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8:57 a.m. - 2005-04-02
(Prince) William and the fairytale girl
William and the fairytale girl
By Sean O'Neill
Prince’s girlfriend may find that her romance is not all a dream come true

THEY specialise in bringing little girls’ fairytale dreams to life. For teeny parties there are polyester princess dresses for £24.95, plastic tiaras for £2.25 and, just to make sure all goes to plan, magic wands for a mere £1.95.
But Michael and Carole Middleton, the couple who run the Party Pieces mail-order business from rural Berkshire, might just be beginning to wonder if they are about to have a real-life princess in the family.

Their eldest daughter, Kate, has been all but officially confirmed as Prince William’s girlfriend and is being talked about as a possible future Queen.

For the second year running Miss Middleton has joined the royal ski party in Klosters, where her boyfriend’s maturity, especially in dealing with the media, is attracting comment.

The boy with his mother’s looks, who grew into a diffident and sometimes awkward teenager, has become a young man. It was Prince William who politely answered the press pack’s questions at this week’s photocall while his brother remained tight-lipped and his father muttered about “these bloody people”.

Last year, by contrast, the Prince was caught up in a furious row between the media and Clarence House after publication of a paparazzi picture of him and Miss Middleton on the slopes. This year new images have appeared without any fuss.

One picture, taken while the Prince of Wales and his guests were lunching at a restaurant, shows a beaming Prince William closely engaged in conversation with Miss Middleton.

It seems that he and Miss Middleton, who are both 22, are content that their relationship has gradually emerged into the public eye. They remain guarded and go to some lengths not to be pictured together. The Prince has said that he is used to the cameras but does not like his friends, and girlfriends, to be subjected to them.

Clarence House simply maintains a “no comment” line on Miss Middleton’s status. The new paparazzi photographs are not a cause for concern either. Significantly, there is no attempt to dampen the rampaging speculation, with headlines describing Miss Middleton as a “modern princess”.

Catherine (Kate) Middleton’s family home is a five-bedroom house in Bucklebury, near Reading. She has a younger sister, Philippa, or Pippa, who is 20, and a brother James, 17. Kate was a boarder at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, where former pupils remember her as a sensible and sporty girl.

Jessica Hay, a former classmate, has told newspapers that while other girls smoked, snogged and swigged alcohol, the worst of Miss Middleton’s behaviour was “mooning” at the boys’ dormitory.

She met Prince William at St Andrews, where they were both studying history of art and living in the halls of residence.

Miss Middleton hit the headlines when she appeared on the catwalk at a charity fashion show wearing a see-through dress over black underwear. The Prince was sitting in the front row of the audience.

But the picture created a misleading impression. Those who know Miss Middleton say that far from being the “it girl” type, she is intelligent, popular and down to earth. She and Prince William became close friends before their romance began and she was credited with helping to talk him out of leaving the university in his first year.

Since romance blossomed she has been a regular guest of the Royal Family — visiting Highgrove and Sandringham. Whatever the speculation, however, Prince William made it clear this week that he could not envisage being married before the age of 28.

Whether his relationship with Miss Middleton will last until then remains to be seen.



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