In 1979, Michael Middleton proposed to his girlfriend and British Airways colleague Carole Middleton. The couple were hardworking and doing well in their chosen fields - Carole as a flight attendant and Mike as a newly-promoted aircraft dispatcher keeping track of the airline's fleet on the ground. Looking forward to their imminent wedding and future together it seemed the perfect time to choose their first home.
The couple bought their first home, West View, on Cock Lane, in the village of Bradfield, Berkshire for £34,000. The red brick, Victorian, semi-detached house boasts four bedrooms, reception rooms, original pine doors throughout and a mature garden to match the leafy village in which it stood.
In the early 1980s, the Middleton family decided it was time for a change of scenery and when the opportunity arose for Michael to work overseas in Jordan they jumped at the chance. Kate and Pippa were not yet school age, the young family moved into a plain, one-storey, flat-roofed building in the shadow of a tower block. Because the rent was paid for by British Airways it meant they could keep their Berkshire home.
|The Middleton Family Flickr|
They returned to England in 1986 after two years away and remained in West View until 1995 when Kate was 13, and the family enterprise, Party Pieces, was firmly established as an up-and-coming business.
Estate agent Dudley Singleton spoke to The Telegraph about his memories of Kate and the Middleton family during their time there:
'Singleton first encountered 13-year-old Kate doing her homework as he was showing around potential buyers. “She would always talk to you and had great natural charm,” he recalls.
Singleton stayed in touch with the family, selling a small cottage in nearby Pangbourne to Carol Middleton’s parents when they moved from the north to be nearer the family, and selling it on again when they died.
“Both Carol and Catherine get a peck on the cheek,” he says, describing their relationship as “professionally friendly”. Mrs Middleton is “a smashing lady”, while Michael is “very pleasant, very straightforward”. “They’re not concerned with glitz,” he says. “They were happy to live here for quite some time after Party Pieces became successful.”'
Through Mr. Singleton, the property sold for £158,000 - a 355% profit on the amount they paid for it.
With the couple's business doing so well and the hefty profit they made on West View, the Middleton family moved just a few miles away to the picturesque village of Bucklebury. Their new home, Oak Acre, was purchased for £250,000. Set in one-and-a-half acres of land the large detached, five-bedroom country house was ideal.
Kate settled in quickly; opting for a blue-and-cream colour scheme in her room. Discreetly hidden from view by trees, the house can only be accessed via a private road - a most welcome security measure which served the family in good stead for the years to come.
The family later chose to have some of the walls knocked in order to create an open plan feel and Kate, Pippa and James made good use of the outhouse, entertaining friends during the weekends. Carole and Michael also purchased some old farm buildings, which meant they had a place to store more stock and expand the business.
Following a gap year, Kate made the long journey from Bucklebury to St Andrews University on the east coast of Scotland in September 2001. There, she spent her first year in Saint Salvator's Hall, affectionately known as 'Sallies'. Located in the centre of town beside the history of art block - the grey sandstone building was a hub of activity and fun. Kate's parents paid about £2,000 for a year's rent.
Kate shared a room and it was very much typical, basic student accommodation with two single beds, a desk, a long mirror and a mahogany-coloured double wardrobe. Kate enjoyed her time, socialising, forging friendships and studying. Indeed, she was no doubt surprised when a week after arriving she and the other 'Sallies' residents were summoned by their hall warden who informed them Prince William would be joining them...
Fast forward one year and William and Kate had moved off campus to 13A Hope Street, in the centre of town with friends Fergus Boyd and Olivia Bleasdale. They each paid £100 per week in rent for the two storey apartment and shared cleaning duties. Security measures included bulletproof windows and a bombproof front door. Despite their close friendship at that point, it was was the first time Kate encountered the high level of security which surrounded the future king, and which would one day surround her, too.
It was in 13A Hope Street that their friendship blossomed into something else. The apartment was minimalistic but offered large bedrooms and windows and an open plan dining and living room. It was a million miles from life at the Palace, yet William adored the normality of it. Taking turns doing mundane chores like taking out the bins, ordering pizza and organising DVD nights with Kate, Fergus and Olivia.
|Middleton Family Flickr|
During the engagement interview, William recalled cooking for Kate in the galley kitchen of the apartment during the early days of their relationship:
'When I was trying to impress Kate I was trying to cook these amazing fancy dinners and what would happen was I would burn something, something would overspill, something would catch fire.'
Following university, Kate accepted a position as a junior accessories buyer for British clothing chain Jigsaw. During the weekdays, Kate shared a flat with Pippa on Chelsea's Old Church Street, which was purchased by the Middletons in 2002. Since then, all three Middleton children have lived in the £780,000 property at one time or another.
Unlike St Andrews, which afforded the couple privacy and seclusion away from the media, Kate was bombarded on a daily basis by paparazzi as she left for, and returned from, work. It is said to have been a daunting time for Kate who found it difficult to cope with the constant media presence.
Kate soon decided to leave Jigsaw and work within the family business, meaning she spent most of her time at the family home, Oak Acre. Prince William became a regular visitor and much to the surprise of Kate's parents casually dropped by one day - and I mean quite literally - landing a multi-million-pound Chinook helicopter in the back garden.
Prince William's role as a search and rescue pilot took him to RAF Valley, Anglesey. It is understood the Prince paid £750 per month to rent a four-bedroom farmhouse on the Isle in North Wales. The farmhouse came with access to a private beach and boasted breathtaking views of Snowdonia and a nearby forest.
It was here William and Kate had the opportunity to experience normality during a time when a media frenzy surrounded their lives. While William worked 24-hour shifts, Kate occupied herself cooking and baking in the large kitchen, and during William's time off they enjoyed sitting by the open fire, watching movies and relaxing.
Speaking about Anglesey at a reception in 2011 the Duchess said:
"I love our life in Anglesey. It's just nice to be outdoors and away from the city. As much as I love London, it's nice to get away."
William and Kate divided their life between Anglesey and London until 2013 when Prince William decided to take a gap year and leave RAF Valley. During their time in London, they stayed in Nottingham Cottage - a two bedroom house in the grounds of Kensington Palace with a couple of reception rooms and a small yard.
Meanwhile, the Middleton family decided it was time to move on from Oak Acre, which was later sold to a banker for £2.8 million. The new owner signed a contract which prevents him from discussing the sale or details about the home.
Michael and Carole chose the scenic Georgian house called Bucklebury Manor, previously owned by Morgan Stanley banker Justin Mason and his wife Jill. There was a bidding war for the much sought-after property before the Middletons gained it, paying an estimated £4.7 million in the process.
The Grade II listed house features seven bedrooms, five reception rooms, a swimming pool and a tennis court, all set in eighteen acres of land. It offers privacy for the family and for William and Kate who spent quite a lot of time there. When Prince George was born they chose to stay at the manor for several weeks.
|TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge|
When it came time for the couple to choose their royal residence, it came as surprise to few that Prince William chose Kensington Palace. Affectionately called 'KP' by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, it holds many fond memories for the Princes of times spent with their mother.
It was decided the late Princess Margaret's former home, Apartment 1A, would be renovated for the couple. Since her death it had been used as office space and a vast renovation project was undertaken on the twenty-two-room apartment to include a new kitchen and several bathrooms. Although the couple personally paid for fixtures including curtains and furniture the cost to taxpayers was in the region of £4 million. Palace aides insist it was "great value for money" and will serve as the family's royal residence for many, many years to come.
At the time it had been thought the apartment, upon completion, would serve as the Cambridges' primary residence. However, following a gap year which included an agricultural course at Cambridge University, Prince William decided he would return to flying - this time for the East Anglia Air Ambulance service - instead of taking on a full-time schedule of duties.
As Kate completed decorating, attention soon turned to the couple's new country home, Anmer Hall, which Her Majesty gifted to her grandson in early 2013. Located on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, the late-Georgian country house features ten bedrooms and its grounds have been part of the royal estate since 1898.
It is thought Anmer Hall will remain home to the Cambridges for several years to come with Kensington Palace remaining a London residence until then. When the couple take on a larger royal role Anmer Hall will remain a country retreat.
It would seem the perfect place for William and Kate to recapture the privacy they enjoyed in Anglesey, and a place their children will take joy in. After all, there's no place like home :)