Why Kate Middleton Chose to Send Her Birthday Portrait to the University of St. Andrews

It's special to her, for obvious reasons.

Kate Middleton sighting in St. Andrews, Scotland
(Image credit: Photo by Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty)

As reported last week, one of the three portraits released for Kate Middleton's birthday earlier this year has been sent to the University of St. Andrews' Wardlaw Museum to be displayed for a limited time—on loan from London's National Portrait Gallery.

"They loan out portraits of inspirational people to places that are closely associated with them," Matthew Sheard, Head of Experience and Engagement at the university's museums, tells Marie Claire.

"The portraits were taken last year by the photographer Paolo Roversi, and it was arranged earlier this year in consultation with the National Portrait Gallery and Kensington Palace that this particular portrait would come here to St. Andrews, a place where the duchess met her future husband."

The Scottish university hopes the photograph will prove to be a huge attraction over the handful of weeks it will stay there, with three sets of graduation celebrations and a golf open coming up.

"The portrait will be displayed kind of on its own, so that the visitor focus is on the portrait itself and you can see it in the kind of full glory," Sheard explains.

"It's a beautiful portrait and deserves visitors' attention, and the significance of it is, as I say, Catherine spent four years studying at the University of St. Andrews, where she met her future husband William, so I think St. Andrews is a very significant place for her."

While you might expect busloads of royal watchers to descend on St. Andrews weekly for a glimpse of the young Kate Middleton's romantic history with the prince, Sheard says that there isn't a special royal tour—and that there's a good reason for that.

"As far as I know, there isn't a sort of royal tour in St. Andrews," he says. "The town is very—a little bit protective of the duke and duchess and their time here, so we don't speak too much about their time, but we do certainly get people who are very pleased to see parts of the town where... the streets where the duke and duchess strolled when they were students."

But as far as Sheard is concerned, this isn't to say there's a special treatment reserved for the Cambridges.

"The town is very—the town cares for all of the students who are here, it's not something that's particularly special for the duke and duchess," he says.

"University is a very special time for students, and the University of St. Andrews in particular really focuses on the student experience, and a time for students to work out who they are and to enjoy themselves, take part in the various traditions that the university has, so it's not something that's particularly special just for the duke and duchess. It's a sort of caring for all the students who pass through this town."

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Visit Scotland - Day Six

(Image credit: Photo by WPA Pool / Getty)

Sheard also explains that alumni love coming back to their old stomping grounds—and this has certainly proven true for the Duchess of Cambridge. She and the duke have returned to the school on multiple occasions since their graduation, including for its 600th anniversary in 2011, and during a visit in 2021.

"The town has a really special place in the hearts of its students and many of them will come back in the years after graduating, often bringing their families," Sheard says. "So at the Wardlaw Museum, we're very, very pleased to welcome students back, and it's a place where they can reminisce about their time here, as well as for people who aren't connected to the university to find out about the university's 600-year history and its innovation and ambition."

The portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge is on display at the Wardlaw Museum now until September 30.

Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of British Vogue, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and SELF. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.