The recent wedding of Prince William to his long-term girlfriend Kate has brought the Middleton family into the royal fold. And although the Middletons don’t have any aristocratic ancestors to boast about, they did raise a special daughter who always seemed destined for bigger and better things.
Make no mistake, the Middeltons have worked hard and climbed up the socio-economic ladder in recent generations, with Kate’s mother, Carole, launching a children’s party products company in 1987 which proved to be a very lucrative and successful business decision. So much so, that father Michael quit his job to help run the business.
The Middleton’s company, Party Pieces, flourishes to this day, with current estimates valuing the company around £30million – far from their more modest beginnings when they first met and married on June 21, 1980, in the quiet village of Dorney, Bucks.
Early in their marriage, they both worked for British Airways, Carole as an air hostess and Michael as a flight-dispatcher. They lived in a Victorian semi in Bradfield, Southend, Berkshire when Kate was born on January 9, 1982.
This lifestyle was in keeping with their working-class background. Carole’s gran was a carpenter’s wife from Durham with a talent for dressmaking, her great grandad John Harrison was a coal miner and her mum Dorothy was a shop assistant. Carole came from a staunchly working-class family and spent her first years in a council flat. Michael came from a line of solicitors and bank managers and his father Peter was a successful flying instructor.
However, soon after their second child Pippa was born, the Middleton’s lot in life started to to change. Michael was promoted to become a manager for British Airways and in 1984, the family moved to Amman, Jordan. The Middletons enjoyed their time in the Middle East and Kate thrived as she attended the Al-Sahera Kindergarten, managing to learn numbers, colours and her first nursery rhymes in Arabic as well as English.
After moving back to England, the Middletons started to realise the impact that Carole’s successful business
business would have on their lives. This income, in addition to reported stories that Michael’s late great-grandfather Francis Lupton, a wealthy Yorkshire wool merchant, had left his heirs £70,000 in 1921 (£1.5m today) helped the Middletons afford private educations for their daughters.
Kate attended St Andrew’s School in Pangbourne, which now costs up to £12,000 a year. Kate’s former PE teacher Denise Allford said: ‘I know it’s easy to say it now, but there was always something about her. She wasn’t particularly pretty as a young girl and she wore braces on her teeth from the age of 12. She was thin and much taller than the other girls – quite gangly, really. Her sister Pippa was the more beautiful at that
age. But Catherine was very determined, which seemed to set her apart.’
Kate excelled in all sports and even took the starring role of Eliza Doolittle in a production of My Fair Lady.
Upon leaving, she was awarded a prize for ‘all-round effort and pleasantness.’
As Kate grew older, the Middleton family moved to a five-bedroom detached home with acres of land in Bucklebury, Berks, now worth £1.5m. Kate’s private education continued as a day girl at the nearby £30,000-a-year Downe House School. Unfortunately, she was bullied into an emotional wreck and ended up moving after two terms to Marlborough College in Wiltshire where she thrived.
Classmates recall how Kate rarely joined in when everyone was getting drunk but was very popular.
Her gangly looks ironed out at A-levels and she soon started catching boys eyes. However, the only boy credited with turning her head was Willem Marx, who was invited to her wedding. A friend recalls, “Half the girls were already having sex. Kate had a couple of innocent snogs but never had a boyfriend. She had enough strength of character not to care if the other girls thought her prudish. I got the distinct impression that Kate wanted to save herself for someone special.”
And that she did.