Kate Middleton Was "Desperately Unhappy" and Tortured by Bullies at Her First Secondary School, Downe House

Kate Middleton was reportedly tortured by bullies at her first secondary school, Downe House. Katie Nicholl details the experience in Kate: The Future Queen.

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Kate Middleton is probably one of the most popular, beloved humans on the planet today, but back in high school, she was apparently the target of some intense bullying. In her book Kate: The Future Queen, royal expert/biographer Katie Nicholl gave a deep dive account into Kate's real-life Mean Girls experience—and a rebuttal from her former headmistress who says the bullying wasn't actually a ~thing~.

Here's what you need to know about Kate's high school bully struggles, which ultimately lead the future duchess to change schools.

Nicholl offers a few reasons why Kate was targeted by bullies. First, when Kate arrived at her first high school (known as "secondary school" across the pond), Downe House, she was 13. Since the school accepted younger students and many of her classmates had been going there since they were 11, Kate was already the "new kid."

"It does make a difference going from eleven," another former Downe House student named Georgina Rylance told the Sunday Times, according to Nicholl"You have two years of bonding, your first time away all together. Even some of the most popular girls in my school had a hard time when they came in at thirteen."

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If starting at the school at 13 was strike one, then deciding to be a "day pupil" (a student who lived at home and commuted to campus every day instead of living in the dorms as a boarder) was strike two. So many people Nicholl cites from the time were obsessed with the fact that Kate was a "day girl" and what a huge mistake that decision was.

"In boarding schools a lot of the boding takes place late at night, or at the weekends, going to the local sweetshop," Rylance explained.

Strike three was just run-of-the-mill, could-happen-at-any-school bullying though. Downe House was reportedly a cliquey place and Kate stood out "for the wrong reasons." Per Nicholl:

"Being especially slender and a head taller than her peers, she stood out for the wrong reasons and was teased for being gangly and lanky."

In a word, Downe House was cliquey. According to Downe House alum Emma Sayle, who was four years ahead of Kate at the boarding school, it was basically the embodiment of all the things that make for a toxic social environment.

"It is a very cliquey school and there was a lot of pressure," she said. "The girls were all high achievers, and there were lots of girls with eating disorders. Everyone wanted to be the best, the fittest, the prettiest. I think Kate was miserable from the start."

So, you might not know it to look at her being all prim and proper and "rubbish at soccer" today, but Kate was a full-on jock when she was a kid and the one place she should have been able to find her tribe of friends was on the hockey field. Unfortunately for Kate, who was an amazing hockey player as a kid, Downe House didn't have a team. They only offered lacrosse, which she had never played in her life, and even though she went out for the team, things didn't go great.

[image id='fd208c72-61a6-4ec9-8432-965095fde8bb' mediaId='b565961e-3488-4456-b28a-bd08341b1003' align='center' size='medium' share='false' caption='Kate with her hockey team at her first school, St. Andrews. ' expand='' crop='1x1'][/image]

"Even when it came to sports, where she should have excelled, Kate found she was out of her league," Nicholl wrote. "The predominant game at Downe House was lacrosse, which she had never played, and there was no hockey on the curriculum."

According to Kate's old headmistress, Susan Cameron, Kate blew the tryout, which she says would have been a "crushing disappointment" for Kate:

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Yes, there were a lot of specific strikes against the school for Kate: She was a "day girl," she was a latecomer to the class, she was gangly and targeted by bullies, she didn't make the lacrosse team. But it was more than that. According to Nicholl, Kate just fundamentally didn't fit in with the kind of person who went to Downe House. Per Nicholl:

And this "not good enough" vibe wasn't just in Kate's head, apparently. According to Sayle, Downe House students judged each other pretty ruthlessly on their class, background, and looks.

For what it's worth, Cameron, the headmistress (who apparently met with the Middletons several times during this period, presumably as they were like, "Hey, our daughter seems miserable, so can you help?") majorly downplays the bullying claims.

In a statement on the situation, Cameron implies that Kate was just being too sensitive and wasn't really bullied and then, in the next breath, admits that girls at Downe House (and girls in general, in her assessment) are "cliquey" and "cruel" and that they actively target the weakest among their ranks to tease.

Luckily, Kate didn't just go quiet and not say anything—she actually spoke up about the situation to her parents and transferred to another school, Marlborough, that was a better fit and a place where she made lifelong friendships and sang the Friends theme song at school events.

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Weekend Editor at Cosmopolitan

Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with over 10 years of professional experience covering entertainment of all genres, from new movie and TV releases to nostalgia, and celebrity news. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.