Here’s What Kate Middleton Was Like Behind Closed Doors in Her Early Days of Fame

A former royal butler spills the tea.

Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty)

We’ve known Kate Middleton as a public figure for 20 years now—and over 11 years as a working member of the royal family. Her public persona is friendly, approachable, and nearly always with a smile—and, it seems, that’s exactly how she is behind closed doors, too.

Former royal butler Grand Harrold was around from the early days of Kate and Prince William’s relationship, and says, according to The Mirror, that their relationship is “no different” than anyone else’s, and that they were “like any boyfriend and girlfriend.” (The couple met as students at the University of St. Andrews in 2001, and by 2003 were an item.)

“[They weren’t] any different to anyone else,” he says. “It’s mad saying that when you think about who they are, but there wasn’t anything different.”

Kate, he says, “would be with me and the other staff and she was so polite, friendly, and fun and making jokes. I remember there were days I had off where I’d be running an errand or I’d left something up at Highgrove [House] and they were around, so you’d just catch up with them. It was always fun, and it was always nice that I got on so well with them because they’d then ask me to travel the country with them. When my phone used to go off and it was William, all my friends would be like ‘that’s so cool,’ but to me it was normal. That was the relationship I had with them.”

Behind closed doors, Harrold says “I think it was really special and not unusual, actually, because in a private home you’re expected to get on with the family. As for the younger members of the family, you’re not employed by them, but you end up having a relationship with them, as well. There’s very few people that the royals actually get to know, so you do feel lucky that you were trusted with that.”

Harrold worked for the then Prince Charles for seven years, during which time both Kate and the then Camilla Parker-Bowles entered the royal fold. (Charles and Camilla, though together for far longer, finally married in 2005.) “Some people say seven years isn’t a long time, but in the world of being a butler, seven years of having somebody in your house living with you—it’s quite intense,” he says.

He was also there for William and Kate’s (thankfully short-lived) breakup in 2007, which Harrold called “horrifying to me because I adored both of them,” he says. “Luckily, they got back together.”

Daily life as a royal butler was “like what you see in Downton Abbey,” he says. “Butlers are there to look after the family—albeit quite a famous family—look after guests, serve meals and drinks…but what people don’t realize is that you’re also kind of a personal assistant and expected to make things run [smoothly] for them. If you can do something for somebody and it doesn’t impact their day for it to happen, then that’s being a good butler. They want someone who is going to make things happen.”

Harrold looked after not just William and Kate but Prince Harry, too, and got to know the then incredibly close trio off duty, as well: “We went to the same pubs, we ended up having a lot of the same friends,” he says. “I always knew who they were and respected who they were, but I got on really well with them. It’s quite strange now, when you see them as a family and as senior royals, to think that the days I was with them, they’d only just left university.” 

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.