In the years she’s spent as the Duchess of Cambridge since her wedding to Prince William in 2011, Kate Middleton has pretty much fit in perfectly — and she’s become the picture of poise and grace among the British royals. Already considered a royal style icon and a doting mom-of-three, there’s rarely a time that Middleton’s spotted out in public without every hair in place and the biggest smile on her face. As far as we can tell from the outside looking in, Middleton appears to adore the royal lifestyle.
Despite claims that the duchess feels “exhausted and trapped” in a post-Megxit world, Middleton has seemingly taken on the “heavier workload” with stride, after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back as senior royals in 2020, per People. But considering how members of The Firm aren’t quite as accessible to fans as other celebrities, we don’t get glimpses into her personal life all that often, especially since she doesn’t exactly have her own social media accounts.
A few things about Middleton’s background are on public record: The fact that she was born to Michael and Carole Middleton in 1982, has two siblings — James and Pippa (who’s become quite a scene-stealer herself) — and how she and William met in college and dated on-and-off for almost a decade before officially tying the knot. But what about other aspects of her private life? Here’s what we do know — or, at least what’s been reported. If only the Cambridges would agree to a reality show…
Kate Middleton had a comfortable upbringing
Though there’s often plenty of mention about the fact that Kate Middleton and Prince William came from two separate worlds, it’s also important to point out that the so-called “commoner” actually came from parents who were pretty well off themselves. Her mother, Carole Middleton, founded the business Party Pieces, which sells party supplies and décor, back in 1987. It was so successful that it ended up becoming the family’s very own business, with dad Michael Middleton, who’d worked as a flight dispatcher for British Airways, joining in, per The Telegraph.
During this time, Kate attended boarding school at Marlborough House, with a former classmate describing her to The Guardian as “ordinary, hard-working, athletic and easy-going.” Basically, as The Telegraph noted, “The Middletons epitomise the wholesome, upper-middle-class lifestyle — fun, but not too flashy.”
Undoubtedly, the Duchess of Cambridge was also close with her family during her formative years, and revealed that she had a “very happy childhood” while appearing on the Happy Baby, Happy Mum podcast in 2020. “My parents were hugely dedicated to us, my siblings,” Kate continued. “I really appreciate now as a parent how much they sacrificed for us … They came to every sports match, they’d be the ones on the sideline shouting, and we’d always have our family holidays together.”
Why Kate Middleton asked her friends to call her ‘Catherine’
Though we all know the Duchess of Cambridge as Kate Middleton, her first name is actually Catherine … but it wasn’t until she had a feeling she might end up as part of the royal family that she decided to start going by it. Back in 2008 — a full three years before she and Prince William would tie the knot — royal expert Adam Helliker told the Sunday Express that Middleton had reportedly sent an “awkward email” to friends with an odd request.
“I hear that in the past few weeks the former accessories buyer has quietly informed friends that she would like to drop the informal ‘Kate’ and in future wishes to be known by her full name: ‘Catherine,'” Helliker wrote. Given that the royals don’t exactly go by nicknames, and the fact that Wills’ proposal seemed imminent, it seemed Middleton was merely “preparing for her future role,” as Helliker put it. But he went on to claim that Middleton’s friends were “a little surprised,” adding that they thought she had “started to become very aware of her position.”
While Middleton has remained better known colloquially as “Kate,” it’s worth noting that her formal royal title is indeed “Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.” As for when Prince William ascends to the throne as king, as the wife of a ruling male sovereign, she will receive a new title, “Her Royal Majesty Queen Consort Catherine VI,” per Good Housekeeping.
Kate Middleton received royal training from Queen Elizabeth
It’s no secret that the British royals have to follow tons of rules, but since Kate Middleton didn’t come from a royal background, the wealthy commoner had a lot to learn when she joined the royal family. While the Duchess of Cambridge is now known to channel Princess Diana’s kindness when engaging with the public, multiple reports have claimed that it took a while for Queen Elizabeth II to warm up to Middleton and her union with her grandson. However, she eventually felt compelled to teach Middleton the ropes so she’d know how to conduct herself as a working royal while navigating her new life.
ccording to what journalist Ashley Pearson claimed in the 2017 documentary, Kate Middleton: Working Class to Windsor, Middleton began meeting with the queen before her royal wedding to Prince William. “There were things like learning how to get out of a carriage without exposing your modesty and learning how to bend down to get flowers from a young girl without exposing your modesty,” Pearson explained (via Express). She added, “There were all kinds of small details and little bits of etiquette — how to sit, who to curtsy to, who not to curtsy to, what fork to use and whatever else they felt she needed to know. She was actually given lessons on how to be a royal wife.”
Nowadays? Admirers around the world can take etiquette classes to learn how to act more like the duchess, per Body + Soul.
Kate Middleton has reportedly struggled with some aspects of being royal
Going from life as a regular citizen to a member of the royal family isn’t easy — and though Kate Middleton is usually a cool customer in public, there may have been some struggles behind the scenes in her early days of living the British royal lifestyle. Case in point: when details about the duchess’ wedding dress — namely, that it had been designed by Sarah Burton, the creative director of Alexander McQueen — were leaked before the Cambridges’ wedding in 2011.
“Behind the scenes, I think that caused tears at the Palace,” royal commentator Katie Nicholl claimed in the documentary, Secrets of the Royal Dressmakers (via Marie Claire). “Because Kate had done everything she could to keep the wedding dress a secret.” Middleton never voiced that alleged disappointment publicly, though, and it’s doubtful that she ever will — after all, that is simply not the royal way. However, this wasn’t the only aspect of royal life that she reportedly struggled with at first.
Express reports that Middleton’s independence supposedly ruffled some feathers among the royal staff shortly after she and Prince William tied the knot, leading some of the workers to eventually quit. “[She] didn’t grow up with household staff,” royal expert Ashley Pearson explained in the documentary, William & Kate: The Journey. She went on to claim, “Kate was doing a lot for herself and that didn’t sit too well with the staff.”
Kate Middleton reportedly tried to help Meghan Markle before Megxit
Unfortunately for Kate Middleton, the rumor mill seems to be a never-ending part of royal life. Case in point: ongoing claims that she didn’t try to help sister-in-law Meghan Markle fit into the royal family when she married Prince Harry in 2018.
In the 2020 book, Finding Freedom, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand explained that the so-called “dueling duchesses” had “struggled to move past distant politeness” and “didn’t have much in common,” per The Times, leaving Markle “disappointed” that she and Middleton “hadn’t bonded over the position they shared.” As reports of an alleged feud between the Sussexes and the Cambridges heated up in 2019, and Markle was hit with racist and sexist criticism in the media, Middleton allegedly “did little to bridge the divide” — apart from sending flowers for Markle’s birthday. Markle reportedly would have preferred emotional support “during the most difficult times with the press.”
Megxit would soon be in the cards, but according to the Daily Mail, Middleton apparently did try to help after Markle admitted she was struggling with life in the royal spotlight in the 2019 documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey. “William was also deeply hurt by suggestions from the Sussex camp that he, and particularly his wife, had cold-shouldered Meghan,” royal expert Rebecca English claimed in January 2021. “In fact, I have been told that Kate … repeatedly ‘reached out’ to the Duchess, particularly after she voiced her unhappiness on a television documentary. But they were rebuffed.”