The Romantic Details Behind William's Proposal to Kate You May Not Know
"It was a total shock when it came," said the soon-to-be Duchess Catherine.
On April 29 of this year, Prince William and Duchess Catherine will mark their milestone tenth wedding anniversary. William and Kate have been the very picture of royal domestic bliss during this trying past year, with the couple's popularity at an all time high and the brightest hope for their future. But it all started with a stunningly intimate proposal William arranged for Kate more than a decade ago, which will go down in the annals of royal history as one of the most romantic of all time.
There was, however, a time when it seemed their long courtship would not lead them to the altar at Westminster Abbey. After meeting at St. Andrew's University in 2001, William and Kate dated for six years until William broke up with his longtime love (over the phone, no less) in April 2007 because he felt he wasn't ready to commit to marriage in the near future.
The breakup didn't last long and by that summer, the couple had reunited with William promising Kate there would be a proposal some time in the near future. The British press gave Kate the cruel moniker "Waity Katy," ridiculing her for waiting around for a ring. But Kate's patience paid off when William finally popped the question in 2010. Read on for all the sweet details of the proposal you may not have heard before. And for more on their cutest moments together, check out William and Kate's Most Adorable Couples Moments Through the Years.
William had to broker a deal to give Kate his mother's engagement ring.
When it came time to select the ring, William knew from the start he wanted Kate to have his mother's iconic sapphire and diamond engagement ring, which required a conversation with Prince Harry. When Princess Diana died, the boys, then 15 and 12, asked to choose something that belonged to their mother as a special memento, as Diana's butler, Paul Burrell, revealed in the 2017 Amazon documentary The Diana Story. Harry chose Diana's engagement ring, while William selected her gold Cartier watch. With no plans to marry in the foreseeable future, Harry agreed to swap with his brother. The prince also required Queen Elizabeth's permission to remove the ring from the safe where the family's jewelry was kept. Her Majesty was thrilled William was finally going to marry Kate and gave her blessing immediately.
William later revealed the surprising place he had kept the £250,000 ($500,000) bauble in the couple's first joint interview with the BBC. "I had been carrying it around with me in my rucksack for about three weeks before [proposing]," he said. "Everywhere I went, I was keeping ahold of it, cause I knew if this thing disappeared, I'd be in a lot of trouble." And for more on what happened to Diana's watch, check out Meghan Markle's Gold Cartier Watch Once Belonged to Princess Diana.
The prince took Kate to Africa and waited until the last day of the trip to pop the question.
In Oct. 2010, William took Kate to Africa for a holiday, having decided he would propose to her in Kenya. "I just knew I wanted it to feel comfortable where I did it and I wanted it to mean something, other than just the act of getting engaged," he later told CNN. "[Kate] understands what it means to me being in Africa, and my love of conservation."
After numerous days spent alone in the wild, camping in tents in Ishak Bin, one the most remote spots in the north, they flew to Lewa Downs where they stayed at the home and game preserve of Ian and Jane Craig, the parents of Jecca Craig (who happened to be William's former girlfriend).
Just when Kate thought there was no hope of a proposal, William surprised his girlfriend with an overnight stay at Il Ngwesi Lodge in a secluded cabin on the shores of Lake Rutundu. Their rustic cabin was hardly luxurious, but it was the tranquil lakeside setting that served as the perfect backdrop for the long-awaited proposal on the last full day of their trip.
Last year, during his speech at Buckingham Palace's reception marking the U.K.-Africa Investment Summit, William shared some details about the proposal with Kate in the audience. "The African continent holds a very special place in my heart," he explained. "It is the place my father took my brother and me shortly after our mother died. And when deciding where best to propose to Catherine, I could think of no more fitting place than Kenya to get down on one knee." And for more royal updates delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
William asked for Michael Middleton's permission to marry his daughter—and swore him to secrecy.
When the newly engaged couple returned from Africa, they decided to keep their news secret for the time being. William arranged for Kate's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, to be invited to Balmoral, the Queen's Scottish retreat, for the weekend. It was the first time that the Middletons had been asked to join the family at the castle. William took Michael aside just before dinner on that Saturday evening and asked him for his permission to marry his daughter, which was given immediately. The prince then swore Kate's father to silence, but he had not yet spoken to the Queen, who first needed to be informed as per royal protocol.
It's not clear whether or not Kate's mother was told about the engagement at the time. The duchess later said during their BBC interview, "We knew we had quite an awkward situation because I knew that William had asked my father [for permission to marry] but I didn't know if my mother knew." After the weekend in Scotland, Kate recalled that her mother "didn't make it clear to [her] whether she knew or not."
Kate said the proposal was a "total shock" and called William a "true romantic."
After William and Kate did their first photo call as an engaged couple, they sat down with the BBC for the requisite post-engagement announcement interview on Nov. 16, 2010. The happy couple spoke to interviewer Tom Bradby (the same journalist who interviewed Harry and Duchess Meghan in Africa, signaling there was trouble within the royal ranks). Sitting side by side, with a glowing Kate wearing the dazzling 18-carat sparkler on her left hand, William talked about why he chose to give his fiancée Diana's ring and how it felt not being able to share this milestone with his mother. "Obviously, she's not going be around to share in all the fun and excitement, so this is my way of keeping her close to it all," he said.
William also addressed the timing of the proposal saying, "As every guy out there will know, it takes a certain amount of motivation to get yourself going. So I was planning it and then it just felt really right out in Africa. It was beautiful."
A clearly excited but slightly nervous Kate said of the engagement and her fiance, "It was a total shock when it came. There's a true romantic in there." And for more cuteness from this couple, check out William and Kate Have Endearing, Embarrassing Nicknames for Each Other.