Kate Middleton Had a Missed Encounter with Prince William Before She Eventually Met Him as a First-Year College Student in 2001

William and Kate were obviously always meant to cross paths.

Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2008
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After over two decades together, there’s no doubt that the Prince and Princess of Wales are the right match for one another, but it seems as though William and Kate’s crossing paths was truly something that was meant to be.

Ultimately, of course, they met as first-year students at the University of St. Andrews back in 2001; according to Kate herself in her 2010 engagement interview alongside William, she went “bright red” and “scuttled off” when she first saw William on campus, per The Mirror.  

Prince William, Kate Middleton

William and Kate announced their engagement in November 2010, after over nine years of knowing one another.

(Image credit: Getty)

But even before actually meeting, “Princess Kate is thought to have attended the same gap year program in South America just weeks before Prince William,” The Mirror writes—a missed encounter that, thankfully, was rectified on the campus of St. Andrews.

After finishing her A-levels, Kate went to Florence, Italy, to study art history before heading off to Chile. “In a bizarre coincidence, it also emerged that William attended the same program in South America just a few weeks prior,” according to The Mirror. As royal author Tina Brown put it in 2022’s The Palace Papers, Kate had a “Zelig-like ability to keep appearing on the edges of William’s life.”

When the two did finally end up at the same place at the same time, William apparently noticed Kate immediately; the guys in William’s down “had hailed Kate as the prettiest girl in the first year,” The Mirror reports. Before changing his major, William was also an art history major like Kate, and they’d bump into one another from time to time. “Over time, the pair learned they had a lot of common ground, including swimming and skiing,” The Mirror writes. “A couple of weeks into the term, the pair had breakfast together, accompanied by their other university pals.” 

Prince William, Kate Middleton

The young couple in the aughts.

(Image credit: Getty)

But sparks didn’t immediately fly, as both were dating other people at the time. But then, about six months later, came that famous charity fashion show in March 2002, where William sat front row while Kate took to the catwalk in a see-through dress by Charlotte Todd. (The moment was captured on season six of The Crown on Netflix.) All it took were three words from the future king to secure the future of the British monarchy: “Wow, Kate’s hot!” he told a friend.

After the fashion show, a mutual friend, Andrew Sands, told royal author Katie Nicholl for her book Kate: The Future Queen that he saw them kissing at a house party: “They kissed at the end of the night,” he said. “They were both standing up in the corner of the living room, and I recall seeing them out of the corner of my eye. It was dark, there were lots of people, and the music was playing very loud. Everyone pretended that they weren’t taking much notice, but it went ‘round St. Andrews like wildfire afterwards.”

It would be several months before the two became an official couple. By the beginning of their second year in the fall of 2002, William and Kate became roommates, along with two other friends, and their friendship erupted into a full-blown relationship, The Mirror reports. 

Prince William, Kate Middleton

By 2002, William and Kate were a couple; save for a short breakup in 2007, they've been together ever since.

(Image credit: Getty)

As William put it in an interview with ITV, “We moved in together as friends because we were living together,” he said. “We lived with a couple of others as well, and it just sort of blossomed from there, really. We just saw more of each other, hung out a bit more, and did stuff.”

As the old saying goes, what’s meant to be will always find a way—if not in Chile for a gap year program, then on the campus of St. Andrews, after which, as they say, the rest is history.

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.