As she celebrates her fortieth birthday, we look back on the making of Kate Middleton.

The world has watched as Catherine Elizabeth Middleton has grown from a (relatively) scruffy student into a perfectly polished princess. But she is also a cosy mum, a loving wife, a devoted daughter and an increasingly visible public servant.

Brought up in a loving family in Berkshire, Kate was always popular, pretty and accomplished. These are surely useful attributes if you go on to marry the future king – but even they can’t properly arm a person for the onslaught to come. It is testament to her strength of character that, outwardly at least, she handles the royal circus with such grace.

A close friend of hers recently told The Times: ‘Kate has a way of calming William down and knows how to be really affectionate and gentle. But she is 100 per cent loyal to him and has a shaft of steel running up her back when she needs to deal with stuff that’s unpalatable.’

Here, as the duchess turns 40, we chart her extraordinary journey.

Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire

By the time William and Kate got engaged in November 2010, we were familiar with the widely circulated photographs of Kate in a see-through dress at a fashion show at university, in her graduation robes, on roller skates at a party, shopping in the King’s Road and so on. But we’d never heard her talk. This ITV interview with Tom Bradby, the day the couple announced their engagement, gave us our first official exposure to the future Duchess of Cambridge. Giggly, obviously nervous and quietly charming, Kate began to melt the hearts of the nation that evening. Watch it here.

Going To The Chapel

Then, when she married in total splendour on April 29, 2011, she stole our hearts completely. She (and her father, for that matter) ascended the endless aisle with super-human dignity. Go on, re-watch the ceremony: it will bring a lump to the throat of the most ardent republican. Watch it here.


In March 2012, the duchess gave her first public speech – at The Treehouse Hospice in Ipswich. Smiley and gentle as ever, she seemed practiced but timid as she spoke. Few can blame her. It is no surprise that, ten years on, she has a much more natural and confident way about her. Watch it here.

Bringing Home Baby

In this low-profile podcast interview, we grasp a lot more about Kate’s personality than she usually gives away. She sounds just so real. When asked what it was like to present the new-born Prince George to the world on the steps of St. Mary’s, Paddington, she says: ‘Yeah, it was slightly terrifying, I’m not going to lie.’ She admits to having been tired, nervous and emotional, recoils at the memory of the sickness she experienced in pregnancy and recalls how much she’d underestimated the impact of motherhood. Watch it here.

Married With Kids

Filmed on a beach near their home in Norfolk, this video – released by the Duke and Duchess to mark their 10th wedding anniversary – shows a happy family, at ease in each other’s company and peaceful with their lot and a relaxed, grown-up and beautiful duchess who is clearly in her element. Watch it here.

A Marathon, Not A Sprint

The Cambridges arrived at Radio 1 to surprise presenter Adele Roberts just before she ran the 2017 London Marathon in aid of their mental-health campaign, Heads Together. In this brief but jolly radio segment, the duchess is warm and chatty and wreathed in smiles. Best of all, though, is her constant banter with William. Watch it here.

The Greatest Outfit Of All Time

The exquisite dress Kate wore last September to the premiere of the Bond movie, No Time to Die, epitomised her elegance and poise. Shimmering with sequins, the stunning golden gown was fit only for a future queen. The Jenny Packham dress was: ;Inspired by the iconic image of Jill Masterson painted in gold and laying on James Bond’s bed in the 1964 film, Goldfinger.’ The knockout duchess stole the show that night, leaving the brightest stars on the red carpet in her wake. Watch it here.

Lady In Red

Kate surprised the world when, resplendent in a Catherine Walker coat dress, she played the piano to accompany Tom Walker singing For Those Who Can’t Be Here at the concert she’d arranged, Royal Carols: Together at Christmas, last month. She’d learned piano as a child and apparently brushed up her skills during lockdown. It looks terrifyingly as though there is nothing this lady can’t do. Watch it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
January 2022

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.