Off the leash. Prince William hits the dance floor with a blonde girl in a sexy Basque after throwing tequila, sambuca and various vodkas and tonics back.
It's 3 in the morning and it seems he doesn't care about the world. Michael Jackson's Billie Jean rings out as William and friends cheer for joy.
No wonder the second on the throne is indulging in the K Bar that night in a basement on the wrong end of fashionable Fulham Road in London.
Having endured the turmoil of his parents' toxic divorce and living his whole life under the pressures of dynastic expectations, his name constantly associated with every legitimate young woman, the yoke of responsibility had fallen from his shoulders in the early hours of that September morning, 2007.
William, 25, danced with the girl in a Basque at K Bar in a basement on the wrong end of fashionable Fulham Road in London at 3am on his last night as a single man. Kate had told him to let off steam.
25-year-old William, who was a little harder to wear and had his shirt hanging outside his jeans, gave everything. He twisted his dance partner with his hand on her slim waist. The couple held on again before twisting apart, laughing.
Where, an observer might have asked, was Kate Middleton?
After all, she was the woman who had shared his life for the past five years. But they had split up earlier in the summer. William had gotten cold feet and was forced into a marriage he was not ready for.
He had called Kate at her London office for high street fashion chain Jigsaw. Totally depressed, the 25-year-old was a vortex of mixed feelings. On the one hand, her years of devotion to her beloved prince seemed wasted. On the other hand, there must have been a slight feeling that she had escaped the cauldron of public control and duty that came with such a relationship.
William and the girl are spinning on the dance floor – but the prince, carried a bit worse, left the club in West London alone
Regardless, life went on and she had licked her wounds in the cocoon-like home of the Middleton family in Berkshire.
For the rest of the world, the great royal love story of the generation had collapsed.
In public, Kate had fearlessly tried to make it clear that she had no hope of reconciliation with William. She attended several events – although she showed off what many noticed was her "See-What-You & # 39; re-Missing-William" look.
A typical evening was at another club in west London, Boujis. At one point, a self-help book entitled "Love Is Not Enough: A Smart Woman's Guide To Making (and Making) Money" was peeked out of Kate's designer handbag. Among other things, his website says: "Prince Charming and his bank balance are just not coming to save us."
William gave everything. He twisted his dance partner with his hand on her slim waist. The couple held on again before twisting apart, laughing
Meanwhile, the split meant warehouses across the country had put on hold or even smashed commemorative china to celebrate their hoped-for wedding.
Interestingly, the couple had reunited behind the scenes ahead of Williams' big night at K Bar. Obviously, only they know how they came to realize that life was poorer without each other. However, a hint of their thinking came in the television interview after their engagement was announced three years later.
Kate said, “I think when you go out with someone for a long time, you get to know each other very, very well. You're going through the good times. You're going through the bad times & # 39; She added that people "can come out stronger and learn things about themselves".
For his part, William gave a clue by talking about his possible decision to show his "romantic side" and suggested, "As everyone knows, it takes some motivation to get going."
Secretly, the couple officially reunited this summer while vacationing at a luxury resort in the Seychelles. They even agreed to get married – but only after William finished his army training and then his naval and RAF duties. Reassured, Kate allowed her boyfriend to "blow off some steam" – although she would not have known the details of his long night and his last escape into a clinch with a blonde who wore a silver Basque.
Kate, who never lost control herself, would not have approved of the sight of him later that morning, would have slumped in front of the men's room and been supported by his buddies.
William eventually went home alone – assisted by his police officers, when he stumbled into the street.
As you know, the rest is history. These wedding wedding china makers were back in business. The great royal love story of the new millennium was back.
No one will ever forget Prince Charles' brutally callous answer when asked after his engagement to Diana Spencer if he is in love, whatever love means. His son William had learned the lessons from this tragic relationship.
Williams' old flames like the daughter of the foxhunter Rose Farquhar, the daughter of the Polo Club boss Arabella Musgrave and Carley Massy-Birch went down in history for a long time.
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton from the Bucklebury homeland should be one. A beautiful future queen who has since provided William with the close-knit family he never had and three beautiful children.
In this exclusive Mail on Sunday series, we tell you the full story of how it all turned out.
A drizzly Wednesday afternoon at a small prep school in Berkshire in the spring of 1992 and a boys under 10 hockey game is just around the corner.
Students gather at the contact line to watch – one of them is a normally reserved girl named Catherine. There is a lot of giggling, chatting and yelling.
In front of the Victorian school building, 4x4s leave the parents. Some are outwardly balanced, but just as excited as their children, because this promises not to be an ordinary fixed point. Attendants at another Berkshire school, Ludgrove, have a future king, Prince William, as a left-back.
The tendency to develop relationships with firsts – the first meeting, the first kiss, the declaration of love – is universal and certainly applies to royalty. The story goes that the Queen first met Prince Philip at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth when she was 13 years old and he was 18 years old. that Diana, as a shy 16-year-old, met the then 29-year-old Prince Charles in November 1977, who was with her older sister; and that Charles had met Camilla at a polo game seven years earlier.
Whether Catherine Middleton, who was 10 years old that day in 1992, was one of the green-blazed students at St. Andrew's School near Pangbourne who wanted to shake hands with nine-year-old William and maybe exchange a few words not known. Still, the occasion, say her friends, was remarkable when she first looked at her future husband.
And without a doubt, a former classmate told The Mail on Sunday, Catherine joined in a rousing cheer for William and his defeated team as they trudged off the field at the end of the game.
"All the girls, including Catherine, were eager to catch a glimpse of him, and after that they all tried to speak to him over tea," recalled one former student.
They were born six months apart and didn't really meet until years later, but the prince's visit certainly piqued the curiosity of young Catherine. She talked about it frequently after that, and later kept half an eye on William's progress, though nothing to suggest she did because she had fairytale, Diana-like ideas about marrying a prince.
At least not.
Catherine, the eldest child of Michael and Carole Middleton, long talked about how she "adored" their prep school, a rust-colored Gothic heap on more than 50 acres of playing fields. The school motto "Seek higher things" could have been designed for their family by high achievers.
The emphasis was on sports, and tall, skinny Catherine was excellent at swimming, netball, and hockey. Academically smart, she was also kind, good-natured, and possessed a tremendous devotion that manifested itself in the classroom and on the sports field.
Teacher Denise Allford remembered a girl at 100 mph who was fully focused on everything she was doing. Friends show a modesty and reticence that reminds one of their father; Her mother is more sociable, an avowed talker. But Catherine's supposed shyness did not stop her leading roles in school plays.
A year after William's visit, then 11-year-old Catherine played the flower girl Eliza Doolittle in a production of My Fair Lady, the enchanting story of a citizen learning to pose as a duchess.
In video footage, she is wrapped in a black scarf, her hair tied in a bun, and delivers a stunning rendition of Wouldn & # 39; t It Be Loverly. After initially struggling with Eliza's Cockney accent during rehearsals, she let her pain fall like a real Eastender on the opening night. Already recognizable is the strikingly good looks that would later turn Williams' head.
At age 13, she appeared in the Victorian melodrama Murder In The Red Barn, and in one scene a fortune teller studies the palm of her hand and says, "Soon you will meet a handsome man, a rich gentleman."
An excited Catherine replies, "It's everything I ever hoped for." Later in the play, she marries a caddish squire … named William.
Prince William was only 20 miles away in Ludgrove. And while the upheaval of leaving home at the age of eight was unsettling at first, boarding school ensured consistency and routine, both at Kensington Palace, the battlefield for his parents' crumbling marriage. How different from the domestic life of his future wife, which was stable and harmonious.
While sheltered from the turmoil of his parents' marriage in 1992 (Ludgrove's headmaster Gerald Barber banned newspapers from the school library and restricted access to television), this was a miserable year for William, with Charles and Diana officially broke up in December. Around the time of the hockey game, Andrew Morton's book Diana: Her True Story was published, which revealed Charles & # 39; adultery and Diana's bulimia.
A few weeks earlier, William was photographed when Diana was leaving the National History Museum and chewing his lower lip. His eyes were on the floor. It was not surprising that people around him noticed that he was transforming into a "sensitive boy".
But whatever his private sadnesses were, he already knew at this young age that it was his duty to grin and endure them and, like his mother, activate the charm for Wellwishers. Doe-eyed liked Diana, he also inherited her winning smile. But for him, then as now, attention was something that you had to endure and not enjoy.
Like Catherine, he was a great athlete, captain of rugby and hockey teams, and one of Ludgrove's best swimmers.
He shone in the classroom like no other royal before him and shared his future wife's love for the stage and became head of the school drama society.
Both William and Catherine were cocooned by their prep schools, and leaving them was a key.
William went to Eton College. For Catherine it meant a short-lived, miserable move to Downe House, an independent boarding school for girls near Newbury, Berkshire. It is said by a friend that she was chosen because she was perceived as "quite a soft and nice person". The headmistress at the time denied that Catherine was bullied, but admitted that the "crazy" atmosphere made her feel "like a fish out of water."
Former student Emma Sayle, four years over Catherine, recalled: “There were a lot of girls who had come out of private schools in London – our year we had a gang called London Trendies. It just wasn't Catherine's scene. She didn't know anyone and was very lonely. & # 39;
Whatever the truth, the official line was that it didn't go with it and after two semesters went to the co-educational Marlborough College in Wiltshire, one of the best schools in England.
On arrival she was understandably "very calm" and came to be known as Kate. Her Head of House, Joan Gall said: “It was difficult to get to a big school like Marlborough, but she settled in quickly. It was like a big happy family. We'd like to bake cakes and watch videos. & # 39; Commenting on Kate's previous experience, housewife Ann Patching said, “She didn't do a big deal with it. It was a problem, but she was determined to move on. & # 39;
The school's ethos has been described as just the right cocktail of sensitive, stuffy, and unconventional.
In the evenings, she and her friends watched TV – often the sitcom Friends – and she made her favorite snack: Marmite sandwiches in the microwave.
She was the joint captain of the tennis team with her friend Alice St John Webster. It is said that she kissed Alice's older brother Woody, but it "didn't lead to anything serious". He then studied geology in Edinburgh – the same university as Kate's sister Pippa, who was also in Marlborough – before co-founding a study agency.
It was alleged that Kate kept a picture of the future king on her dorm wall and she is said to have told a friend, "There is no one like William." But during her television interview in 2010 to mark their engagement, Kate laughed at the story and said her wall was instead adorned with a photo of a Levi model.
There probably seems to be some low-key romances from the friends, but nothing significant until the beginning of sixth grade. Kate was always pretty, had become a reserved beauty and attracted "intense" attention. Together with Pippa she was included in a so-called “fit list”, which, according to a former student, was a table made up of the best-looking girls in school and “hung on the wall next to the canteen” … and was taken off teachers just as quickly.
Around this time, she dated rugby captain Harry Blakelock, who was the previous year and has been described as her first real love affair. When they split up, her heart was broken. "They saw each other, but he messed them up and buckled them up," recalled a friend. "She was hung up for him forever after that." Harry married one of Kate's friends, Sarah Follett, and is now an insurance broker.
When Kate graduated from Marlborough in 2000 with a high school diploma in chemistry, biology, and the arts and got two A's and a B's, she was voted "the person most likely to be loved" in the school yearbook.
Just as the friends she had made in Marlborough would be her mainstay and support throughout her later royal life, William established a similar pattern at Eton, 60 miles down the M4.
Like her, he initially struggled with the transition. But while Catherine was given the time and space to get over Downe House, William switched schools against the backdrop of the turmoil at home and the relentless interest in his every move. He often found tourists outside his boarding house, and when he was exercising, crowds gathered to watch from a nearby public street.
All of this would have been infinitely more bearable if his parents' marriage hadn't got into trouble. Every week seemed to bring new misery, and there was bound to be anger in the playground.
His caretaker, Dr. Andrew Gailey kept an eye out for him, as did a small group of trustworthy older boys, including Nicholas Knatchbull, his father's godson, and his cousin Freddie Windsor. Such protection alienated some of his colleagues, but when William "came out of his shell" they discovered a "great guy" who was "not at all arrogant".
Over time he acquired a small group of loyal lieutenants. But no one helped him more during this time than the Queen, whom he would meet at Windsor Castle just across the Thames. "I'm going to the bathroom," he joked with friends.
Over Sunday afternoon tea, his grandmother encouraged him to discuss his problems. He got away armed with practical advice. "She gave him strength when it was most needed," said a contemporary.
By the end of his Eton career, he had successfully completed three degrees in geography (A), art history (A) and biology (C), but had experienced deep misery. And of course, no episode has been as painful as losing his mother at the age of 15.
A gap year at the beginning of the new millennium offered an ideal opportunity to take stock and reflect.
Back in Berkshire, Kate Middleton planned to do the same.
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