Most people have no problem conjuring a mental image of Kate Middleton if they hear her name. Indeed, she and her husband Prince William have royal duties that keep them in the public eye. What we don’t know, though, is what the very private pair is like behind closed doors. But that all changed in 2020 after the duchess’ hairstylist Richard Ward gave a rare glimpse into her personality.
Richard has made a name for himself in the U.K. and beyond thanks to his hair-cutting connection to the royal family. He and his team work with Kate, as well as the Countess of Wessex, Sophie Rhys-Jones. Richard also has a list of celebrity clientele who visit the A-list stylist’s salon in London’s glitzy Chelsea neighborhood.
But it’s Richard’s relationship with the Duchess of Cambridge that gets people curious. What’s Kate like when she sits down in the chair for a haircut or style? Richard – who perfected her wedding-day coif – has kept much of that to himself. But now, he’s revealing what it’s like to deal with Kate and her husband, too.
Kate and William have kept much of their personal lives under wraps, but we do know some of the major plot points in their courtship, marriage and royal life. They met in 2001 as first-year students at the University of St. Andrews, where they both lodged in St. Salvator’s Hall residence.
Sparks didn’t really fly between them until the following year, though. Rumors claim that William paid around $240 to get a front-row seat at an on-campus charity fashion show. And one of the ladies strutting the runway was Kate, who stomped down the catwalk in a sheer dress.
The night of the catwalk may have been when sparks started to fly, but neither Kate nor William have confirmed the suspicions. In fact, in 2002 Hello! magazine even reported that the future king was moving off-campus and into an apartment with three co-ed friends. The publication even described one of the roommates as “a pretty 20-year-old brunette,” but it didn’t realize that she was actually the prince’s future wife.
It took two more years for the press to catch onto Prince William’s collegiate romance. At that time, he and Kate headed out for a ski trip in Switzerland – and the paparazzi captured the couple on film together. So, when it came time for them to graduate from St. Andrews in 2005, the world knew that Kate had stolen the royal’s heart.
Neither William nor Kate spoke out about the seriousness of their relationship, but the press began to speculate that they were more than just college sweethearts. That’s because the two went to Laura Parker-Bowles’ wedding together in 2006. The bride’s mother Camilla is Prince Charles’ second wife, so attending the event as a couple was seen as a big deal for them.
As their relationship got more serious, though, Kate and William had the press to contend with, and the private pair hated that the paparazzi followed them constantly. It got so bad that the future duchess had lawyers issue a warning to photographers in January 2007 that they would pursue legal action if their non-stop pursuit continued.
But Kate’s legal threats fell on deaf ears. Instead, photographers captured pictures of her grabbing a coffee on her way to work, and the Daily Mirror published them. This pushed the St. Andrews graduate to file with the Press Complaints Commission, and the tabloid apologized for its decision to use the photos. Clearly, though, the non-stop press attention had riled Kate up.
Media pressure was believed to have been one of the reasons why Kate and William pulled the plug on their relationship in 2007. Since then, the duchess has noted the importance of their brief split. She told Sky News in 2010, “I think I at the time wasn’t very happy about it, but actually it made me a stronger person…”
Kate continued, “You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realized. Or 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, looking back on it.” Of course, as we know now, a reconciliation was on the horizon.
The reconciliation rumors started when Kate went to a July 2007 tribute concert in honor of Princess Diana, and she sat a couple of rows behind her ex-boyfriend William. The prince didn’t say much about his college sweetheart’s appearance at the show. According to Hello!, he only said, “I’ve got lots of friends coming. Everyone’s going to be there on the night and it’s going to be a very good night.”
Even though they tried to keep their rekindled romance under wraps, rumors swirled about Kate and William after the concert. Someone even claimed that the future king had given his college girlfriend a key to Clarence House – his official royal residence. Then, the pair jetted off to the Seychelles and booked out an entire resort to maintain their privacy.
Kate and William reportedly checked into the hotel under faux names – Martin and Rosemary. According to Hello! magazine, a Seychelles-based source said at the time of their trip, “They thought it would be fun to use joke names. They are enjoying pretending to be an ordinary young couple in love on a romantic holiday.”
To safeguard William and Kate’s privacy even more, the son of the Seychelles’ president even stepped in. He created an exclusion zone around the island on which the pair stayed, keeping outsiders away. As such, people wondered if this might be it – perhaps the couple would come back engaged or even married.
But it would be some time longer before we’d be hearing wedding bells. First, Kate and William hit the slopes in Switzerland again, this time with a so-called Royal Protection officer for the Prince’s girlfriend. According to the lifestyle publication, a source said, “It speaks volumes about the seriousness of the relationship she has with the royal family… They are very much together.”
The pair finally solidified their relationship with a ring in October 2010. William popped the question to Kate on a trip to Kenya, he confirmed in an engagement interview with Sky News at the time. The prince went on, “We had a little private time away together with some friends, and I just decided it was the right time, really. We’d been talking about marriage or a while, so it wasn’t a massively big surprise, but I took her up somewhere nice in Kenya.”
The big day came on April 29, 2011, and the world tuned in for a rare glimpse at royal life. A whopping two billion people reportedly watched live as Kate and William exchanged their vows in London’s Westminster Abbey. And after the couple became husband and wife, the church bells then rang out for three solid hours.
Perhaps the bells were a signal that the party for William and Kate had just begun. Of course, few details about the celebration are known. But Queen Elizabeth held a luncheon for 600 people, and Prince Charles held a night time reception for 300 guests complete with food, drinks and dancing the night away.
For her part, Kate looked effortlessly beautiful, and her beauty routine on the big day was more hands-off than you’d think. She donned a pair of Alexander McQueen dresses, changing into something more manageable for the party portion of the day. But the duchess did her own makeup, although she did opt for help with her hair, which she also changed midday.
Since her wedding, the duchess has become a style icon, but her royal appearances shed little light on the life that she and William lead when the cameras stop rolling. And, of course, it’s not just the two of them; as of 2020 the couple have three children. George came first, and his parents stepped out for photos on his birthday in July 2013.
Next came Princess Charlotte, who joined the Cambridge clan in May 2015. Interestingly, she became the first royal baby to earn the “Princess” title in a quarter-century. And she remained fourth in line to the throne even after the birth of her brother Prince Louis in April 2018. A law passed five years prior – the Succession to the Crown Act – changed the age-old custom that baby boys hopped ahead of their sisters in the queue to become king or queen.
In April 2020 William and Kate took to their official Instagram page to commemorate their ninth wedding anniversary with a photo of them on their wedding day. The post garnered love and support from their family members and fans alike. For instance, Princess Eugenie – William’s first cousin – commented with a heart-eye emoji.
And fans chimed in to comment on the wedding Instagram picture, too. One excitedly wrote, “That’s our future king and queen.” Another said that she was also celebrating on April 29, commenting, “Congratulations to this beautiful couple, best wishes for many more healthy and happy years to come! My husband and I share our wedding anniversary with you, for us this was 31 years!”
Another voice who chimed in on Kate and William’s anniversary was Richard Ward. The well-known hairdresser has long looked after the duchess’ hair. Perhaps most notably, he served as the duchess’ stylist on her wedding day – helping her transition her hair from a half-up, half-down chignon to an enviable blowout later in the day.
Richard’s April 2020 interview with People wasn’t the first time he had spoken out about working with the Duchess of Cambridge. In the past, though, his disclosures have been more style-centric than anything else. In March 2018, for example, Richard spoke to the Evening Standard about how he’d managed to get the future queen’s hair so bouncy and shiny.
Richard explained that the duchess’ signature style “is all about bounce and lashings of gloss, with lots of volume and movement through the ends.” To mimic it at home, he said that “having hair that’s in good condition thanks to regular trims, as well as a decent hair dryer with a nozzle and real bristle round brush are essential to making it look fabulous.”
Still, this People interview – and many of Richard’s other press pieces – focused more on hairstyling than the duchess herself. But in 2020 the celeb stylist divulged some details about what she’s like behind the scenes, and she’s quite different to what her public persona might suggest. First, though, he spoke about Kate’s wedding day.
As the duchess’ hairstylist, Richard spent the morning of April 29, 2011, with her. But even that time together did little to prepare him for seeing her arrive at Westminster Abbey. He said, “When [Kate] got out of the car and I saw her properly in the dress, the whole thing. I couldn’t even speak, she looked so unbelievable.”
Richard also recalled styling the duchess’ hair before she went to her wedding reception in 2011. At that time, of course, she wanted to wear her hair in her signature bouncy blowout. And the hairdresser got a little help on the job from an unexpected royal – Prince William himself.
William lent a hand because Richard had a problem – one very specific to a wedding thrown by the storied royal family. He explained, “I wanted to show Kate the back of her hair [getting ready at Clarence House for the evening party] and I was struggling to walk with this 500-year-old mirror.”
As Richard attempted to carry the priceless mirror, William stepped in to help. The hairdresser recalled to People, “He just said, ‘Let me give you a hand,’ and I said, ‘No, no, honestly.’ But he took one end and I’ve got the other and we’re shuffling along with this mirror – he’s great, he really is.”
Richard got to know both Kate and William in the lead-up to the wedding, and he told People how grounded the royals really are. He said, “The first time I went ‘round to their house, it was actually William [who] made me a cup of tea! That was very nice.”
And the hairdresser had only nice things to say about Kate, too. Perhaps surprisingly to those who see her polite, poised side, he revealed that the Duchess has a “wicked sense of humor.” He went on to say, “It’s quite dry, there’s no airs and graces – you can have a good joke with her.”
Since Richard’s interview, the public has had a closer look at Kate’s humble nature. In May 2020 Vogue lauded the duchess’ “down-to-earth glamour” as she maintained her royal duties remotely. She logged onto one webchat wearing a cozy cardigan with her hair casually pulled back – an undoubtedly relatable style for others on the call.
Kate and William later recorded a message for the U.K.’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which kicked off on May 18, 2020. Their address broadcasted across the country’s radio stations at the same time, and it told listeners that they had support available to them if they felt alone.
Both the duke and duchess delivered important messages during the radio broadcast. William said, “We’re all connected. And sometimes just talking about how you’re feeling can make a big difference. So right now, let’s join together across the U.K. and reach out to someone.” Kate added, “If you’re struggling, it’s important to talk about it. Or if someone you know is acting differently, it’s okay to ask how they are. Use this moment to send a message.”
Royal expert Katie Nicholl has lauded this and other recent efforts by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She told ET in May 2020 that the pair have been “stepping up to the plate.” Plus, Nicholl said, “We’re seeing them letting their guard down.” The couple not only made themselves more visible but had recently shared lots of videos and photos of their kids, too.
Nicholl said this boded well for the future of the U.K. and its relationship with William and Kate, who’d one day be king and queen. She concluded, “It’s uplifting for Britain, particularly for royalists, to see what the future of the royal family is going to look like. The royal family has gone to great lengths not to be seen to be aloof or distant or unrelatable.” And that’s precisely the type of person the duchess is, according to her longtime hairstylist.