Today in 2010, Prince William and Catherine ‘Kate’ Middleton announced their engagement to the world with a photo call at St James’s Palace.
Much rumour had been circulating that the couple had committed themselves to one another, but the official news finally came on a crisp November day.
The announcement from Clarence House explained that William and Kate would get married ‘in the Spring or Summer’ of 2011, and continue to live in north Wales as Prince William worked as an air sea rescue pilot for the RAF.
Earlier in 2010, the couple had moved in together, to a farmhouse in Anglesey. It offered the couple privacy, away from the media, which had a long and sustained interest in their relationship as King and potential Queen.
The official statement mentioned that ‘Prince William [had] informed The Queen and other close members of his family. Prince William […] also sought the permission of Miss Middleton’s father.’
Of course, people were keen to know how the event had happened. William had proposed during a holiday in Kenya, after dating for seven years, with a brief split in 2007.
During the photocall, William joked that he couldn’t see any of the photographers due to all the flashbulbs. “Blimey!” he said when they paused.
“He is a true romantic”, Catherine commented. “We had a wonderful holiday in Africa… it was out there in a very quiet lodge and it was very romantic and a very personal time for both of us.”
The couple were coy as to whether the Prince got down on one knee, but at a reception marking the UK-Africa Investment Summit back in January 2020, The Duke of Cambridge said: “The African continent holds a very special place in my heart.”
“It is the place my father took my brother and me shortly after our mother died. And when deciding where best to propose to Catherine, I could think of no more fitting place than Kenya to get down on one knee.”
One member of the press pack asked about worries joining the Royal Family. Kate said it was ‘a daunting prospect’ but ‘I will take it in my stride. William is a great teacher, so hopefully he’ll be able to help me along the way, and I really look forward to spending my time with William.”
Cheekily, it was asked why it took the Prince so long to pop the question! “I didn’t realise it was a race,” William replied, “or I might have been a lot quicker.”
“But the timing is right now, we’re both very very happy and I’m glad that I have done it.”
When asked what they love most about one another, William said: “Obviously we both have a very fun time together, both have a very good sense of humour about things, we’re down to earth, we take the mickey out of each other a lot, and she’s got plenty of habits that make me laugh that I tease her about,” the Prince commented.
Catherine said: “You know, over the years William’s looked after me, he’s treated me very well – as the loving boyfriend he is. He is very very supportive of me through the good times and also through the bad times.”
“That’s very special to me,” she added.
The engagement ring:
The Prince chose to use his mother’s iconic sapphire engagement ring to pop the question. The piece is an 18-karat white gold ring, with a 12-carat oval sapphire from Sri Lanka, surrounded by a halo of 14 round diamonds.
It is thought that Harry actually chose to keep the ring, and William opted for his mother’s watch, but since he got engaged first, they agreed that William could use it.
William revealed in their interview afterwards he had been carrying around the precious item in his rucksack for days on their Kenyan holiday, keenly conscious of the importance – and value – of the ring. He said: “I had been carrying [the ring] around in my rucksack for about three weeks before,” William said. “Everywhere I went, I was keeping ahold of it, cause I knew if this thing disappeared, I’d be in a lot of trouble.”
“As you may have recognised, it’s my mother’s engagement ring and it’s very special to me, as Kate is very special to me now as well. It was only right the two were put together,” William explained during the photo call. Note that the Prince called his fiancee ‘Kate’.
It was ‘my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out’ on the good news, he added.
The couple signed the guestbook at Rutundu Cabin at the foot of Mount Kenya in October, meaning they kept the good news under wraps for weeks! In the entry, dated 20-21 October 2010, Kate wrote: “Thank you for such a wonderful 24 hours! Sadly no fish to be found but we had fun trying. I love the warm fires and candle lights – so romantic. Hope to be back soon.”
William’s part read: “Such fun to be back! Brought more clothes this time! Looked after so well. Thank you guys! Look forward to next time, soon I hope.”
The family reaction:
Catherine’s parents, Michael and Carole, gave a short statement to the press about the happy news: “I’d just like to say that Carole and I are absolutely delighted as this announcement and thrilled at the prospect of a wedding some time next year.
“As you know, Katherine and Prince William have been going out together for quite a number of years which is great for us because we have got to know William really well. We all think he is wonderful and we are extremely fond of him. They make a lovely couple. They are great fun to be with and we have had a lot of laughs together.
“We wish them every happiness for the future.”
Prince Charles said he was ‘thrilled, obviously’ about the engagement, joking: “They’ve been practising long enough.”
The Queen said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ for the couple, giving her formal consent to the marriage, which was required by the Royal Marriages Act 1772, still in enforcement at the time. The approval was given at the privy council meeting on the morning of the 16th November.
This act has since been replaced by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which means only the first seven in line to the throne require the Monarch’s approval to marry, as well as allowing women to inherit over any younger brothers.
The Countess of Wessex said the Royal Family was ‘absolutely thrilled and we all wish them all the luck and love in the world’.
How they met:
William and Catherine met at university, on the same History of Art course at St Andrews in 2001. The Prince later switched to geography, reportedly after Kate’s encouragement to stay and find something that suited him better.
For several years, they shared accommodation with other friends, and kept a low profile in the small Scottish university town.
“We obviously met at university at St Andrews,” the future King said. “We were friends for over a year first and it just sort of blossomed from then on. We just spent more time with each other, had a good giggle, had lots of fun and realised we shared the same interests and just had a really good time.”
Kate said: “Well I actually think I went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off, feeling very shy about meeting you. Actually William wasn’t there for quite a bit of the time initially, he wasn’t there for Fresher’s Week, so it did take a bit of time for us to get to know each other, but we did become very close friends from quite early on.”
The couple took a break in 2007, much to many’s disappointment. William said of the break: “We were both very young […] we were both defining ourselves as such and being different characters. It was very much trying to find out way and we were growing up, it was just a bit of space – things worked out for the better.”
The engagement interview:
The Duchess of Cambridge, as she became upon her marriage, called the moment of the proposal ‘very romantic,’ also saying it was a ‘total shock’, when it happened; they did however explain they had discussed their future the year before.
The Prince did however reveal that he asked Michael Middleton for the traditional permission to marry his daughter after he had already proposed!
You can watch the couple’s engagement interview here: