Prince William and Kate Middleton are such an iconic couple that it’s hard to imagine them not being together.
It’s a well-known fact that they have a long history — they first met in college about 18 years ago and quickly fell in love. But the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge actually crossed paths for the first time long before that.
According to royal biographer Katie Nicholl, Kate first laid eyes on William when they were only 9 years old.
Will and Kate both attended prep schools near each other, and their schools used to play each other in sports. One day, Will showed up at Kate’s school for a hockey match.
“Although [Kate] wasn’t especially interested in boys, the arrival of one particular young man had caught her attention,” Katie writes in her book Kate: The Future Queen.
Spoiler alert: It was Prince William! And what 9-year-old girl could possibly resist a young prince?
Most royal fans know the story of Kate and William’s romance. They met in college, parted ways a couple of times, then ultimately found their way back to each other. It was basically fate!
But the two have a history that goes back way further.
Kate actually saw William for the first time all the way back in elementary school. She attended St. Andrew’s Prep, while Will attended Ludgrove Prep.
The two schools used to play each other in sports, and it was at a hockey match that Kate first laid eyes upon her future husband.
Royal expert and biographer Katie Nicholl explains in her book:
“Although [Kate] wasn’t especially interested in boys, the arrival of one particular young man had caught her attention. Nearby Ludgrove Prep school would often play matches against St. Andrew’s Prep, and there was much excitement when Prince William, a left back on Ludgrove’s Colts team, came to St. Andrew’s to play a hockey match when he was nine years old.”
“William, like Kate, loved sports and was one of the best hockey and rugby players in his year. Of course, the arrival of the prince generated a flurry of excitement,” Katie wrote.
Will was accompanied by a fleet of protection officers and guards — but he was also, y’know, a real-life prince!
“It was the first time Kate had set her eyes on the young prince, but certainly not the last.”
Later, the two would officially meet for the first time during their days at the University of St. Andrews. They were both pretty awkward during that first meeting.
“I actually went bright red when I met you and scuttled off feeling very shy about meeting you,” Kate reminded Will during their engagement interview in 2010, per the Express.
Also, Will reportedly spilled a drink all over himself.
“William wasn’t there for quite a bit of the time initially,” Kate said, per the Express. “He wasn’t there from Fresher’s 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.”
Their close friendship soon led to a long-term relationship that drew the attention of the entire world.
Will and Kate didn’t enjoy a completely smooth fairy-tale ride toward marriage, though. They broke up twice before they got married.
That was allegedly William’s idea, not Kate’s, though she admits that it was ultimately for the best.
“At the time I wasn’t very happy about it, but it actually made me a stronger person,” she said, according to Harper’s Bazaar. “You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realized. I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you are younger, and I really valued that time for me as well, although I didn’t think it at the time.”
Eventually, the two realized that they wanted only each other. They got engaged in 2010 — nine years after they’d first met in college. Kate, who had been working since college, moved to Wales so she could be near Will as he trained for the British Royal Air Force.
Prince William proposed to Kate during a trip to Kenya, using his late mother Princess Diana’s 18-carat sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring.
By the next year, they were married. Fun fact: Kate included a flower called the Sweet William in her wedding bouquet. Cuuute!
In 2013, the couple welcomed their first child, Prince George. He was followed by two more siblings, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, over the next few years.
They’re now a picture-perfect royal family of five. One of their favorite family activities is skiing, which calls back to Kate and Will’s early days as a couple. It was on a ski trip during college that the two were first outed as a couple to the public.
It’s been a full 28 years since Kate first laid eyes on William on that fateful day in elementary school! This month, the couple will celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary.
It’s truly a love story for the ages.