Kate Middleton, the wife of Prince William has handled life in the spotlight with the grace and good humour that the public has come to expect from her.
Back in 2000, as a pupil of Marlborough College, she can scarcely have imagined the implications her choice of university would have.
Reviewing the reading material for her course, she can have had little idea that a brush with one particular fellow student would mean all her decisions from fashion choices to the name of a new puppy would come under intense scrutiny.
Signing up for a degree in History of Art at St Andrews brought her into the orbit of William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor, second in line to the throne and the future King.
As housemates sharing a cottage in the Scottish town, Kate and the Prince fell for each other, and embarked on a romance that became a source of media interest across the world.
At St Andrews the duo were protected from tabloid scrutiny by a gentleman’s agreement between newspaper editors and the royal household. The slender brunette, who did well in both her school and university exams, would have been all too aware that the bubble of privacy would burst as soon as they graduated, however.
University over, the Prince and his sweetheart moved to London where they found themselves facing new challenges. Kate set up home in the capital and accepted a position as a junior buyer with High Street fashion chain Jigsaw. Her royal beau, meanwhile, threw himself into the rigours of military training.
While her sudden celebrity can’t have been easy for the young graduate, she handled herself with poise and dignity.
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born – the eldest of three children – on January 9, 1982, to Carol and Michael, both former British Airways employees.
She grew up in a modest home in Bucklebury, Berkshire, where her family ran a party supplies business. This stable middle class upbringing stood her in good stead during the transition period.
The romance between the Bucklebury lass and her blue-blooded beau appeared to be going from strength to strength, with Kate joining William, his father and brother, on several skiing holidays.
By early 2006, speculation was rife that an engagement announcement was imminent, with one High Street store even going so far as to commission commemorative memorabilia. It came as a shock to royal watchers, therefore, to discover in April that the pair had called time on the romance and were to go their own ways.
The separation didn’t last long, however. By June there was speculation they’d rekindled their romance. And this seemed to be confirmed when in July Kate, accompanied by her mum, attended the Concert For Diana at Wembley Stadium – although the couple sat two rows apart and insisted they were “just good friends”.
With reports they’d decided to give their romance a second chance filling the papers, the couple were careful to conduct their relationship out of the limelight, and were rarely seen out clubbing together at their old haunts.
In late 2007, Kate resigned from her job at Jigsaw and later went on to take up a production post with her parents’ firm. Working for mum and dad meant she was able to take time out to join the Prince on foreign holidays, support him on the sidelines at polo matches and attend family events as their relationship once again grew in strength.
In November 2010, Clarence House confirmed that Prince William had proposed to Kate a month earlier, and that the couple were engaged and set to marry.
On April 29 2011, Kate officially stepped into the royal circle and left her previous life as a commoner behind.
The setting for the wedding of the century was Westminster Abbey. The bride was radiant in an Alexander McQueen ivory lace and silk dress featuring rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock motifs, representing the four countries of the United Kingdom.
She walked out Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge; from now on her every move would be headline news around the globe.
Fashionistas approved of her ‘high-low’ style, which married designer labels with High Street brands such as Topshop, Reiss and Zara.
The Duchess also won plaudits for her charity work with organisations such as Action on Addiction, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice, The Scout Association and The National Portrait Gallery benefitting from her support.
There have been tricky moments along way such as when she and her husband were photographed in intimate circumstances on a holiday in France.
Aides issued a strongly worded statement on their behalf saying: “The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to The Duke and Duchess for being so.”
French courts granted the Cambridges an injunction against publishers of the images.
Their unity and natural rapport has delivered other notable successes including their tour of Canada and the United States shortly after their wedding, their support for Team GB at the Olympics and the triumph of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
When it was announced in 2012 that Kate was expecting her first child the reaction was one of universal delight. On 22 July the following year, she gave birth to a little boy whom the couple named George Alexander Louis.
Named for the Queen’s father and grandfather, he will eventually reign as King George VII. His arrival was celebrated with gun salutes in Green Park and the Tower of London, while the bells at Westminster Abbey rang for three hours continuously.
The couple showed their little Prince off in a photocall outside St Mary’s Hospital, London before whisking him off to the Middleton family home.
The King who will occupy the throne toward the end of the 21st century was to spend the first weeks of his life outside the walls of a palace, giving him the sort of excellent start that his mother herself had.
In September 2014, the royal couple announced that Kate was expecting again and George was soon to have a sibling.