SO HERE we are, settling in for the final few episodes of the final series of The Crown, with a new generation of the royal family here to play us out.

While it’s been well documented that Peter Morgan wasn’t going anywhere near Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s relationship and family-fall out (probably for the best, really), there is a lot to see of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s meet-cute at St Andrew’s university and their resulting marriage.

Here’s a full deep dive into their relationship – and why two break-ups meant they nearly didn’t make it down the aisle.

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“Paul said, I just want him to sound like a cop, I want him to sound like a cop,” Key says, pouring himself black tea in a London hotel room and trying to shake off the red-eye flight that got him here. He’s a gently intense presence, eyes alternately wide and engaging or crinkled in a chuckle. “Not a police officer: a cop.”

Key went a bit deeper though. “What was really important for me to hook in was that there’s this kind of toughness to the way he speaks, but really what’s going on is that he knows that he’s a flawed man. He’s got some issues, you know? He knows that he’s got an addiction problem, and he tries to hide it, and he’s trying to fight it and he just can’t help himself.”

Saying yes to King was a formality, “knowing that I’m going to be working with this guy, who actually, I think is a genius”. Key has been a fan since long before King had done the Paddington films, and was directing the more esoteric end of British sitcoms in the noughties.

“You think about The Mighty Boosh,” Key says. “There’s still something super magical about that work, as there is with Paddington, as there is with Wonka.”

Roald Dahl’s stories were a constant at school, and he remembers being deeply and lastingly amazed-slash-freaked-out by the image of Violet Beauregard gradually turning into a gigantic blueberry. “And I think some of that has to do with the fact that Roald Dahl has this undying respect for children. His material leans toward the dark. And because he does that, he’s showing children that he thinks that they can handle it.”

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Ford was studying when he got the go-ahead, undertaking a film production course at college that would eventually see him behind the camera rather than in front of it. He describes himself as being “naïve” during the audition process, happy to be asked for a call back without even thinking about potentially getting the job. That feeling of detachment translated into how he played his character.

“One of the things that Peter Morgan [the show’s creator and writer] explores is Harry feeling like the black sheep of the family, and I think my total lack of experience was quite fitting,” he says earnestly, going on to list the acting heavyweights that he worked alongside, including Dominic West as Prince Charles. “I didn’t feel like I fit in, not in a bad way, but just in a realistic way. I leaned into that and accepted my position as a total newcomer.”

Prep was a lot more extensive post-audition, where the show’s research team sent him books, documentaries and articles for him to “revise”. A dialect coach helped Ford perfect the RP accent, while a movement coach, with the help of others – “I met with a Marine who taught me how to march. There were no military scenes within the show, but it was about understanding posture.” – helped Ford go from a student to sought-after prince.

“You’re trying to convey an essence, rather than do an impression,” he explains. “You’re playing someone who is world renowned and who has a lot going on, but the key is that you have to zone that all out. It doesn’t relate to what we’re doing in terms of the timeline, but also it’s just unhelpful. There’s so much media that surrounds these figures that at some point, you have to stop looking into it and just trust that you’re on the right path.”

The backstory

The couple were both studying at St Andrew’s University in Scotland in 2001—the uni famously had a rush on female applicants, especially Americans, when it was revealed that Prince William would be attending – where they had met and enjoyed a friendship for about a year before they first started dating.

In a 2010 engagement interview ITV News, Prince William explained: “When I first met Kate, I knew there was something very special about her, and then I knew there was possibly something I wanted to explore there, but we ended up being friends for a while. That was a good sort of foundation. I do genuinely believe now that being friends with [each other] is a massive advantage.”

In the same interview, Middleton revealed that she was a little less composed when she first met him: “I think I went bright red when I met you, and then just scuttled off, feeling very shy about meeting you. He wasn’t there for freshers’ week, so it did take a bit of time to get to know each other.”

As for rumours as to whether Middleton had a picture of Prince William up on her wall as a child, she clarified: “He wishes! No, I had the Levi’s guy on the wall, sorry!”

They lived in the same flat during their second year at uni in 2002, moving in together with some other friends. In the same year, Middleton famously walked in a charity fashion show in a sheer dress, and “it blossomed from there really”, said William.

The first break up

The pair dated for a year, but broke up for the first time in 2004. “We did split up for a bit,” William confirmed to ITV News. “But we were both very young, it was at university and we were both finding ourselves as such, and being different characters. It was very much finding our own way and we were growing up. It was just a bit of space, and things like that.”

Middleton, understandably, wasn’t as enthused about the break. She told Tom Bradby: “I at the time wasn’t very happy about it, but actually it made me a stronger person. You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realised — I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you’re younger — and I really valued that time for me, as well.”

In Katie Nicholl’s 2010 book, William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls, it’s suggested that Prince William had apparently started to feel “claustrophobic” as he approached graduation. By Christmas of 2004, they had patched things up and reconciled.

The second split

They split for a second time in April 2007. In Christopher Andersen’s book William and Kate: A Royal Love Story, Prince William allegedly broke up with Middleton over the phone, while she was at work as a buyer at Jigsaw. According to Andersen, William was having doubts about their relationship and told her: “I can’t… It just isn’t going to work. It isn’t fair to you.” The intense media spotlight on Middleton and William was also another reported factor for their split.

Three months later, when Middleton and her family attended a Concert For Diana, they rekindled their romance. The couple became engaged in October 2010 while on holiday in Kenya, and then married in 2011. They share three children together; Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

This story originally appeared on Esquire UK.


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