The Surprising Reason William & Kate Almost Didn't Get Married, Say Sources
"He didn't want to see her suffer," an insider says.
It's been 10 years since Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge got married at Westminster Abbey in a ceremony viewed more than 70 million times on YouTube. Just as they were on that beautiful April day in 2011, the Cambridges continue to be the picture of domestic bliss a decade later, attending various events with their three adorable children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis. But there was a time when it was hardly certain that then-Kate Middleton and her prince would make it down the aisle.
As Prince Harry has said during his many interviews about his relationship with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, marrying into the Royal Family as a commoner (or as an American, in Meghan's case) comes with an overwhelming amount of pressure. William and Kate endured their own burdens that almost fractured their relationship. Read on to find out what aspect of royal couplehood became overwhelming for William and Kate and led to a breakup that nearly prevented them from getting married, according to insiders.
Like Harry with Meghan, William was worried about Kate being affected by the media intrusions that regularly drove his mother to despair.
William and Harry have both been haunted by their mother's tragic death in 1997. When an independent inquiry into the BBC's 1995 interview with Princess Diana found that it was obtained by fraudulent means earlier this year, both princes made statements mentioning how the infamous sit-down played a direct role in her death. With barely contained anger, William said, in part, "What saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived." In his statement, Harry said his mother "lost her life" as a result of the interview.
Back in Dec. 2006, the release of Operation Paget's findings of their inquiry into Diana's death reportedly triggered trauma for William. In his book William & Kate: A Royal Love Story, biographer Christopher Andersen reports that Lord Stevens, who headed up the investigation, met with William and Harry privately to tell them that Diana's death was the result of a drunk driving incident. Andersen claims William had not accepted the findings and had nightmares about Kate dying in a car crash in London while being pursued by photographers.
"With the non-stop media coverage of Kate, William worried if she was up to handling the intrusive media coverage that comes with the job of future Queen," a source told Best Life. "He didn't want to see her suffer the way his mother did."
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After they graduated college, William struggled to rein in the media's scrutiny of Kate.
The Palace and and the press had an official arrangement that, as long as he did regularly scheduled photo calls, William would be left alone during his college years at the University of St. Andrews, where he met Kate. But as the girlfriend of the prince who was not yet a member of the Royal Family, Kate was not entitled to the same protection and she was followed by paparazzi often, particularly after she and William graduated in 2005.
Once they became more public about their relationship in those post-university years, William grew more worried about Kate's security—with good reason. A scrum of photographers regularly staked out the London apartment she shared with her sister, Pippa Middleton, and sometimes chased her car down the street when she was leaving for work. It was all very reminiscent of the early days of Diana's relationship with Prince Charles, but the difference was William took action to stop it and Clarence House was looking for ways to keep the press at bay.
Andersen reports in his book that William and Kate met with the Scotland Yard detectives who headed up the prince's security detail and they advised that Kate should hire her own security. Charles decided to pay for Kate's security himself, seeing as she was alone much of the time while William was at Sandhurst for his military training, but that was short-lived when it was deemed inappropriate by the Palace.
In 2007, William became overwhelmed and broke up with Kate.
In 2007, media speculation was at its peak over rumors of an upcoming engagement. William, who continued to worry about Kate's well-being, had reportedly begun to feel weighted down by the relationship. Clarence House released a statement saying, in part, William was "very unhappy at the paparazzi harassment of his girlfriend. He wants more than anything for it to stop." In a bit of foreshadowing, the prince also stated the situation was "proving unbearable for all those concerned."
Not ready to make a long-term commitment and fearful he could never fully protect his girlfriend of six years, William called Kate while she was at her job at Jigsaw, a London-based fashion company where she was an accessories buyer, and broke up with her over the phone.
The breakup was short-lived and the couple secretly planned to marry, but the pressure from the press was affecting Kate.
Just months after their separation, William and Kate reconciled, but somehow managed to keep the news a secret for a short time. In Kate: The Future Queen, royal reporter Katie Nicholl explains the couple had made an important promise to each other to get married while on vacation soon after they got back together. "For the very first time, they talked seriously about marriage," Nicholl wrote (via The Sun). "And with the ocean before them and beneath the night sky, they made a pact to marry." Nicholl claims the couple agreed William would only get down on one knee and officially propose after he'd finished his army training.
Outside of their secret pact, Kate faced a barrage of negative tabloid coverage on everything from her suitability as a royal bride (the Middletons were deemed too "middle class") to her decision to date William for many years seemingly with no engagement in sight (the press dubbed her "Waity Katy," which she reportedly hated).
Today, Kate is "the greatest asset" the Royal Family has in the midst of a myriad of family crisis.
By the time William and Kate finally married on April 29, 2011, Kate had weathered countless media storms and was a steadying force in William's life, proving she was, in fact, willing and quite capable of taking on the role of future Queen.
At the time, one royal watcher told me of their wedding day that Kate "had the poise and grace of a future Queen from the minute she began her walk up the aisle. She knew more of what she was getting into than Diana did had because she'd been with William for so long."
In the years since, Kate has proven herself to be masterful at handling the media and in recent years, she has been dubbed the Royal Family's "secret weapon." After Harry and Meghan stepped down as senior royals and left for America in early 2020, Kate and William increased the number of joint appearances they made, while the duchess made sure to keep the media focus on a myriad of issues they are passionate about, like mental health and early childhood development.
When the pandemic hit, Kate was a ubiquitous presence online, hosting Zoom meetings with National Health Service workers, teachers, and parents of young children, discussing ways to cope when both Prince William and Prince Charles were felled by the virus. Her "Hold Still" photography contest and exhibition of images taken by the British public during lockdown earned her high marks from Queen Elizabeth and her popularity with the public soared.
Earlier this year, she also subtly arranged for William and Harry to be seen talking publicly for the first time since Megxit after Prince Philip's funeral, when she made sure the brothers walked together as the family left St. George's Chapel. After briefly keeping in step with William and Harry, she slipped back so they could walk on alone, within view of the cameras, to Windsor Castle.
"That was the media moment for the Royal Family this year and proved the former 'Waity Kaity' is quite skillful in using [the media] to the royals' advantage," an insider told Best Life. "William need not have ever worried. She is the greatest media asset they have right now."