Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Kate Loves: Gap Year

As summer 2000 was drawing to a close, 18-year-old Kate Middleton had just left the prestigious Marlborough College having obtained excellent results in her chosen A-Level subjects: Art, Chemistry and Biology. A delighted Kate had her pick of universities to choose from, however before diving back into her studies, it was time for a little fun. The gap year has become something of a rite of passage for students in the UK; it offers an opportunity to relax and unwind after the very (I stress, very) stressful A-Level exams and more importantly a time to gain life experience, travel, volunteer abroad and make new friends.

Kate at Marlborough College/©Jessica Hay

Kate decided to travel to Florence in Tuscany to embrace the culture, further her education and explore the beautiful city. In September 2000, she begun an intensive twelve-week course at The British Institute. It was set up in 1917, towards the end of the First World War, by a group of Anglo-Italian scholars, public figures and intellectuals who were keen to counter anti-British propaganda. The institute was formally opened in June 1918 by the ambassador, Sir Rendell Rodd, and it was the first British cultural organisation to operate abroad.

Its primary aim was too promote understanding between Britain, Italy and the Commonwealth through the study of languages and art history. In 1923, the British Institute of Florence was given its Royal Charter. In 1985, The Prince and Princess of Wales visited the school, after Prince Charles had agreed to become the Institute's Patron, Charles later visited again in 2002 (it would be rather special and quite fitting if Kate accompanied him on his next visit, wouldn't it?). The school has also enjoyed royal visits from Princess Margaret and Helen, former Queen of Romania.

Wikipedia

Kate studied Italian three hours per day, Monday to Friday. Italian lessons took place at the Palazzo dello Strozzino. Built in 1458, the princely palace features four entrances, four floors and an intimate courtyard which had a portico with columns destroyed to accommodate the cinema it now houses.

Wikipedia

The institute's library houses the biggest lending collection of English books in mainland Europe. With over 50,000 books available - from famous novels to the daily papers - the library is a popular place to sit back in the comfortable armchairs overlooking the river.

The British Institute of Florence

Renaissance lectures were also held daily. Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, so there could not have been a better place for Kate to discover this historical period in detail. Art history class would have involved tours of the city's museums, churches and galleries with scenic day trips to Siena and San Gimignano.

Siena Cathedral

Below we see this year's students taking notes during a lecture at Loggia dei Lanzi, situated in the L-shaped square, Piazza Della Signoria.

British Institute of Florence Facebook Page

Kate lived with three other girls in a £500 per month flat with a little stone staircase above a deli during her stay. It was typical student digs, clean, basic and comfortable. However, certainly not luxury accommodation by any standard. Kate and her flatmates were often spotted popping downstairs to buy sandwiches from the deli and enjoyed nights out at hotspots where they would mix with other students.

Mail Online

One of Kate's favourite hangouts was The Art Bar, a cocktail bar frequented by students. The bar's happy hour was reportedly popular (drinks for €6 instead of €9) and it is said there was always a good atmosphere and interesting conversation to be had. The rustic 17th century bar palazzo with rustic décor hosts art and photography exhibitions, which would have held great appeal for the future Duchess. She turned many heads during these nights out, but was reportedly casually seeing a boy called Harry from Marlborough College who was also studying in Florence. As with many teen romances it didn't last very long.

L'Art Bar/TripAdvisor

A friend from Florence later told the Daily Mirror:

'She would like a glass of wine but she was never interested in getting really drunk. She never let herself get out of control. Italian men can be quite persuasive, but Catherine would not overreact to compliments. She definitely was not a giggly sort of girl batting her eyelashes.'

Eighteen-year-old Kate was already passionate about art and photography and would regularly spend the day taking in the magnificent sights and artistic splendour Florence has to offer, with her camera in hand. It offered her time to make an informed decision on what she wanted to study. She already had an A-Level in art and her time in Florence would have been an invaluable tool in helping her make an informed decision to study history of art at university.

Wikipedia

Kate would no doubt have visited Florence Cathedral and viewed Vasari's majestic fresco which was begun in 1568 and was completed eleven years later by Federico Zuccaro.

Wikipedia

And of course, the Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world.

Wikipedia

Michael and Carole Middleton visited their eldest daughter half way through her stay and Kate showed them the sights before enjoying drinks at a local bar. Before long December approached, and the course had come to an end. Kate returned to Bucklebury in Berkshire to spend Christmas with her family. The trip would later stand her in good stead for her degree and today, in her role as patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

Shortly after her nineteenth birthday, Kate was ready to embark on the second leg of her gap year, which would prove to be in stark contrast to her time in Florence. She went on to undertake a Raleigh International Programme in Chile, and crewed on Round The World Challenge boats in the Solent.

BBC

Unwittingly, Kate was following in her future husband's footsteps. The then 18-year-old prince had completed the programme just weeks before Kate arrived. William is said to have enjoyed his time there immensely and very much got into volunteering, undertaking domestic duties, painting work and helping build a playground in the coastal village of Tortel.

Press Association

It all began for Raleigh International in 1978 when Colonel John Blashford-Snell and Prince Charles launched Operation Drake, running youth projects from ships circumnavigating the globe, to develop self-confidence and leadership through adventure, scientific exploration and community service. Following the success of this project, the much more ambitious Operation Raleigh was created, with an emphasis on land-based expeditions. The operation is still going strong today with teams working in Borneo, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, India and Tanzania.

Raleigh International

The 150 young people in Kate's group came from different backgrounds; some were privately educated, but others were young offenders who had come out of drug rehabilitation programmes. Kate attended an 'Operation Raleigh' selection weekend the previous summer, where prospective volunteers were told about upcoming trips and what they would need to bring, for example, warm clothing, waterproofs, sleeping bags and rucksacks. The group arrived in late January 2001, at the end of the Chilean summer and the climate would have been quite similar to Britain.

BBC

Kate secured a job as crew member on the BT Global Challenge, which involved long days and physical work. Tasks included everything from waiting tables, chatting to guests and ensuring they felt comfortable, to cleaning the boat and helping get the sails down. Impressive social skills were an essential part of the £40 a day job and corporate clients reportedly loved her, and she soon became known as "beautiful Kate". The official uniform was a navy jacket, polo shirt and dark coloured shorts.

Kate became close friends with Ian Henry, who was working as a deckhand before going onto Oxford. They reportedly spent plenty of time together and forged a strong friendship, so much so that Ian joined Kate and her family on a holiday in Barbados later in 2001. Mr Henry told the Mail Online he and Kate were "very good friends" and nothing more.

Kate also worked on a number of projects including a marine survey where she joined her team in carrying inflatable boats and going out for days at a time, which meant camping on beaches and collecting data on organisms and sea life for the environmental project. We know Kate loves being outdoors and the adventure course was right up her street.

BBC

She also spent three weeks helping to build a fire station in an isolated area. It was a world away from Bucklebury in one sense, but eager Kate enjoyed her time there, with just one school and one shop it was incredibly quiet, but the group made their own fun playing cards and having late night chats in the communal building where they all slept in sleeping bags in one room. Kate particularly enjoyed visiting the local school and interacting with local children.

BBC

Kate's instructor Malcolm Sutherland, who also accompanied William said:

'Kate was an impressively strong teenager who also taught English at a local school because she clearly loved children. While others asked about William's participation, she did not.
 She wasn't extrovert, she wasn't trying to be anything, she was just strong and she got on with it without any fussing. She was a good team-member and good at working with other people rather than being the one who would jump up and try to take over.'

Group leader Rachel Humphreys spoke to the BBC:

'Kate had a certain presence. She was a very attractive girl, she was a very popular girl. Particularly popular with the boys, and she was a great member of the expedition. But she was always very in control of herself and impeccably behaved.'

It was an extremely worthwhile experience and introduced the future royal to volunteering and charity work. The Cambridges had the opportunity to meet Raleigh International staff and volunteers during their visit to Danum Valley, Borneo last year. No doubt it brought back plenty of memories for the couple.


Kate returned to Berkshire following her time in Chile and began studying history of art at St Andrews University on 23 September 2001 where she would meet her prince :)

Prince William St Andrews/© Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Website

With thanks to The Telegraph, Raleigh International, British Institute of Florence, Italian news outlets, Marcia Moody and Hazel, Marianna and Ian for background information sourcing.

60 comments:

  1. I'm constantly impressed with this site, especially with wonderfully researched posts like this one. Keep up the great work!

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  2. Charlotte its nice article on your blog im would kate loves gap years i dont know about her collage life his gap year nice blog i know thank you for posting it and good researched post i love it well done william and the duchess being prince george to diana sister it so sweet of them i think william and kate asked guy pelly to be gosparent prince george one more thing prince micheal kent family welcome baby maud.. in hello magazine sept 9

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  3. Complimenti! magnifico articolo! (you are talking about Florence, let me employ a bit of Italian!) Bravissima Charlotte.

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  4. Fantastic article Dear Charlotte love the photos and information. Did you hear that Kate and William took baby George to visit Diana's sister in a way to remember his mother's anniversary of her sad death?
    I think its a beautiful tribute to his mother and her memory lives on in him, his brother and her grandchild. The dailymail posted an article about the visit.

    RIP Diana Princess of Wales gone but never forgotten.

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    1. I did read it Mellie and think it is wonderful William chose to mark the anniversary by taking Kate and George to Diana's grave. Diana was an exceptional woman not only as a mother but in her charitable work and the impact she had. She'll never be far from William or Harry's thoughts.

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    2. William The Reconciliator is trying to bring peace and harmony between the once belligerent groups of his huge family. He is a happy husband and father and as many people do when they are happy, he would like to share this happiness with all his relatives. I sincerely hope he will succeed.

      Thank you very much for this great post dear Charlotte. I visited the Florence Cathedral some years ago. It just took my breath away. By the way, do you know if Kate can speak Italian? I remember the Princess of Wales taking some Italian lessons on her own in 1985 and thanking the Italian crowds gathered at Venice by a very good - though a little shy - Italian sentence.

      Monica, France

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    3. Very thoughtful and appropriate. William is a class act. Diana would be so proud of the man he has become. And Kate has her to thank for that.

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  5. I take this article as a reaction to the article in Daily mail yesterday which refers to the new book from K. Nicholl (am I right Charlotte? ) and seemed to me rather sensationalist.
    That she undertake Raleigh to be with William and she missed..insinuations like this - I guess that due to the application terms she had to be decided to go there and apply before was found out that William was there - which was due to the security reasons very late.
    Her change of choice of university maybe has something to do with her expirience of studying Art in Italy (maybe she was determined to study another career in Edinburg due to her other A-level subjects, Bi+Che..medicine?) And I really don´t see anything so wierd in the fact that mother of a girl asks her boyfriend of 6 years then if their relationship (extremly demanding for her family too, in this case) is leading anywhere.
    So thank you Charlotte for the article full of objective facts and real testimonies, I was quite disgusted as I´m always in case of un-authorised biographies.

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    1. Hello Mia,

      The post had been on my 'to do list' for a while but it seemed an appropriate time to write it. I spent quite a bit of time double checking facts etc to be accurate :)

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    2. I read an article about that book yesterday. It seems as though material facts were taken, and then filled in with salacious innuendo and intrigue. And some folks seem to get into the spirit of it, and go on and further dream up even worse things with the material, and are just hateful...really. What is this to accomplish?
      It is so nice to have a place for the young royals, that appreciate their efforts to excel. And so, I add my thanks, Charlotte.

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    3. Has anyone read the book? No, I don't think you have. So to say it's "salacious innuendo and intrigue" before you've read it is a bit much, don't you think? It was written by Katie Nicholl who is a reporter, and one who has been quite sympathetic to Kate. This stuff is being pulled out to sell it, and wouldn't be in the book if it hadn't been thoroughly vetted. The book is being published in Britain, no? Therefore, she'd get sued in a nanosecond if it was false.

      But, for what it's worth, when you add it all up it certainly does look like she had her eye on Willam for quite a while.

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    4. I would not call KN sympathetic. Far from it. She was responsible for a good amount of "waity..." headlines and that's not "reporting". Yet when the engagement became a reality, suddenly she had no choice but to go with the flow and changed her tune to remain relevant as a "royal expert". And now we're back to the original "reporting" style to sell a book.

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    5. I just don't see the point...she went after her man...? What's wrong with that? But when the Middleton family is insinuated as Carole being some sort of hook to get William? Too weird for me. They are OBVIOUSLY a proper middle class family with normal aspirations for their young. What is normal? Whatever you would do for your own son or daughter's developing life. The familial bonds developed with William are warm and nurturing. These things can not be faked...only felt. I notice that Kate is very solicitous toward William, as his mother was.

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  6. Great post. Doesn't william look so young in that picture!! And love him with hair! Shame he's followed the Windsor men and loosing it!!

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  7. charlotte your talents is beyond reach i enjoyed reading your blog entry i really want to travel around Italy and kind a bit learning some history stuff and im touring my mind to these beautiful places that our duchess spend gap year btw i read the tweets that tweets about that duke and duchess their baby or prince george visit lady diana sisters and brothers its a great tribute i think they consider their cousin as prince george godparents

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  8. wow it is so impressive how well these posts are researched and written. thanks charlotte

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  9. Marci in Salt Lake3 September 2013 15:38

    Brilliantly written article, Charlotte. I enjoyed it very much and think it is one of your very best. The information in it is gratifying, as it counters the lower media image of Kate as an empty-headed socialite whose only aim in life was to snare a royal. Ha! This wonderful portrait of a well-educated and hard-working woman whose choices from her late adolescence onward prepared for her role today is exactly what the general public needs to see.

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    1. Sarah from Calif.4 September 2013 06:06

      Marci, well said.

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    2. Definitely! :)

      And how refreshing to see normal, cleancut teenagers doing something intelligent and productive.

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  10. Today is a good day for Kate News! It was a wonderful treat to wake up and read a new Kate Loves Post! They are my favorite!
    It was also nice that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge posted a new articule about her work with childrens hospice. I got a feeling an annoucement will be made that she is adding more dates to her schdule involving hospice care! Have a good day everyone and!

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  11. Kate seems so talented and could have had a gr8 career before her marriage, I wonder why she didn't and the reasons behind it? Sue. Boston

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    1. We all choose different paths in life.

      Marriage and motherhood are wonderful careers.

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    2. Jean from Lancs.4 September 2013 08:29

      It became impossible because she was followed all the time by hordes of the paparazzi, so she went back to her parents and worked for them.

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  12. Theresa from Austin, Texas USA3 September 2013 18:38

    Fantastic post! We can always count on you to bring us the REAL story!!

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  13. Good posting :) Both William and Kate used their time in a good sense.
    They have grown up. And Kates nose looks very different now! That's my thought when I see older pictures of her.

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  14. Pauline Oak HIlls3 September 2013 20:18

    Ms. Charlotte- Great post. I love all the research you have done to make sure all this is correct. Great job. And who care's if she went to ST. Andrews and William was there. This news is old (13 alomst 14 yrs ago) and we know the out come. People are making such a big deal of this.

    Thanks again for this great blog.

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  15. Marion from Germany3 September 2013 20:36

    Dear Charlotte,

    what an incredible amount of new information! I have always regarded myself of being quite well-known informed about Kate, but after reading your post I understand that this was not the case. I knew that Kate enjoyed a gap year and that she travelled to Italy and Chile, but what you tell us here just astonishes me. You seem to have so much more background information than all the professional people who write about Kate – and they get paid for it and you do not (which is a shame by the way). Moreover you care for the details, I appreciate that so much. I love to read all your posts (especially the “Kate loves”-section) but this one really leaves me dumbstruck. The only word that I can say is “WOW!!!”. Oh, and another one: “THANK YOU!!!”

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    1. Thank you all so much for commenting. I'm delighted you enjoyed the post. I was fortunate enough to speak with people from one of the organisations Kate worked with and a girl who completed the course the same year as Kate. It was very interesting, we haven't much about Kate's gap year, so it was a nice opportunity to do some research :)

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  16. What a great post! As always, I really enjoyed it =D It was interesting to read about what Kate did before heading over to St. Andrews. I can see she had already developed the wonderful qualities we love about her such as working hard, volunteering and working with children. I can't wait to read the next Kate loves! I wonder what it will be about =)

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  17. Penny, 13 years, USA4 September 2013 00:59

    Love this website so much! :)

    Okay, I know this doesn't have to deal with Kate, but oh my goodness, I am so exited for Downton Abbey Season 4!!!!!!!!!!!!! AH!!!!!!! Are any of you?

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    1. It starts later this month in the UK and I am beyond excited. It's going to be very interesting to see what direction the story takes, particularly with Mary's character :)

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    2. Definitely excited, Penny, but SO bummed we in the U.S. have to wait until January for new Downton Abbey episodes! :o(

      Julie

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    3. Sarah from Calif.4 September 2013 06:03

      Yes Penny I too am very excited. Unfortunately we have to wait longer than our UK friends. :(
      P.S. I think you have chosen a wonderful Role model to watch and a great blog to be a part of.

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  18. This post is a true testament to Kate's adventurous spirit!She had such a wonderful chance in life to explore two great countries in a year. Its so nice to read and hear people speak so highly of her, even though at that time she was just another student,like the rest of them. I'm sure the experiences have shaped her personality and given her many treasured memories. Charlotte, I have a suggestion for Kate loves-Kate's friends. We know she has friends in the royal circle when she was dating William but we don't know much about her St.Andrews friends(dorm room friends) or her school or Marlborough friends. Of course, you don't have to take this suggestion if you don't want to :)
    Thanks chica for this fabulous update!xoxo

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    1. Excellent idea Siddhii, I'll add it to the list now :)

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  19. A brilliant post! Thank you for taking the time to write this. It was an engaging piece and I loved learning more about Kate's background. I also want to praise the comments of Marci in Salt Lake!

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    1. Marci in Salt Lake5 September 2013 02:54

      Kates Closet, you are very kind. Thank you. But Charlotte deserves the lion's share of praise!

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    2. Not at all Marci. All your comments are fascinating to read!

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  20. Great post, well researched with wonderful pictures.

    Thought it so lovely that William is said to have visited aunt on anniversary of his mother's death. Strangely, Daily Mail seems to have removed the article for now but Hello site still has it so hope it is really so.

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  21. Sarah from Calif.4 September 2013 04:45

    Oh Charlotte, this is a wonderful post. Your blogger FB friends were all talking about the different places in the world we want to see. The pictures in Florence are spectacular or should I say Bravissima as Paola says. Oh and a little flat for $ 500.00 with a few friends and a deli downstairs. Divine, rustic only adds to the charm of The Old World charm. The cozy sitting room with books, books, books sigh ............the Borneo picture is (confession) the exact picture on my phone screen. One of my all time favorites. Thank you for all the great info and some new pictures of Kate I haven't seen before.
    Hugs to you your the best!

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  22. Fantastic post! So interesting to read more about what experiences shaped Kate into the wonderful woman she is today. :o) I think her compassion and love for chidren really shines through her gap year activities.

    And how lovely to always know that this excellently written blog is factual and respectful - well done, Charlotte! Thank you so much!

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  23. Jean from Lancs.4 September 2013 08:37

    Catherine certainly made good use of her gap year.
    Thank you Charlotte---there's a lot of work involved.
    William can have very little time left in Anglesey--I note that in October he is organizing a football match in Buckingham Palace gardens---celebration of 150 years of the FA. Maybe Catherine will be there too.

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    1. Sarah from Calif.6 September 2013 04:22

      Hi Jean, hope you are well. Will they be playing football like the U. S. or is it different?

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  24. Amazing post! I'm from Florence, so interesting seeing where she spent here year in my city :) I have an art degree too and I can say Florence is the right city for studing it, as long as you want to specialize in Renaissance Art.
    Laura

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  25. Kate has wonderful, dedicated and loving parents. They understand that an education is the best asset for a girl, and seem to have made her feel secure and supported. I really get annoyed with the press who take a negative view of Kate's parents, they are a great example of parents for Kate and other people to model.It is a shame the press think we are all stupid, and want to think the worst, when they could be positive educators as well.

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  26. This is really interesting Charlotte, thank you. I had no idea Kate did all this, how very brave at such a young age. Kate and William really are such a well suited couple.

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  27. I think that a major reason I'm so interested in Kate is because it seems that she is a celebrity who is dignified. The Hollywood celebrities do not fit that category at all. It's hard to imagine anyone of them doing something constructive during a gap year, or even having a gap year, that their fans would be interested in. Kate's gap year is very interesting. And I love the pictures with it. So much new information and so many new images. Thank you, Charlotte. Your coverage matches Kate's dignity.
    Colorado Eve

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  28. Kate, Texas, USA4 September 2013 23:28

    Charlotte, thank you SO VERY MUCH for researching the information and writing a beautiful post! It helps bring forth the truth that Kate is a very well educated, adventurous, and "strong person without fuss". I loved how she was described from those who knew her before she became HRH...when she was just Kate. I think the description I loved was that Kate was "always well in control of herself and impeccably behaved". Just as we see her today. So many try to paint a false picture of the person she really is. So very sad. The wonderful and positive thing is she has not changed, but just gained a title and jumped into the royal fishbowl (which I say she is handling brilliantly). Her gap year sounds like so much fun! A time full of learning and growing. I think it's great that without knowing one another, both Will and Kate chose to spend part of their gap year working with Raleigh International Programme. I'm sure it's made for great conversation through the years recounting the memories made. It has always seemed to me William and Catherine were crafted for each other. Some have said Kate went to St. Andrews to follow William from her mother's pushing. I don't believe that's true, but even if it was, does it matter? William fell in love with Kate for the person she is, because she is beautiful inside and out, intelligent, independent, and a unwavering support for him. William could have had any woman in the world, but he CHOSE Kate. They are a beautiful match.

    Thank you again Charlotte for the GREAT post!

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    1. Shantel (@FashionandFaith)5 September 2013 15:01

      Amen, Kate!
      Shantel
      Minnesota, USA

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    2. Sarah from Calif.6 September 2013 04:20

      Well said Kate!!!!

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  29. Lovely comments, Kate! I couldn't agree more.

    Instead of getting bashed, Mike and Carole Middleton should be praised for doing a brilliant job as parents.

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    1. She's just a girl, like we all are in the dark. Diana would want so much for this marriage to succeed. I believe that we need to be sound in judgement, and support her. Did you see her joy in bringing her baby to show us, that she had just pushed into the world for England? She's a good girl. And William doesn't need to think anything other than that. Press can be troubling. I couldn't take it. I know castle walls are thick, but one can be a prisoner behind them as well.

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  30. Yesi i love your comments kate how is love her colage life and being normal and now being a princess mike and carole middleton are the best parents and bringing their children in their nice ways

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  31. Hi Charlotte, This is a very good article! As always.

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  32. Wonderful text!
    Congratulations!

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  33. I've always been intrigued by the "gap year" concept, since it's something that seems to be uniquely British, I haven't heard of any other culture or country where kids take a year off between secondary school and university. Is it strictly for the upper classes or is this common among all young people in the UK who are going to university? And what's the aim of the gap year, travel or service? Both? Time off between high school and university? Thanks!

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