Prince William's Friends Gave Kate and Pippa Middleton This Rude Nickname
The name stuck with insiders who didn't think Kate was in the "right class" to be dating a future king.
It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when Prince William's aristocratic friends didn't believe Kate Middleton was good enough for the future king. In fact, the prince's friends believed she was a social climber not worthy of entering their social circle, which led to merciless bullying—and there was one cruel nickname in particular they gave her and her sister, Pippa Middleton, as a result. Read on to find out what it is and for much sweeter names these royals have given each other, check out William and Kate Have Endearing, Embarrassing Nicknames for Each Other.
Kate was a socialite before she met William.
Kate's rapid ascent from her upper-middle class (and very comfortable) upbringing as the eldest daughter of Carole and Micheal Middleton was helped along with her parents' successful mail-order and online party supply business, Party Pieces. The family's upward mobility allowed the duchess—as well as Pippa and their brother, James—to attend exclusive private schools and ultimately landed Kate at the University of St. Andrew's, where she met William in 2001.
Kate and her younger sister have always been each other's best friends and were among London's young socialites who were regulars at the city's poshest clubs and parties before the future duchess met William (and again, during their short break-up in 2007). And for more on who wanted that to happen, check out This Royal Once Encouraged Prince William to Break Up With Kate Middleton.
It was the British media who first gave her the nickname that caught on with the prince's friends.
Kate and Pippa's ubiquity earned them the hurtful moniker the "wisteria sisters" in the British media who snarkily reasoned the women were "highly decorative, terribly fragrant and with a ferocious ability to climb." The name stuck with William's friends who didn't think Kate was in the "right class" to be dating a future king.
Kate certainly looked the part (her demure style echoed a young Princess Diana) when she began dating William. Her penchant for the "Sloane Ranger" wardrobe staples—Ascot-worthy Philip Treacy hats, tailored blazers, DVF wrap dresses, and Barbour jackets—didn't stop the criticism. In 2008, society chronicler Vicky Ward wrote in Vanity Fair that Kate was the target of vicious "sniping," writing: "There are plenty of snobbish insults from people who, despite Middleton's obvious attributes, believe that the monarchy needs to stop marrying 'out' of its class." Ward noted that there were some people who compared Kate and Pippa to Jackie Kennedy and her sister, Lee Bouvier, because of "their obvious desire to 'marry well.'" (Jackie became the First Lady of the United States after marrying John F. Kennedy; Lee married Prince Stanisław Albrecht "Stash" Radziwił and became a princess.) And for more on Kate's younger years, check out Kate Middleton Was Bullied in School for Being "Too Skinny and Meek."
The criticism extended to Kate's parents, and her mom in particular.
The criticism from William's friends extended to Kate's parents, particularly targeting her mother. The future duchess was fully aware that some of William's friends laughed about Carole's "Doors to Manual" past (she once worked as a flight attendant for British Airways). Ward noted one of William's snobbish friends even sniped about the Middletons' driveway at their family home saying, "Her parents have a tarmac [paved] drive, for God's sake." In the U.K., a "tarmac" drive is consider by some to seen to be "new money" as opposed to the graveled drives of large estates.
Biographer Andrew Morton has also written about how William's friends treated Kate "abominably" in the early days of their romance. "While she was seen as a 'pretty and sensible' girl, there were those in royal and aristocratic circles who believed that the Middletons were too middle-of-the-road for the House of Windsor," he observed. And for more royal news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
It's taken years, but Kate has silenced her critics.
With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's tenth wedding anniversary just a few months away, it's clear Kate has silenced her critics and become one of the most popular royals. She is also considered the family's secret weapon as they faced the dual crises of Megxit and the pandemic.
Those hurtful names William's friends once snickered over have been replaced by one that is above reproach: future Queen of England. And for more on how she's preparing to fill those shoes, check out Why Kate Middleton's Relationship With the Queen Is "Stronger Than Ever."
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.