After closing the chapter on Princess Diana, The Crown creeps closer to the present day in its final batch of episodes. Now set in the early 2000s, Prince William (played by Ed McVey) takes center stage as he grieves his mother, grapples with his growing responsibilities as future king, and, of course, falls in love with Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy). In real life, the royal couple have since wed in front of millions worldwide and continue to make headlines with their growing family. So, where did it all start?
The simple answer to the question, which the Prince and Princess of Wales have shared themselves, is that they met at St. Andrews University in Scotland.
“We were friends for over a year first, and then it sort of blossomed from then on,” Prince William said during a joint interview with Kate following their engagement in 2010. “We just spent more time with each other and had a good giggle, had lots of fun, and realized that we shared the same interests and had a really good time.”
Kate added, “I actually think I went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off, feeling very shy about meeting you. But actually William wasn’t there [during freshers week] so it did take a bit of time for us to get to know each other. But we did become very close friends from quite early on.”
According to The Crown’s version of events, there was no singular meet-cute but rather a series of encounters through the years: As kids, Kate donates to a charity Princess Diana is promoting and crosses paths with William there. While both at St. Andrews, they have the same art history class and pass each other around campus, swimming laps in the same pool and chatting in the library. It turns out they spent their gap year doing the same program in Chile, too.
While William and Kate both dated other people at first, they eventually ended up together. Part of the reason why, the show argues, is the strategic mind of Kate’s mother, Carole Middleton (Eve Best). It’s because of her that Kate switched her college of choice from Edinburgh University to St. Andrews—after William announced he was going there—and planned for her to go to Florence, then Chile, where William was expected to be. She even influences Kate into taking action when she learns that William is miserable at St. Andrews. And sure enough, later that night, Kate texts William asking him not to leave.
Meg Bellamy and Ed McVey play Kate and William in season 6 of The Crown.
In reality, there are several reports that William and Kate did cross paths before college, which Tina Brown dives into in her juicy 2022 book, The Palace Papers. Kate, as a young girl, played a match for her school’s hockey team at William’s prep school, Ludgrove. Years later, she became friends with Emilia d’Erlanger and Alice St John Webster, who “moved in William’s circles.” d’Erlanger even invited her to a house party that William was also invited to, Brown reports.
When it came time for college, it’s true that Kate was set to attend Edinburgh University with a few of her friends; they had even secured a dorm together. (Some of her teachers spoke to royal correspondent Katie Nicholl for her 2013 book, The Future Queen.) But Kate pulled out at the last minute to take a gap year and later attend St. Andrews instead. As Nicholl writes, that move “was a big risk—applicants to St. Andrews had shot up by nearly 50 percent when the Palace announced that Prince William was going there.”
Just as The Crown suggests, Brown implies that Kate’s mother, Carole, was behind this decision. “It is unlikely Kate would be where she is today without her mother’s canny help in negotiating a royal romance,” she writes in The Palace Papers.
“Carole has considerable strategic flair,” Brown explains, per Harper’s Bazaar Australia. “Whenever Kate was bloodied in the ring, she retreated to Bucklebury, where Coach Carole would dress her wounds, advise her on moves, and urge her to keep her eyes on the prize.” This isn’t unlike the version of events seen on The Crown.
Brown adds, “Carole’s fingerprints are all over Kate’s first move on the royal chessboard.” And when Kate and William were finally dating, if they ever hit “a speed bump,” Kate would return home “for strategy sessions with Carole,” Brown reports. Of course, the real Carole Middleton hasn’t commented on these reports herself. The party decor entrepreneur remains rather private despite her daughter’s very public-facing role.
Kate and Carole Middleton in 2011.
But The Crown portrays Carole not solely as a schemer but as a mother convinced she’s doing what’s best for her daughter. She could see how smitten young Kate was with William and how she hung photos of him in her bedroom. (In the real-life engagement interview, when asked about the rumors she hung up William’s pictures, Kate said she actually had a Levi’s model hanging on her wall.) But she went on with her plan without realizing her daughter outgrew her celebrity crush. “What if William isn’t right for me? What about what I want?” Kate tells her mother in one scene. As history showed, however, Carole ended up being right.
Kate would go on to catch William’s eye at that infamous fashion show, and they’d later live in a flat together with other friends. “It blossomed from there, really,” the future king said in their engagement interview. “We saw more of each other and hung out a bit more.” In the years after graduating, they went public with their relationship, briefly broke up, reunited, got engaged in 2010, and wed a year later.
There’s a lot we still don’t know about Kate, which is “by design,” royal reporter and Endgame author Omid Scobie says. “Perhaps more than anything else, Kate has learned what is paramount for survival in the system: vanishing into your role, giving away nothing, and allowing yourself to embody what the public sees in you,” he writes. That may change now that she’s in a new chapter of her royal career, no longer the Duchess of Cambridge, but the Princess of Wales and future queen. And there’s no doubt this final chapter of The Crown will spark even more intrigue around her.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.