She’s known as the polite and poised Duchess of Cambridge, having taken on her royal duties with grace and pride.
And when Kate Middleton married Prince William and proved herself worthy of a royal title, she became loved across the globe.
Sadly, Kate’s wide popularity and adoration wasn’t always the case.
In fact, the commoner-turned-royal had her own bout of tough times growing up. Opening up to British newspaper The Sun, a classmate of the duchess revealed that she was bullied so badly at school that her parents had to intervene for the sake of her mental health. Jessica Hay attended the elite Downe House all-girls boarding school alongside Kate, which sets parents back $52,000 per year in school fees.
“She was picked on because she was perfect, well turned-out and lovely,” Hay said.
The torment from her fellow peers was so bad, the then 13-year-old became an “emotional wreck” and broke out in eczema due to the stress other students caused.
It was at that point her parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, pulled their daughter out of the posh school and enrolled her in Marlborough College, Wiltshire – even further away from her family home.
One of the students at Kate’s new school was Gemma Williamson, who noticed she seemed quite drawn.
“Apparently she had been bullied very badly and she certainly looked thin and pale,” Williamson told the UK’s Daily Mail.
The shy student’s house tutor was Joan Gall, who also told the paper that Kate was unusually quiet when she arrived. “Coming into a big school like Marlborough was difficult, but she settled in quickly.”
According to Gall, Kate was welcomed into the school community, which felt more like a “big, happy family”.
“We would do things like bake cakes and watch videos,” she said.
While Gall remembered Kate’s demeanour and her eczema quite well, Marlborough headmistress Ann Patching says she couldn’t remember how they came to learn about the previous bullying, but that the family wanted a fresh start. “She didn’t make a big deal about it. I can’t remember if it was her or Carole who mentioned Downe House,” Patching said.
“It was a concern, but they were determined to move on.”
What her former teacher did remember, however, was that the future duchess could eat as much lasagne and pasta bake as she liked.
“[She] always stayed very slim,” Patching added.
Going on to describe a young Kate, fellow student Kathryn Solari revealed her kind nature was exactly the same as the one she now shows to her adoring fans and royal followers.
“Catherine was always really sweet and lovely. She treated everybody alike,” Solari told the Daily Mail. “I wouldn’t say she was the brightest button, but she was very hard-working.”
It was her time at Marlborough, though, that would seal Kate’s fate of meeting her future husband, Prince William. Hay says that Kate told her very early on that she had a crush on the boy from Eton who would visit for inter-school events.
“She always said: ‘I bet he’s really kind. You can tell by just looking at him.’ ”