To mark ten years since their engagement, we are running a major series on the compelling rollercoaster story of how William and Kate got together. Last week, we told how, after dating for four years, they split up – with William dumping her in a phone call to her office. Here, in the final part, with new insights, we chart how they rebuilt their relationship which many believe has helped save the Monarchy…
The Royal love affair – between a future King and a coal-miner’s great-great-granddaughter – had gripped the nation, but it was over. Prince William, still troubled by his parents’ toxic divorce, had got cold feet over marrying his university sweetheart Kate Middleton.
In April 2007, weighed down by the millstone of anticipation from the public and Palace officials alike for an engagement announcement, he had called time on their four-year courtship.
Kate Middleton, pictured, was wearing a 1970s-style sequin dress and a huge sparkling ring on a night out in Mahiki nightclub
During the time she and Prince William had split, she was seen in Mahiki with Henry Ropner
Kate was also seen leaving Mahiki with friends including Charles Morshead
The 24-year-old Blues and Royals officer felt he was too young to settle down.
Kate, five months his senior, was devastated. But not for nothing is the motto of the Scottish Middleton clan Fortis In Arduis (Brave In Difficulties).
Instead of moping, Kate, 25, kept herself busy while her family rallied round.
Mum Carole whisked her History of Art graduate eldest daughter to Dublin to support an artist friend at the private champagne opening of her exhibition and to visit the National Gallery of Ireland.
William celebrated their break-up very differently – with a trip to his favourite nightclub, Mahiki, in Central London. The venue’s co-founder had said of his club: ‘It brings together different worlds: it’s Kensington meets Essex. Somehow, these tribes work well together. Because one thing all Brits have is a sense of fun.’
The news of the couple’s split was not yet public, but those around William had a good notion of what was going on when he leapt on to a table, shouting: ‘I’m free!’
He then slipped into his version of the ‘robot dance’ – which, at the time, footballer Peter Crouch had made popular as a goal celebration – and suggested to his friends that they ‘drink the menu’. News of his split from Kate broke next day.
On a trip to Dublin in April 2007, Kate was photographed on Grafton Street with her mother Carole
Kate even dressed up with Bunny ears during a night out at Kitts in Sloan Square
Kate was determined to put on a brave face. To help take her mind off her heartbreak, she signed up for a charity challenge with an all-female dragon boat crew through her school friend Alicia Fox-Pitt. Called the Sisterhood, they described themselves as ‘an elite group of female athletes, talented in many ways, toned to perfection with killer looks, on a mission to keep boldly going where no girl has gone before’. The 21 girls aimed to row across the English Channel to raise money for children’s hospices.
Fired by sisterly camaraderie and no longer inhibited by the protocol and weighty baggage of being a Prince’s girlfriend, Kate also accepted several invitations to social events and, in public at least, appeared more vibrant than she had been for some time. It was this new freedom that led many to comment that she had devised a ‘Just Look What You Are Missing’ strategy towards William.
She was joined in her London flat by her sister Pippa, who had just finished university. Spray-tanned and blow-dried, the pair together attended a series of upmarket social events such as the launch party for chum and author Simon Sebag Montefiore’s book Young Stalin. Kate was adamant that people should not see the hurt she was hiding inside.
April and May saw numerous nights out to venues where she had previously been a regular with William. Mischievously, she attended a party to promote a film about women obsessed with a brand of sex toy called Rabbit Fever.
Her choice of clothes sent subtle messages, too. Gone were frumpy tweeds, replaced by a slinky off-the-shoulder top and silky skirt displaying a bare midriff with a caramel tan. At the party, she even put on a pair of pink, silk bunny ears – and, as a fellow guest observed, ‘teased all the boys’. She vowed to ‘live life to the max’ and was seen out with William’s friend Guy Pelly and on the arm of eligible young men such as Charles Morshead and Henry Ropner.
Morshead, then 25, was a friend of William who insisted: ‘I was just being a friend to her. I’m not her boyfriend. She doesn’t have one at the moment.’
Shipping heir Ropner had dated William’s ex-girlfriend Jecca Craig at Edinburgh University, and the Prince was said to have comforted Jecca when she split from Ropner. Friends said the ‘tables were now turned’, with Ropner escorting Kate. Meanwhile, training with the Sisterhood became a welcome distraction for Kate, with 6.30am starts on the Thames. Fellow rower Emma Sayle recalled: ‘Kate was very down and I think the training became her therapy. She had always put William first and she said this was a chance to do something for herself.’
Indeed, years later, Kate herself confirmed that this period apart from William was very valuable mentally. She said: ‘At the time, I wasn’t very happy about it, but it made me a stronger person. You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realised.
‘I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you’re younger. I really valued that time for me as well, although I didn’t think it at the time!’
For his part, it wasn’t long before William was having second thoughts. Mindful, perhaps, of his father’s decision in his 20s not to marry his early love Camilla Shand, William did not want to make a similar mistake. But he still had to win Kate back.
He had broken her heart and she understandably wanted to ensure that if they got back together, it would be for the right reasons.
She was still emotionally tender when she took a holiday in Ibiza with her brother James and friends, including Marlborough classmate Emilia d’Erlanger. They stayed at Carole Middleton’s brother’s villa.
His wife noticed that Kate spent a lot of time on the phone and suspected it was to William.
For the Prince, June 2007 marked a pivotal point in his life.
Both Kate and William had been invited by their jockey friend Sam Waley-Cohen to a party at his family’s 17th Century manor house. Arriving separately, they spent hours locked in deep conversation, William trying to persuade her to give him another chance.
Some days later, she attended another party, at his barracks to celebrate the end of his training. Her mind was made up.
The theme was ‘Freakin’ Naughty’ and William wore hot pants and a policeman’s helmet, while Kate dressed as a naughty nurse in fishnet tights and a short dress.
Prince William was photographed leaving Mahiki nightclub in London after an enjoyable night on April 14, 2007
Tastelessly, there were blow-up dolls hanging from the ceiling and sexy waitresses serving lethal cocktails. Outside was a bouncy castle and plunge pool, but William and Kate stuck to the dancefloor, and that night, she stayed at his barracks. William said later about the period of their break-up: ‘We were both very young… we were both finding ourselves and being different characters. It was very much trying to find our own way and we were growing up, so it was just a bit of space and it worked out for the better.’
They tried not to make their rapprochement too obvious, but on July 7, William and Harry attended a tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in front of 63,000 people marking the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death and what would have been her 46th birthday. Harry sat next to his then girlfriend Chelsy Davy, while William was beside his best friend Thomas van Straubenzee. Two rows back was Kate with her brother James.
The concert rocked to the sounds of Take That, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Duran Duran. As the rapper P. Diddy sang I’ll Be Missing You, it seemed that both William and Kate were done with break-ups and make-ups. They wanted to be together for ever.
At a post-concert party to thank the performers, they danced to one of their favourite tracks, the Bodyrockers’ hit I Like The Way You Move, before finding a corner – lit by candles and scattered with rose petals – to sip mojitos, kiss and whisper in each other’s ears.
A few weeks later they were together again for Camilla’s 60th birthday party at Highgrove.
Kate had been smuggled in to avoid publicity, but once inside, the pair enjoyed the glow of this new honeymoon period. Kate wore a long cream dress and sipped champagne as William mouthed the words of ‘It Had To Be You’ to her.
One downside to their reunion was that she felt obliged to pull out of the race with the Sisterhood. She was frustrated at being unable to complete the challenge but she had succeeded in pulling off a much bigger challenge. Her ‘Just Look What You Are Missing’ strategy had paid off.
The couple now had a lot to discuss, and lost time to make up for.
In September, they flew to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, staying at the Desroches Island Resort, having checked in under the names Martin and Rosemary Middleton. Unnoticed, they kayaked and snorkelled in the coral reef. At night, they relaxed over candlelit beach suppers.
It was during this trip that they made an agreement. They would definitely get married, but for the next few years they would work and enjoy the rest of their 20s.
Kate had been insistent she would not reignite their relationship without such a formal understanding. Yet was William really convinced?
Exclusive new Mail on Sunday photos published at the start of our series show William partying hard at a London club one Friday night at the end of September 2007.
On another night, Prince William posed with Ana Ferreira, left, at Elements in Bournemouth
He was with his Army pals, ‘waving off’ Blues and Royals colleagues ahead of a foreign tour. After drinking in a private room ringed by banquettes with fellow officers in their off-duty uniform of jeans, stripey shirts and brown shoes, William took to the dancefloor at about 1am. He roared with approval when 50 Cent’s In Da Club boomed out with its lyrics ‘We gon’ party like it’s your birthday’.
An onlooker told the MoS that the Prince, fuelled by vodka and tonics, and tequila and sambuca shots, ‘started dancing with a big group of boys. At one point they all put their arms round each other and did a big group hug in the middle of the dancefloor.
‘It was bizarre: part ballroom dancing, part jumping up and down with odd hand movements – like a style particular to Sloanes.’
William then danced with a couple of girls, including one of the waitresses who spoke Spanish.
The onlooker told the MoS: ‘William then started dancing with a blonde in heels and a black corset which was saucily laced up at the back. He was twirling her around and doing almost salsa with her.
‘He had his hands on her waist and bottom.’
In hindsight, it seems that that wild night at the now-closed K Bar at the wrong end of the Fulham Road was Prince William’s last hurrah as a single man.
Duty – and true love – beckoned.