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Outrageous story behind iconic Kate pic

March 26 is a momentous day in the annals of royal history. Every year, the day slips by unmarked by any sort of flag-waving jollity or official Instagram post celebrations, but no matter because that date marks the anniversary of an event that irrevocably changed the future of house of Windsor.That’s because on March 26,…

March 26 is a momentous day in the annals of royal history. Every year, the day slips by unmarked by any sort of flag-waving jollity or official Instagram post celebrations, but no matter because that date marks the anniversary of an event that irrevocably changed the future of house of Windsor.

That’s because on March 26, 2002, in a 1970s Scottish building that housed the St Andrews’ University Student Union, one particular brunette undergraduate sashayed down the runway in a sheer creation of dubious sartorial merit as part of a charity fashion show and the rest is quite literally, history.

According to various royal biographers it was on that day that Kate Middleton clad in knickers, bra and some sort of sheer number managed to make the future King of Great Britain utter the immortally romantic words: “Wow. Kate’s hot!”

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Now, sure, we all know the iconic image of her on the catwalk, but now Battle of Brothers, a new bombshell book by a esteemed royal biographer Robert Lacey (set to hit the shelves next week) is offering up new, tantalising details about William and Kate’s early romance, with claims their path to the altar was bumpier than people might realise.

But back to that night in the (let’s assume) draughty Student Union building. (It was March after all and northern Scotland is not exactly known for its balmy weather.)

Because, just how much a part did serendipity play in both of them ending up at the same university? Or did it all come down to some very clear-eyed planning?

Here’s the (widely reported) deal.

Both Lacey and fellow royal biographer Katie Nicholl have both claimed that Kate and Wills had met each other while teenagers, he a student at Eton and she at Marlborough.

In 2000, Kate received her A-levels (the British equivalent of the HSC) and applied and got into the University of Edinburgh where she was set to study alongside two of her best friends Emilia d’Erlanger and Alice St John Webster.

The same year, William announced that he was going to take a gap year and then undertake a history of art degree at St Andrews. (In the wake of the announcement, applications to attend the small university shot up by 44 per cent)

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Suddenly, Kate changed her mind too, ditching her place at Edinburgh, deciding to take a gap year similarly and to also study at St Andrews.

As Lacey writes, “Did Catherine Middleton, 18, suddenly discover the virtues of the history of art course offered by the University of St Andrews? Or did she apply to St Andrews because she wanted to meet a Prince?”

It’s a very, very interesting question.

Fast forward to 2001 when they both landed in the Scottish university town, William and Kate moved in the same upper class circles and both lived in the St Salvator’s Hall of residence. In early 2002, on that fateful day in March, Kate had been cast out of hundreds of hopefuls as one of the amateur runway stars for the Don’t Walk fashion show.

We all know what happened next: The Prince spied Kate in her knickers and lightning bolts hit.

However, here’s where things get particularly interesting: Kate had never been slated to model the totally sheer number. Rather, both Lacey and Nicholls have reported that the Charlotte Todd-designed number actually had a chunky knit that was meant to go over the top of the see-through get up. At the last minute, the future Princess ditched the jumper and hoisted the skirt up to wear it as a strapless dress.

It’s hard not to wonder why given she knew that William was in the audience alongside a slew of her other mates.

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Later that evening, Sands told Nicholls, “They kissed at the end of the night. They were both standing up in the corner of the living room … It was dark, there were lots of people, and the music was playing very loud. Everyone pretended that they weren’t taking much notice, but it went round St. Andrews like wildfire afterwards.”

Others have suggested that Kate played things somewhat more demurely on that March night and there was not quite so much public snogging.

No matter, cupid had done his bit and the duo soon became a (discrete) item. That is until 2004 when they were spotted together on the slopes in Klosters in Switzerland and the worst kept secret in Scotland was out: William was in lurrrrvvvve.

Now, the prevailing William and Kate storyline goes thus: University romance, London romance, very brief split, London romance, engagement.

Yet the picture that Lacey paints in Brothers (based on what has thus far been made publicly available) is far rockier.

In September 2002, William asked Kate along with friends Fergus Boyd and Olivia Beasdale to move into a house off campus and then in 2004, which would be their final year, the lovebirds moved into a house of their own.

(Get this: According to Lacey, Wills’ contribution to their home’s decor was a glass-fronted champagne fridge and a “large oil painting of his grandmother”.) And then trouble hit. (Curiously, it had nothing to do with Gan Gan watching over their every move.)

In the summer of 2004, per Lacey, William “rather welcomed the mischievous suggestion of his friend from childhood, Guy Pelly, that he might leave Kate at home and join his friend on a ‘boys only’ sailing trip to Greece. And Pelly made another suggestion: that the yacht might be staffed and operated by an all-female crew. Kate was not impressed, and made sure William knew it.”

The couple briefly split, only to seemingly patch things up once term started again in September.

But as both Shakespeare and Kate know all too well, the course of true love never did run smooth.

After university, William was off to begin his military training, a must given that one day he will be the head of the armed forces. Kate moved into a Chelsea flat her parents had bought for her and sister Pippa and settled into a life of … not much.

As William’s girlfriend her every move was dogged by a horde of press making finding a job somewhat tricky. In 2006, the owner of the fashion brand Jigsaw came to the rescue and offered Kate a gig as a part-time accessories buyer for the label’s kids wear line.

Kate evidently did a very Kate job of it, by which I mean she was diligent, hardworking and polite, often eating lunch in the staff canteen alongside her colleagues.

That year, Lacey reports, the Queen broke with tradition and extended an invitation to Kate to join the royal family for Christmas. (Up and until then it was strictly for married couples only.)

However, her decision to turn down the historic offer ended up backfiring.

“Kate had her own take on that break with tradition: she would go to Sandringham on Christmas Day only when she was engaged and had a ring to prove it,” Lacey writes. “Pressurising William, however, was not the way to make him change his mind. Indeed, the newly commissioned officer had begun to worry whether he had not found the right girl at the wrong time.”

Then, on April 11, it all came crashing down.

“Kate excused herself from a meeting at Jigsaw … to take a call from William in a room out of earshot of the other buyers. She shut the door for more than an hour. When she came out, she was single,” according to Lacey.

In retrospect, there is something particularly cold-blooded about ditching one’s girlfriend of five years via a phone call and during the work day. Still, Kate had a few aces up her sleeve.

She didn’t handle her break-up by tearfully slogging her way through litres of pinot grigio a la a posh Bridget Jones. Instead, she joined an all-women’s dragon boat rowing crew that was preparing to cross the Channel, thus ensuring the papers were chock full of shots of looking decidedly toned and confident. What Prince?

Then, Kate’s coup de grace. Despite being broken up, the former couple had reportedly remained in touch and in early June both attended a party at a mutual friend’s 17th century manor house, as you do. Then, on June 9, William invited Kate to attend a dress up party at his barracks.

And there, the woman who will one day be Queen, turned up wearing a nurse’s uniform, “a rather sexy one in fishnet tights and a short dress, for a Freakin’ Naughty – themed fancy dress party,” according to Nicholl.

She writes in Kate: The Future Queen that “William followed her around “like a lost puppy,” according to one guest who said they stayed on the dance floor most of the night.

“They couldn’t keep their hands off each other,” Nicholls quotes an eyewitness recounting. “William didn’t care that people were looking.”

And that was pretty much that. Within three years they were engaged, the whopping sapphire and diamond ring that had belonged to his mother Diana, Princess of Wales now on Kate’s left hand.

What is so interesting here about the new details offered up by Lacey and reinvesting Nicholls’ book (a must for any Kate-philes) is the idea that Kate, far from being some damsel just waiting for her dashing prince to sweep her off her feet, might have known exactly what she wanted – and how to get it – from day one.

These days, Kate has become the human embodiment of a Laura Ashley advertisement, all benevolent smiles, maternal gentility and pretty pastels. She might be beautiful, she might be loved by vast swathes of the world, and she might be lauded for never, ever putting a foot wrong but there is a curious passive, asexual quality to Kate’s image.

And that is why this idea of Kate ditching a jumper to walk the runway in her knickers in front of a crowd and Kate donning a nurse’s outfit and fishnets are so beguiling. They suggest that under that perfect blow-dry, under that poise and under all that ceaseless, interminable perfection is a woman who perhaps might just have known exactly what she was doing all along.

There is something unquestionably tantalising about the notion that Kate (rightly or wrongly) might have been strategising and planning to snag her prince and the job of a lifetime. It gives her something of a saucy and an ambitious edge which runs so deliciously counter to her image today.

And, I don’t know about you, but if this is all true, it makes me like her so much more. So, long live Queen Kate and her (maybe) secret, cunning and naughty side.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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