen and their families. 

Kate was smartly dressed in a £650 striped Erdem jumper, £549 Jade Holland Cooper blazer and £90 Veja trainers, after changing out of the £159 Barbour jacket and See by Chloe boots she wore to race land yachts this morning. 

The Duchess also let down her ponytail, added a slick of makeup and swapped her gold hoop earrings for a slightly more decorative pair from Freya Rose.

 

Plenty to smile about! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today returned to the University of St Andrews where they met as students 20 years ago. The couple were in excellent spirits despite the rain

The look of love: Kate Middleton smiled at her husband as they met students in a marquee set up for the royal engagement

The look of love: Kate Middleton smiled at her husband as they met students in a marquee set up for the royal engagement

University sweethearts: Prince William and Kate Middleton on the day of their graduation ceremony in 2005

University sweethearts: Prince William and Kate Middleton on the day of their graduation ceremony in 2005

Young fans: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge later met local Fife fishermen and their families, including their children

Young fans: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge later met local Fife fishermen and their families, including their children

Polished: Kate was smartly dressed in a £650 striped Erdem jumper, £549 Jade Holland Cooper blazer and £90 Veja trainers

The Duchess of Cambridge today

Polished: Kate was smartly dressed in a £650 striped Erdem jumper, £549 Jade Holland Cooper blazer and £90 Veja trainers

On their level: The Duchess of Cambridge crouched down to speak to the children on the outing in Fife today

On their level: The Duchess of Cambridge crouched down to speak to the children on the outing in Fife today

Flowers for Kate: The Duchess of Cambridge was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the waterfront, pictured

Flowers for Kate: The Duchess of Cambridge was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the waterfront, pictured

Quick visit: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met fishermen and their families in Fife at the end of a busy day

Quick visit: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met fishermen and their families in Fife at the end of a busy day 

On St Salvator’s Lawn, The Duke and Duchess joined Geography and History of Art students – the courses studied by William and Kate, respectively – to learn more about the ‘Can Do’ scheme, a joint initiative between the University and the St Andrews Students’ Association. 

The Duke and Duchess also paid a visit to the Can Do marquee, meeting students who were able to plan and host their Covid-secure extra-curricular activities and society events in the space.

From Ballroom and Latin dancing to charity and wellbeing activities, the Can Do marquee has hosted a diverse range of over 500 events since its launch, acting as a vital morale boost for students on campus.

Their Royal Highnesses also joined an interfaith discussion with students from the University’s School of Divinity, campus inter-faith groups and the University Chaplain, to hear how the university encourages inter-faith dialogue.

Finally, The Duke and Duchess planted the first tree for the St Andrews Forest, one of the key initiatives in the University’s action plan to become carbon neutral by 2035. 

Conceived by students on the University’s Environmental Sustainability Board during the pandemic, the forest will have multiple sites across the world, and provide new habitats for wildlife, green spaces to aid mental health and wellbeing, as well as opportunities for education and research.

Plenty to say: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were presented with a folder of art by the young children

Plenty to say: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were presented with a folder of art by the young children

Princess popular: The children crowded around to speak to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Fife

Princess popular: The children crowded around to speak to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Fife

Delighted: The Duchess of Cambridge was in her element as she spoke to the children on the royal outing today

Delighted: The Duchess of Cambridge was in her element as she spoke to the children on the royal outing today

Listening ear: Kate beamed as she listened to the youngsters on the visit to the fishermen's families in Fife

Listening ear: Kate beamed as she listened to the youngsters on the visit to the fishermen’s families in Fife

Later the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met with fishermen from the Pittenweem Fishermen’s Mutual Association and their families to hear about the fishing industry in Fife, and the impact of the last year on fishing communities on the East Coast of Scotland.

During the visit to Pittenweem Harbour on the Firth of Forth, The Duke and Duchess were shown the fishermen’s boats, which catch langoustines, lobsters and crabs. 

Their Royal Highnesses spoke with individuals involved in various stages of the fishing process, including fishermen, the harbourmaster and a fish merchant, before enjoying a seafood BBQ with local restaurateur Amy Elles, who buys produce from the harbour at the local market. 

Earlier William and Kate went head-to-head in a land yacht race in St Andrews at West Sands Beach. 

Kate, who was dressed down in her favourite £159 Longshore Barbour jacket, £310 See by Chloe boots and a £115 Campbell’s of Beauly Fairisle Jumper, appeared unfazed by the strong winds and wet weather, and beamed as she shot past her husband. 

Shared experiences: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spoke to St Andrews University students during their visit

Shared experiences: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spoke to St Andrews University students during their visit

Getting stuck in: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took part in a tree planting ceremony during their visit

Getting stuck in: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took part in a tree planting ceremony during their visit

Trip down memory lane: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chatted as they walked through the grounds of St Andrews

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at St Andrews today

Trip down memory lane: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chatted as they walked through the grounds of St Andrews

Braving the rain! The couple were in good spirits as they toured the grounds despite the drizzly weather

Braving the rain! The couple were in good spirits as they toured the grounds despite the drizzly weather

Green fingers: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge planted the first tree for the St Andrews Forest

Green fingers: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge planted the first tree for the St Andrews Forest

Special memories: The couple laughed and joked with each other as they visited St Andrews, where they met 20 years ago

Special memories: The couple laughed and joked with each other as they visited St Andrews, where they met 20 years ago

Back to where it all began: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit St Andrews University today

Back to where it all began: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit St Andrews University today

Smartly dressed in a striped jumper and £549 blazer by Jane Holland Cooper, Kate appeared in excellent spirits

William arriving at St Andrews

Polished: Smartly dressed in a striped jumper and £549 blazer by Jane Holland Cooper, Kate appeared in excellent spirits

Light-hearted moment: Kate smiled as she spoke to students during her visit to the university today

Light-hearted moment: Kate smiled as she spoke to students during her visit to the university today

At one point the Duchess’s back wheel was lifted into the air by the force of the wind – but not even that was enough to stop Kate from smiling.   

The royal couple were joined by a group from Fife Young Carers, which helps young carers maintain their well-being through a range of outdoor activities, workshops, and residential trips. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spoke to young carers about the challenges they have faced during the pandemic. 

The Duke and Duchess also heard about the charity’s work to raise awareness of the role of young carers in the local area, including introducing a ‘Young Carers Authorisation Card’ scheme in schools, pharmacies and other medical settings. 

The card helps young carers easily identify themselves, without having to repeatedly outline their circumstances and personal stories to those in the local community. 

There she blows! The Duchess of Cambridge had her land yachting kart lifted off the sand in a safety demonstration

There she blows! The Duchess of Cambridge had her land yachting kart lifted off the sand in a safety demonstration

Thrilled: The couple beamed as they crossed West Sands Beach, St Andrews, despite the bad weather

Thrilled: The couple beamed as they crossed West Sands Beach, St Andrews, despite the bad weather

Head-to-head: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sailed down the sand at West Sands Beach, St Andrews, this morning

Head-to-head: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sailed down the sand at West Sands Beach, St Andrews, this morning

The Duchess of Cambridge today

At one point Prince William placed a hand on his wife's back

Casual Kate: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge dressed down in jeans, jackets and boots for the land yachting session. At one point Prince William placed a hand on his wife’s back (right)

And she's off! Competitive Kate was in her element as she took on her husband in the land yacht race on the blustery beach

And she’s off! Competitive Kate was in her element as she took on her husband in the land yacht race on the blustery beach 

Ready to race: William and Kate

Will gives them a thumbs up

All good! Smiling Kate waved at the young carers who joined them in the session. Right, Will gives them a thumbs up

Pulling ahead! The Duchess of Cambridge beamed as she overtook her husband in their land yachting race

Pulling ahead! The Duchess of Cambridge beamed as she overtook her husband in their land yachting race 

... Wills takes the lead! The Duke of Cambridge had his game face on as he edged in front of Kate on the sandy course

… Wills takes the lead! The Duke of Cambridge had his game face on as he edged in front of Kate on the sandy course

Sharing a joke: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met young carers living around Fife and workers from Blown Away

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today

Sharing a joke: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met young carers living around Fife and workers from Blown Away

In her element: Sporty Kate was thrilled to get involved in the activity on West Sands Beach, at St Andrews

In her element: Sporty Kate was thrilled to get involved in the activity on West Sands Beach, at St Andrews

The session was hosted by Blown Away, a local company who are the only commercial land yachting company in Scotland, and host sessions in St Andrews and other iconic Scottish locations.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to St Andrews from the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, where they are staying while on their week-long tour of Scotland. The couple will return to London tomorrow. 

Yesterday William and Kate spent several hours in Orkney, opening a new hospital in Kirkwall and visiting a marine turbine machine. They also stopped at the home of a local family, the Bichans, to hear more about life in Orkney over a cup of tea.

The visit is part of a broader royal charm offensive to help persuade Scotland to resist the demands of nationalists for independence. 

Prince William arrived in Scotland on Friday and has carried out a number of engagements focused on the environment, young people and mental well-being. 

The Duchess of Cambridge joined her husband on Monday and the pair have continued with a busy schedule of royal engagements. 

Challenge accepted: The Duchess of Cambridge beamed at Prince William as they prepared to set off on their land yachts

Challenge accepted: The Duchess of Cambridge beamed at Prince William as they prepared to set off on their land yachts

Catch me if you can! Kate beamed as she pulled ahead of Prince William during the land yachting challenge

Catch me if you can! Kate beamed as she pulled ahead of Prince William during the land yachting challenge

Ready to race! Competitive Kate looked in her element as she and Prince William tried their hand at land yachting

Ready to race! Competitive Kate looked in her element as she and Prince William tried their hand at land yachting 

Blustery day: At one point the Duchess of Cambridge's back wheel lifted off the sand as she turned

Blustery day: At one point the Duchess of Cambridge’s back wheel lifted off the sand as she turned

Keeping control: The Duke of Cambridge remained calm as the kart was almost blown over by a gust of wind

Keeping control: The Duke of Cambridge remained calm as the kart was almost blown over by a gust of wind

Tight corner: The couple were challenged with steering the wind-powered vehicles through a series of cones

Tight corner: The couple were challenged with steering the wind-powered vehicles through a series of cones

Concentration: Kate had her game face on as she set off on her land yacht for the friendly race on West Sands Beach

Concentration: Kate had her game face on as she set off on her land yacht for the friendly race on West Sands Beach 

Getting the hang of things: The Duchess of Cambridge smiled as she set off down the beach in the land yacht

Getting the hang of things: The Duchess of Cambridge smiled as she set off down the beach in the land yacht

Don't topple over! Kate Middleton laughed as the instructor lifted up the Duchess in the safety demonstration

Don’t topple over! Kate Middleton laughed as the instructor lifted up the Duchess in the safety demonstration 

Gone with the wind... The Duchess of Cambridge sped down the beach, which is close to St Andrews University

Gone with the wind… The Duchess of Cambridge sped down the beach, which is close to St Andrews University

Getting close! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge both tried their hand at the activity in St Andrews today

Getting close! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge both tried their hand at the activity in St Andrews today

Which way are you going? The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed off in opposite directions on their land yacht

Which way are you going? The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed off in opposite directions on their land yacht

On Monday the pair visited Turning Point Scotland, a social care charity in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire.  

The couple learned about the support the organisation provides to those facing homelessness, mental health issues and substance abuse. Later in the afternoon they visited the pioneering Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU), and learned about the support it provides to community organisations across the country.

In the evening they were joined in the café kitchen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where they are staying, by Sikh Sanjog to prepare meals which will be distributed to vulnerable families across the Edinburgh community.  

Over the weekend William gave a deeply personal speech in which he described the ‘special place’ that Scotland had in his heart, a country which he said held both some of his ‘happiest memories’ and his ‘saddest’. 

It was at Balmoral where he learned of the death of his mother Diana, in 1997. And it was at St Andrews where he met and fell in love with Kate Middleton. 

Important work: The royal couple were joined by a group from Fife Young Carers, which helps young carers maintain their well-being through a range of outdoor activities, workshops, and residential trips

Important work: The royal couple were joined by a group from Fife Young Carers, which helps young carers maintain their well-being through a range of outdoor activities, workshops, and residential trips

Beach day: The Duchess of Cambridge laughed while speaking to employees of activity company Blown Away

Beach day: The Duchess of Cambridge laughed while speaking to employees of activity company Blown Away

The Duchess of Cambridge wore a cap pulled down over her hair

The royal learns more about Blown Away

The Duchess of Cambridge wore a cap pulled down over her hair (left). Right, the royal learns more about Blown Away

Quick sprint: The Duchess of Cambridge hurried across the rainy beach during the engagement this morning

Quick sprint: The Duchess of Cambridge hurried across the rainy beach during the engagement this morning 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today

Kate wipes her eyes

Challenging conditions: The couple had to wrap up in several layers for the outing. Right, Kate wipes her eyes

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went for practicality over style in choosing their outfits for the beach enagement

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went for practicality over style in choosing their outfits for the beach enagement

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge looked on at a group of young carers taking part in the land yachting

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge looked on at a group of young carers taking part in the land yachting

The birthplace of a royal romance: As William and Kate return to St Andrews 20 years on from when they met in halls, how a friendship between a homesick prince and his ‘hot’ flatmate bloomed into a first love that’s stood the test of time

William and Kate both initially enrolled to study History of Art (he switched to geography after that) and lived in the same hall of residence, St Salvator’s – known as Sallies. 

As Kate recalled in their engagement interview: ‘I turned bright red and sort of scuttled off, feeling very shy about meeting him.’ 

It wasn’t too long, however, before, seeing him every day around the campus – and in the university pool where they often swam together early in the morning – she was as relaxed with him as he was with her. 

William had hoped that by avoiding a big metropolitan university he’d be able to merge into local life relatively unnoticed. Now he was finding that in a small town like St Andrews the opposite was true.

He was weary of avoiding eye contact with strangers and pointedly declined invitations to join university clubs.

The young prince reportedly struggled with homesickness but found a listening ear in Kate, although there was initially no romantic involvement.   

Kate Middleton at a charity fashion show at St Andrews in 2002

It was in 2002 that Kate reportedly caught William's eye when she sashayed in a see-through sheer dress with visible black underwear down the runway at a university charity fashion show, prompting Wills' much-quoted comment, 'Wow, Kate's hot!'

Centre of attention: It was in 2002 that Kate reportedly caught William’s eye when she sashayed in a see-through sheer dress with visible black underwear down the runway at a university charity fashion show, prompting Wills’ much-quoted comment, ‘Wow, Kate’s hot!’

At the time she had a boyfriend, Rupert Finch, a dark and handsome fourth-year student reading law. (These days Rupert is a company lawyer with Johnson Matthey, the science and tech company, married, with three children, to Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, dressmaker daughter of the Marquess of Reading.)

But then, William also had a girlfriend, second-year English student Carley Massy-Birch, a Devon farmer’s strikingly attractive daughter who was, according to her mother Mimi, ‘definitely an item’ with the prince for a couple of months. 

Meanwhile, meeting around the campus as friends, William and Kate were entirely relaxed in each other’s company. The tall, slender brunette who liked an early morning jog soon became one of the group who joined William for breakfast before lectures. 

The budding friendship, it must be said, did not go unnoticed. Fellow students would joke to her, ‘Bet you’ll be wearing a tiara soon’. Certainly, some of the other girls in her year, a number of them from well-connected families, were positively suspicious of the middle-class girl’s easy closeness to the Queen’s grandson.

Graduating into royal life: Kate Middleton at her graduation in 2005, by which time her relationship with Prince William had been made public. He proposed five years later

Graduating into royal life: Kate Middleton at her graduation in 2005, by which time her relationship with Prince William had been made public. He proposed five years later

It was in early 2002 that Kate reportedly caught William’s eye when she sashayed in a see-through sheer dress with visible black underwear down the runway at a university charity fashion show, prompting William’s much-quoted comment, ‘Wow, Kate’s hot!’

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, that was the night their relationship matured from friendship into romance. Later that evening after the show they were drinking together, and reported to have been seen kissing. 

She was different from the kind of girls he had dated in the past – the socially ambitious offspring of his father’s polo-playing circle – and he found her natural and unaffected ways comfortingly reassuring. When he missed a seminar she would cover by letting him copy her notes. 

Meanwhile, in his uncertainty at St Andrews, William had been talking to his father and to his former housemaster at Eton, Dr Andrew Gailey, about dropping out at the end of the first year in 2002. And yet, tellingly, it was after talking to Kate about it that he made up his mind to stay.

Taking a swing at love: Prince William practises golf on the beach at St Andrews in 2003

Taking a swing at love: Prince William practises golf on the beach at St Andrews in 2003

She had also been uncertain about whether to remain at St Andrews, she told him, but on the whole thought it better to stay. She felt that having invested so much time there, it would be mad to chuck it in.

When William told her he thought his biggest mistake was his degree course, it was Kate who suggested switching to geography. Which he did. 

Not even when Kate and William, together with two others, shared a flat in their second year – in aptly named Hope Street – did anyone think they were an item.

The foursome were William, his Eton chum Fergus Boyd – a godfather to Prince George – Army officer’s daughter Olivia Bleasdale, and Kate. William had asked Kate to join the group.

Over the next three university years their relationship deepened. One of their circle, Michael Choong, who played rugby with William and is these days a property developer in Scotland, recalls, ‘They never showed any affection in public. Kate was good for him.

‘She was very loyal and did not gossip. William was naturally gregarious – he’d always get a round of beers in at the pub – but Kate was less so and hated having her picture taken.’

Young romance: Kate Middleton and her father Michael leave a shop in St Andrews in 2005

Young romance: Kate Middleton and her father Michael leave a shop in St Andrews in 2005

As university flatmates, no one saw anything special about William being one of the guests at Kate’s 21st birthday party, a 1920s-themed extravaganza with flapper girls and the Charleston. William arrived a bit late.

That was the moment he was first introduced to Carole and Michael Middleton. And Kate would attend William’s Out Of Africa 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle.

Significantly, however, he had already had her as a guest at Wood Farm, the royals’ favourite bolthole on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

When the prince gave an interview marking his coming of age, he was evasive about his love life. ‘There’s been a lot of speculation about every single girl I’m with,’ he said. ‘It’s a pain for the girls.’

But he couldn’t keep Kate a secret forever, try as he might. Skiing in the Swiss resort of Klosters with his father, he agreed to a photocall on the understanding the photographers would leave him alone afterwards.

None of the media there knew Kate was present too. Photocall over, she joined him at the ski lift and – flash, flash, flash – suddenly the world knew Diana’s boy was in love. Kate’s life would never be the same again.

Royally good fun: Prince William at his graduation from St Andrews University in June 2005

Royally good fun: Prince William at his graduation from St Andrews University in June 2005

Proud father: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at Prince William's 2005 graduation

Proud father: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at Prince William’s 2005 graduation

Granny was there, too! The Queen attended her grandson Prince William's 2005 graduation

Granny was there, too! The Queen attended her grandson Prince William’s 2005 graduation

By now they were in their third year at St Andrews, and installed in a comfortable farmhouse on the nearby 400-acre Strathtyrum estate. Not alone, of course. Two other discreet chums joined them, Alasdair Coutts-Wood and Oli Baker.

Here Kate’s natural home-making skills were allowed to flourish – she ran up some new gingham curtains. There in the kitchen was her dream – an Aga cooker – and not only that, in the baronial dining room was a table that could seat 18. More dinner parties followed.

Even so, William was beginning to show the first signs of unease at being tied down so young. It was a constant in his mind in the early years of the relationship. They agreed to spend the summer break apart.

He slipped away to America, flying to Tennessee to join the family of an old (and platonic) friend, Anna Sloan, a department store heiress who was at Edinburgh University. Kate went to the Dordogne as a guest of the family of one of their old flatmates, Fergus Boyd. One evening she disclosed that their being apart was something of a trial separation, adding, ‘I miss him.’

She didn’t have to wait too long before seeing him. At summer’s end they were back together again sharing the same house in their final year. Judged on what happened next, William had been missing her too.

The couple graduated in 2005 and five years later – after spending a summer apart – William proposed while on holiday in Kenya. 

They made their engagement public in November 2010 and married the following April. The couple celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary this year.  

BY RICHARD KAY and GEOFFREY LEVY. A VERSION OF THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED IN WEEKEND MAGAZINE

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