What became of Kate’s jolly hockey sticks friends at Marlborough

What became of Kate’s jolly hockey sticks friends at Marlborough – as housemistress tells how school formed a future Queen who every boy fancied from the bullied girl who arrived suffering stress eczema

  • Marlborough College turned the reserved teenager into a confident woman
  • During her time at the school she made firm friends with girls in the hockey team
  • These women included her sister Pippa and her ‘invisible’ best friend Trini Lough

Beaming proudly, hockey sticks crossed, 12 fresh-faced schoolgirls pose in a time-honoured tradition.

But look again. Standing in the centre of the back row is one Catherine Middleton, the sporty but shy member of Marlborough’s hockey A-team and now our future Queen.

More remarkable still is that, although more than 20 years have passed since this picture was taken, Kate is as close as ever to the friends she made at school.

And as it was revealed this week that the Duchess of Cambridge is considering sending her son Prince George to her old school — rather than attending Eton like his father Prince William and uncle Prince Harry — perhaps we need look no further than this picture to deduce the reason why.

Beaming proudly, hockey sticks crossed, 12 fresh-faced schoolgirls pose in a time-honoured tradition outside Marlborough College

For it was Marlborough College which turned the reserved teenager into the self-confident, sporty young woman who caught the eye of a prince. And it seems that she feels that her son, who is only five, may be better served by a more nurturing and less ‘alpha’ atmosphere.

Kate herself knows how it feels not to fit in at a leading public school. She joined Marlborough midway through the academic year in 1996 after ‘teasing’ by other girls at Downe House — an all-girls boarding school closer to home in Berkshire — led parents Carole and Michael to switch schools.

Headmaster Edward Gould knew Kate had left Downe House after an unhappy time there. Pupil Gemma Williamson said: ‘Apparently she had been bullied very badly and she certainly looked thin and pale. She had very little confidence.’

Kate playing hockey at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, when the future Duchess of Cambridge was in her final year, aged about 18

The Duchess of Cambridge at St Andrew’s School, which she attended from 1986 until 1995 where she also played for the hockey team

Kate’s house tutor Joan Gall said she was suffering from eczema due to stress. ‘When she arrived she was very quiet. Coming into a big school like Marlborough was difficult, but she settled in quickly.’ Miss Gall added: ‘It was like a big, happy family. We would do things like bake cakes and watch videos.’

Housemistress Ann Patching said of Kate’s past experience: ‘She didn’t make a big deal about it. I can’t remember if it was her or Carole who mentioned Downe House. It was a concern, but they were determined to move on.’

Mrs Patching added that her new pupil loved lasagne and pasta bakes but that Kate ‘always stayed very slim’.

Twenty years on, what became of Kate Middleton’s magnificent seven mates?


Kate’s ‘Alpha female’ sister Pippa arrived at Marlborough College oozing self-assurance. She won a sports scholarship and went straight into the first team for hockey. What a splash she made.

In an article for The Spectator she revealed she loved the attention of boys when she was playing sport. ‘My focus is on winning and making sure my hair — fashioned into a slick Sporty Spice “up do” — is just right. Did I mention boys watching?’

She added that she found coach Richard Markham, who had played hockey for Wales, ‘fierce’ but ‘undeniably fanciable’.

Known as ‘Panface’ for her supposedly flat features, she was brilliant at tennis, rounders and netball. Chattier, flirtier and more resilient, Pippa seemed to eclipse quiet Kate, and it was thought that she was the one destined for greatness.

Now 35, she is married to hedge fund manager James Matthews and the couple live in a £12 million house in Chelsea. She gave birth to their first child, Arthur, in October.


Alice St John Webster, the daughter of an Army officer, has been close to Kate ever since Marlborough. At the Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey in 2011, Alice was given a prime seat in the Statesmen’s Aisle. She also attended the evening party for the couple’s closest friends. One said: ‘Alice, Pippa and Kate were a very tight group and all best friends from the age of 14 upwards. It could be a bit suffocating. They did everything together.’

After school, Alice went to Edinburgh University at the same time as Pippa. Known as the life and soul of gatherings, she tried to make it as an actress before working for J.P. Morgan then teaching languages.

After having children she went into clothes design, specifically smocked cotton dresses under the Little Alice label. When Princess Charlotte wore a Little Alice dress to visit newborn brother Louis, it instantly sold out.


Blonde Gemma Williamson was one of Kate’s dorm mates. Ms Williamson, who lives in a £400,000 three-bedroom house in Maidenhead, Berks, and is the boss of a recruitment consultancy, said of Kate: ‘Hers was quite an old-fashioned approach — especially at Marlborough, where half the girls were having sex.

‘Although she had a couple of innocent snogs, she never had a boyfriend while at school — she just wasn’t willing to experiment like other girls. I got the distinct impression that Catherine was the kind of girl who wanted to save herself for someone special. She had enough strength of character not to care if the other girls thought her prudish.’


Trini Lough is the best friend nobody has heard of. She was on hand when Kate and William briefly split in 2007, and then attended their wedding and subsequent christenings.

She and Kate have been seen strolling with their buggies through Kensington Gardens. After Marlborough, Trini took an MA in politics at Edinburgh University, while working as an assistant in the office of Jeremy Hunt MP. She then worked as an account manager. She lives with husband Ted Foyle, a lawyer, and son Alexander (born in 2013) in a £1.4 million house in Wandsworth, South-West London.


First team hockey chum Emilia D’Erlanger — known at school as ‘Emilia de Lingerie’ — is the niece of Viscount Exmouth, and as a young teen went on a cruise of the Greek Islands with Prince Charles, William and Harry.

She later became part of the ‘Glossy Posse’ of well-bred teenagers in Gloucestershire who would socialise with princes William and Harry at their father’s Highgrove home.

After becoming close friends with Kate at Marlborough, Emilia included her in a house party also attended by William when Kate was 17 in the summer of 1999. It’s said that this helped influence Kate in applying to St Andrews University, where Prince William was due to take up a place, rather than her original choice of Edinburgh.

The two women are so close that when Kate and Prince William broke up, Emilia joined Kate on holiday in Ibiza to help her get over her heartbreak.

She is now the godmother of Prince George and one of Kate’s most trusted confidantes. Emilia is married to David Jardine-Paterson, the son of a Scottish landowner. William and Kate attended their 2010 wedding.

She is also the co-founder of interior design company d’Erlanger and Sloan. She is said to have had a hand in Kate’s interior design schemes at both Kensington Palace and Anmer Hall in Norfolk.


Hannah Gillingham is one of the ‘Turnip Toffs’ in Kate’s inner circle in Norfolk. In 2012, Hannah married Robert E. Carter, the son of wealthy Norfolk landowner, farmer and builder Robert Carter.

The wedding, in Wingfield, near Eye, Suffolk, was attended by Kate and William, who were also celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

Along with other guests, the royal couple spent the night at nearby The Crown hotel and tucked in to bacon and eggs the next morning.


Flame-haired and 6ft tall, Alicia Fox-Pitt is unmistakable. The sister of the Olympic eventer William Fox-Pitt and daughter of the late Oliver, a leading equestrian and banker, she was raised in Knowlton Court, a mansion outside Canterbury, Kent.

A fully qualified vet, she lives in a £1 million house in Vauxhall, South London, with her husband, Sebastian Stoddart, the scion of another wealthy family.

Kate’s one moment of indiscretion at school seems to have been to vomit on a train coming home after an all-night champagne and dancing party chez Fox-Pitt when she ‘overdid’ it.

And Alicia was one of a very select handful who attended Kate’s hen night celebrations where legend has it there was karaoke and Kate sang Fight For This Love by Cheryl Cole. They both attended each other’s weddings and still enjoy regular suppers together.

Hugely sporty, Alicia has raced at Cheltenham and persuaded Kate to join the ‘sisterhood’ charity dragon boat crew in

After prep, Kate would listen to her Sony Walkman or watch TV. Sitcom Friends was a big favourite and at their ‘House Shout’ at the end of term she sang the theme with classmates. She was popular and formed close friendships with her hockey pals. Dorm mates were rotated every term to stop cliques from forming.

In the evening Kate and her friends would hang out in the common room and she would make her favourite snack, microwaved Marmite sandwiches.

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Mrs Patching added: ‘Catherine was able to settle in very easily. She got involved in school life and loved sport and music.’ Kathryn Solari, who was in her biology set, said: ‘Catherine was always really sweet and lovely. She treated everybody alike. She was a good girl and quite preppy — she always did the right thing — and she was very sporty. I wouldn’t say she was the brightest button, but she was very hard-working.’

Marlborough College is thought to be Kate’s school of choice for her son George who is due to start school 

Kate became joint captain of the tennis team with her friend Alice St John Webster, and also shone in swimming, high jump, netball and hockey. Her parents visited regularly and watched her play sport. Younger sister Pippa joined later on an all-rounder scholarship. Mrs Patching said: ‘Pippa was good at everything and sharper academically, but I don’t think Catherine ever resented that.’

Kate celebrating victory with the hockey team at St Andrew’s School

After her GCSEs, Kate went on a school hockey trip to Argentina, then to the Caribbean with her family. School friend Gemma said: ‘Kate came back after the long summer break an absolute beauty. Every boy in the school fancied her rotten.’

Denise Allford agreed: ‘Pippa was a tomboy but Kate had lost her braces and looked stunning. She was wearing make-up and looked amazing.’ She was apparently top of the ‘Fit List’ which boys would sometimes pin on the walls. Kate’s confidence grew.

Her first kiss seems to have been with Woody, the elder brother of Alice St John Webster. She then developed a crush on Willem Marx, a boarder, but no real romance ensued. One friend said Kate was ‘saving herself’ for someone special, unlike many other sixth formers who were in relationships.

She reportedly had a romance with Harry Blakelock, captain of the rugby team and also very good at hockey. The affair fizzled out when he left school and took a gap year, leaving Kate ‘heartbroken’.

Prince William came to Marlborough for inter-school events, and may have bumped into Kate in the dining room, but she was not one of the girls who would gather to gawp at him.

Kate during her hockey days at Marlborough where she may have encountered her future husband Prince William during his trips to the school

She denied reports which suggested she had his picture pinned to her dorm wall, but school friend Jessica Hay said she did have a crush on him. 

‘We would sit around talking about all the boys at school we fancied but Catherine would always say: “I don’t like any of them. They’re all a bit of rough.” Then she would joke: “There’s no one quite like William.” She always said: “I bet he’s really kind. You can tell by just looking at him.” ’

Kate Middleton on her final day at prep school, St. Andrew’s School

In the sixth form, Kate was a prefect and head of house. Unlike some pupils, she didn’t get involved in illicit boozing.

Pal Gemma said: ‘Catherine wasn’t much of a party animal.

‘A group of us used to sneak off to Reading to go drinking but she would never join us.’ Kate was known for working very hard and took A-levels in chemistry, biology and art in 2000, achieving two As and a B.

By the time she left she was acknowledged as one of the great beauties of her year and, more importantly, very popular.

In the school yearbook she was voted: ‘Person most likely to be loved by everybody.’ And the friends she made there have been her mainstay and support in her royal life.

They are the godmothers to her children, and, even now, these old hockey pals are the trusted confidantes to whom she turns in a crisis. No wonder that she would like the same for George — and Charlotte and Louis in due course. 

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