Prince William and Kate Middleton finally cross paths during the final season of Netflix’s ‘The Crown’
At long last, The Crown has introduced the modern-day royal romance of Kate Middleton and Prince William.
The hit Netflix series has chronicled decades of the British royal family’s triumphs and hardships since its debut in 2016, from the start of Queen Elizabeth’s reign to the unraveling of King Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage. Now in its sixth and final season, The Crown is tackling the early days of Prince William and Kate’s relationship as students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
In part 2 of the final season — which dropped on Dec. 14 — Ed McVey and Meg Bellamy recreate William and Kate’s time as college students. But how accurate is The Crown‘s depiction of their legendary love story? While it is true that the Prince and Princess of Wales met during their freshman year, the series took a few creative liberties to tell the tale.
From their first introduction in Scotland to Kate’s catwalk moment that caught Prince William’s eye, here’s the true story of how Prince William and Kate Middleton met.
Did Prince William and Kate Middleton actually meet as teenagers?
Episode 7 of The Crown, titled “Alma Mater,” begins with a young Kate and her mother, Carole Middleton, running into Princess Diana and Prince William while Christmas shopping, but that introduction is entirely fictional.
In real life, Prince William and Kate met as freshmen at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 2001. During their engagement interview in 2010, Kate touched on the origin of their first meeting, telling William, “I think you said I actually went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off. [I was] feeling very shy about meeting you.”
However, according to Katie Nicholl, royal biographer and author of Kate: The Future Queen, the future Prince and Princess of Wales might have initially crossed paths during their secondary schooling days in the ’90s. “I was speaking to some of her friends at Marlborough [College], which is where she went before St. Andrews, and they said, ‘Uh-uh, she didn’t meet him at St. Andrews, she met him before she got there, while she was at school during her sixth form through some of her friends,’ ” Nicholl told Katie Couric on a 2013 episode of Katie.
And while The Crown also shows a teenage Kate hanging posters of Prince William in her childhood bedroom, the Princess of Wales has denied having pictures of her future husband hanging on her walls. “He wishes! No, I had the Levi’s guy on my wall,” Kate admitted during her engagement interview. “Not a picture of William. Sorry.”
Did Prince William and Kate Middleton take gap years before attending St. Andrews?
Yes, after William and Kate graduated from Eton College and Marlborough, respectively, in 2000, they took a gap year before enrolling at St. Andrews in the fall of 2001.
During this time, Prince William trained with the Welsh Guard in Belize, worked on construction projects in Chile with Raleigh International and learned about wildlife and game conservation in Africa. Kate also did charity work in Chile with the same organization (though they were in the country at different times), as well as studied at the British Institute in Florence and rowed crew with Round the World Challenge in the Solent strait.
In The Crown, viewers see William and Kate bond over their shared gap year experiences while students at St. Andrews. However, the series also suggests that Kate never intended to take a gap year — or attend St. Andrews at all. According to The Crown, Kate initially planned to enroll at the University of Edinburgh, also in Scotland, immediately after graduating from Malborough but changed her plans at the last minute at her mother’s insistence.
While the Princess of Wales has never commented on her decision to attend St. Andrews, a career adviser at Marlborough, Jasper Selwyn, has claimed that Kate was accepted to Edinburgh, telling the Daily Mail in 2013, “Kate’s firm choice was Edinburgh, and that was confirmed.”
Did Prince William and Kate Middleton date other people before getting together?
Even though Kate and Prince William became “very close friends” during their first year at St. Andrews, they dated other people before their friendship turned romantic.
According to Nicholl, Prince William enjoyed a brief relationship with fellow student Carley Massey-Birch during his first semester. “Carley was also a country girl, which appealed to William — he had been brought up in the Gloucestershire countryside,” Nicholl wrote in her 2011 book The Making of a Royal Romance. Although Massey-Birch wasn’t portrayed in the Netflix drama, the show featured a relationship between Prince William and a girl named Lola Airdale-Cavendish-Kincaid.
Kate also dated fellow student Rupert Finch, who was in his fourth year at St. Andrews. In The Crown, Finch is portrayed by Oli Green.
Did Kate Middleton and Prince William’s friendship turn romantic after she wore a sheer dress at a fashion show?
A 20-year-old Kate really did walk the runway in a sheer black dress while studying at St. Andrews — and Prince William really did sit in the front row!
The moment occurred during a 2002 fashion show at St. Andrews titled “The Art of Seduction.” Kate wore multiple looks down the runway, but the lingerie-style dress — which was designed by fellow student Charlotte Todd and was originally intended to be a skirt — is the one that reportedly caught the prince’s eye.
“Everyone says that the fashion show was when the romance started, so a small part of me will always be part of royal history,” Todd told PEOPLE in 2020. “It’s madness!”
The slip, which only cost $50 to make, sold at auction for $125,000 in 2011.
The Crown recreated Kate’s famous catwalk scene during its final season, where Bellamy strutted the runway wearing a nearly identical version of Kate’s sheer number.