Royal Engagement: Classmates Dish on First Days of Will and Kate's Romance

Classmates remember Will being smitten from the beginning and Kate's poise

November 14, 2010, 12:22 PM

Dec. 9, 2010— -- Behind the privileged and private walls of Scotland's St. Andrews University in 2001, the love affair between Prince William and Kate Middleton began to unfold in front of an intimate audience of classmates and friends.

"We gave them four years of normal life, four years in which they could get to know one another free of the intrusion, glare, publicity," said Brian Lang, former principal at St. Andrews University.

Jules Knight, a classmate of the now engaged couple, shared memories of the two in a BBC America special airing this Saturday. He said that Prince William seemed smitten with Middleton from the beginning.

"I think he, he just took a shine to her, really," Knight said. They "spent a lot of time together and were very good friends for a long time, and I think that blossomed into something more."

Knight said Middleton will have no problem handling the prenuptial pressures of joining the royal family.

"She's someone who doesn't complain, she just gets on with stuff. And I think she'll deal with the position she's in incredibly well," Knight said.

Prince William and Middleton, both 28, started out as friends at St. Andrews and later became roommates. On Nov. 16, the couple announced that they were engaged. Prince William proposed to Middleton earlier this fall while the two were vacationing in Kenya.

Long before the frenzy of being surrounded by paparazzi, Middleton's poise and personality made an impression. On a study abroad trip to Chile in 2001, Rachel Humphreys said that Middleton stood out among the teammates on their expedition.

"She was extremely attractive, extremely popular, and she was a great member of the expedition," Humphreys said. "But she was always very in control of herself and impeccably behaved."

Those who saw the humble beginnings of Will and Kate's romance describe a decidedly un-fairytale like reality. Middleton waited tables, and the couple often met up at a pub.

"She didn't seem to be trying too hard, she wasn't, you know, dressing up to the nines," Justin Hughes, a bar owner, said. "She was just a normal girl who got on well with her boyfriend."

The blossoming romance started like most, a schoolgirl falling for a schoolboy, but it seems to be ending like a fairy tale.

Couple Announces Engagement, Media Frenzy Follows

"The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton," a statement from Clarence House read Nov. 16.

The queen said she was "absolutely delighted" for the couple, Buckingham Palace said hours after the announcement.

Like the queen, Middletons' parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, said after the announcement that they, too, were "absolutely delighted."

The happy couple appeared for the first time for reporters arm-in-arm before a barrage of camera flashes hours after the announcement. Middleton was wearing the famous engagement ring worn by Princess Diana.

"He's a true romantic, and we had a wonderful holiday in Africa, and it was out there in a very quiet lodge and it was very romantic and it was very personal time for both of us," Middleton said.

In an interview with Britain's ITV News' Tom Bradby, Middleton said the proposal came as a surprise, despite years of public speculation that the couple would wed.

"We were out there with friends, so I really didn't expect it at all," Middleton said. "It was a total shock when it came. Very excited."

The couple is set to wed April 29, 2011, at Westminster Abbey.

The announcement came to the elation of Britons, many of whom viewed the engagement as a seemingly inevitable yet unreachable moment.

"It's about time! Congrats," one commenter wrote on the royals' Facebook page, a sentiment echoed by hundreds of others.

ABC News' Nick Watt, Lee Ferran, Sarah Netter, Jason Volack, Bradley Blackburn and Lee Ferran contributed to this story.

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