10 Ways Kate Middleton Has Made Royal History

A March 2023 poll found that Catherine, Princess of Wales ranks as the most popular member of the British royal family. It's been a tumultuous couple of years for the royals; from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's renunciation of royal life to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, royal watchers are intrigued by how the ancient institution of the monarchy will meet the challenge of ruling over modern life. Catherine is an integral part of that strategy, giving the royals a younger, more accessible face that seems to go over well with the population. In fact, Princess Diana's former butler claims that Catherine is so integral to the future of the monarchy that it would be doomed without her. "That's an enormous responsibility, because if she decided that she didn't want to be a part of her marriage anymore, then I think the royal family would collapse," Paul Burrell told The Mirror.

The key to her enduring popularity is, in part, related to what a historic figure she is. Ever since she rose to public life more than two decades ago, Catherine has been willing to step up to her royal duties, forging a path that few (if any) members of the royal family's long lineage have walked before her.

She's the first Princess of Wales with a college degree

Prince William and Princess Catherine first met when they were both students at St. Andrew's, a university in Scotland. The future king was there to study Geography, while his then-girlfriend attended school to get her degree in Art History. It seems that Catherine was smitten from the beginning; in a joint interview with ITV News to mark their engagement, she told her then-fiancee: "I went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off, feeling very shy about meeting you." She added that Prince William wasn't around at the beginning of the school year, noting: "It did take a bit of time for us to get to know each other but we did become very close friends from quite early on."

The fact that their romance began at university had some unintended consequences for the couple down the line. When they were named Prince and Princess of Wales in 2022, Catherine made an intriguing bit of history: She became the first-ever Princess of Wales with a college degree. Prince William's mother, Princess Diana, was the most recent royal to actively use the Princess of Wales title but dropped out of school at 16. Camilla, Queen Consort, also held the Princess of Wales title but only completed six months at the University of London Institute in Paris.

She was the first royal to live with her husband-to-be before marriage

Conventional royal courtships have specific protocols, but the relationship between Prince William and Princess Catherine was anything but conventional. While members of the royal family are typically not allowed to live with significant others until they are married, Prince William sought special permission from Queen Elizabeth II for himself and Princess Catherine to move in together. The future king was still participating in his training for the Royal Air Force when he and his fiancée made the history-making leap. Catherine moved in with the prince in 2010, the year before their wedding.

They lived together at Bodorgan Estate on the Welsh island of Anglesey. The property isn't owned by the royal family so the prince and princess were instead guests of an aristocratic family. The house was a modest one, by royal standards; there were only four bedrooms. However, there was a private beach, which must have been a nice escape from being two of the most famous people in the world.

It seems that the couple enjoyed their time on the island. They continued living there after their wedding, and it was Prince George's first home. When they finally moved away in 2013, Prince William gave a speech praising their home. "I know that I speak for Catherine when I say that I have never in my life known somewhere as beautiful and as welcoming as Anglesey," he said (via The Royal Family).

She was the oldest never-married bride of a future heir

Considering they met at university, it's certainly tempting to call Prince William and Princess Catherine's romance a tale of young love. However, as royal romances are concerned, theirs is a very modern one because they didn't immediately rush into marriage. They met in 2001, and their initial courtship lasted until 2007 when The Sun broke the news that the couple had broken up. However, they reconciled, and in 2010, William proposed to Catherine while on holiday together in Kenya. In an ITV News interview to promote the engagement, Catherine gushed: "There's a true romantic in there."

They finally married in 2011, a decade after their first encounter. When Princess Catherine walked down the aisle, she was 29 years old, which made her age history-making. She was the oldest-ever "spinster" — or unmarried woman — ever to wed an heir to the throne. King Charles III married Camilla, Queen Consort when she was 57, but she had previously been married; so, too, had Eleanor of Aquitaine by the time she married the future King Henry II all the way back in 1152, at the ripe old age of 30!

Princess Catherine's royal record still stands. Prince Harry married Meghan Markle when she was 36 but he isn't directly in line for the throne, and Mehgan was a divorcee.

She was the first commoner to marry an heir in hundreds of years

When Prince William knew that he wanted to marry his university girlfriend, he faced a conundrum. As heir to the throne, he would have been expected to wed a member of the British aristocracy. Instead, he found Catherine, the daughter of a flight attendant and flight dispatcher. In other words: a commoner. Before he proposed, Prince William had to seek the approval of Queen Elizabeth II, but that wasn't related to the fact that Catherine had no royal heritage. As a general rule, all royals must ask permission from the reigning royal before marrying.

Prince William and Princess Catherine married in early 2011, securing Catherine's place in the history books as the first woman without royal lineage to marry a future king in several hundred years. It was a wedding straight out of a fairy tale ... or a Jane Austen novel, according to columnist Allison Pearson.  "To go from a condemned council flat to Buckingham Palace in two generations makes Elizabeth Bennet's bagging of Mr. Darcy look like a doddle," said columnist Allison Pearson (via The Telegraph).

Catherine's humble upbringing later influenced the way she chose to raise her children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis. "I remember that from my childhood — doing the simple things, going for a walk together ... it totally strips away all the complications, all the pressures," she said on the podcast "Happy Mum, Happy Baby" (via Marie Claire).

She's the first woman to be Joint President of The Scout Association

Princess Catherine spends much of her time lending her celebrity to important causes. One such organization is The Scout Association, which is the U.K. version of the Boy/Girl Scouts. In 2020, it was announced that the Princess of Wales would make royal history by becoming the first female Joint President of the Scouts since it started in 1910, sharing the title with Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. In her first official act, she helped Scouts make cards for a care home.

Before becoming Joint President, Catherine volunteered for years. Upon taking her new title, she released a statement expressing her devotion to the cause. "When I volunteered with the Scouts on Anglesey eight years ago, I was struck by the huge impact the organisation has on inspiring young people to support their communities and achieve their goals," she said (via The Scout Association). "I am delighted to be joining The Duke of Kent as Joint President of the Association and look forward to working with Scouts across the country as they strive to make a positive difference to our society."

Her fellow Joint President welcomed her to the role. "The Scouts' ethos of dedication, inclusivity, and lending a helping hand wherever one is needed resonates across the generations, and as such I am delighted to welcome The Duchess of Cambridge as Joint President, and to work together to continue that legacy," he said.

She's the first royal patron of the Victoria & Albert museum

Princess Catherine went to university for art history, and now that she is part of the royal family, she's found time to devote herself to the subject. In 2018, Kensington Palace announced that Catherine would become the first Royal Patron of London's Victoria and Albert Museum. "Furthering Her Royal Highness's interest in the visual arts, photography and design, she formally takes up the @V_and_A Patronage," the palace tweeted. Tristram Hunt, the museum's director, was happy to have Catherine on board. In a statement of his own, he highlighted the way that the princess' hobbies would help her work with the museum. "The Duchess's personal interest in photography, textiles and the visual arts, alongside her support for the role of art in supporting mental health and nurturing young people's creative talent, fits naturally with the collections and civic purpose of the V&A," he said (via the V&A).

Part of her duties as Royal Patron involves touring the museum's exhibits, which the princess is all too happy to promote online. In 2021, she highlighted a particularly fascinating item in the museum's collection on Instagram. Alongside a photo of herself looking into a glass case at an ornate egg, she wrote: "Back in the V&A Museum to see the incredible new 'Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution' exhibition ... Amongst the collection is the long lost Third Imperial Egg, discovered by a scrap dealer in 2011 after it went missing in 1964."

She's the first female patron of the Rugby Football League

Prince Harry shocked the world by announcing that he and Meghan Markle would be stepping down from their duties as members of the royal family. Their so-called "Mexit" meant that a number of roles and titles were now up for grabs to other members of the family, and Princess Catherine stepped up to the plate and made history by assuming one of Prince Harry's old duties.

In 2022, Catherine announced on Twitter that she had become the Royal Patron of the Rugby Football League and England Rugby, the first woman to ever have the job. "Two fantastic organisations who are committed to harnessing the power that sport can have in bringing communities together and helping individuals flourish," she wrote. Her new patronage took her to Twickenham Stadium where she met with rugby players ahead of the Six Nations Championships. She even got a chance to participate in some training activities, clad in athletic gear and a chic, yet functional ponytail. A video posted to Instagram even showed the princess being hoisted up in the air by a rugby player, making an impressive catch!

Her commitment to the sport shows no signs of slowing down. Later that year, she attended England's rugby match against Papua New Guinea. In early 2023, almost a year after she was named to the position, Catherine hosted a reception at Hampton Court Palace for team members from the England Wheelchair Rugby League team.

She made a historic trip to Cornwall as the new Duchess of Cornwall

Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, a number of royal titles were redistributed. When King Charles III ascended to the throne, that made Prince William next in line, so he and his wife received a number of new honorifics. In addition to being named the new Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine were dubbed the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

In February 2023, Princess Catherine accompanied the future king on a surprise trip to Cornwall, marking the first time the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall visited the region since assuming their new titles. Their historic visit to the coastal area was packed full of activities, according to Cornwall Live. They took part in a model boat race, played a round of ping pong, and even visited homeless people under the care of a charity. "Kate was much better at the boat racing. William crashed a lot," one of the kids told the outlet.

The outlet also reported that the Princess of Wales ran into someone she knew outside the National Maritime Museum Cornwall — her former history teacher. After they hugged, Catherine told him that the lessons she learned from him when she was younger have now been passed on to her royal offspring. "The things you taught me, I now teach to my children," she said (via Cornwall Live).

She and Prince William were the first royal couple to don traditional Pakistan dress

In the fall of 2019, Prince William and Princess Catherine paid a historic royal visit to Pakistan. Kensington Palace noted on Instagram that it was the first time any member of the royal family had visited the country since 2006. As a result, the High Commissioner for Pakistan, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, said the country would be happy to have them. The "Royal Visit is a reflection of the importance the United Kingdom attaches to its relations with Pakistan. The two countries enjoy historical links which both sides wish to strengthen further," he said in a statement (via Reuters).

On their visit, William and Catherine broke with tradition in several ways, making this trip to Pakistan one for the history books. A video of their arrival by rickshaw was posted to Twitter by The Daily Mail, and keen-eyed observers noted that the Prince and Princess opened their own doors rather than having someone do it for them. Furthermore, Insider pointed out that both royals were clad in traditional Pakistani dress, which was the first time tribute had ever been paid to the country in such a way. Prince William dressed in a green sherwani — the first male royal ever to wear one — while Princess Catherine color-matched her husband in a gown and dupatta scarf.

She took the salute from the Irish Guards

St. Patrick's Day 2023 marked a historic occasion for Catherine, Princess of Wales. A few months earlier, King Charles III gave his daughter-in-law a new title that used to be her husband's: honorary Colonel of the Irish Guards. The outlet noted that the position was so important to Prince William that his wedding attire was actually his Irish Guards uniform, but he dutifully passed the title on to his wife. According to Vanity Fair, he even called her "Colonel Catherine" during a ceremony passing on the position.

Shortly thereafter, a few weeks before the holiday, Catherine met with "the Micks" for the first time. She participated in a battlefield training exercise, wearing a camouflage uniform amid a snowstorm. On Instagram, she wrote: "The work of the Irish Guards is as wide-ranging as it is exemplary."

On St. Patrick's Day itself, Catherine made royal history when, as Colonel of the Irish Guards, she took the salute for the first time. Speaking to the assembled soldiers, the future queen pledged to do everything she could to support these members of the military. "I really couldn't be prouder to stand in front of you here today," she said (per People). "It really is a true honor to be your Colonel. I am here to listen to you, to support you, and to champion you in all you do — this is a responsibility I do not take lightly."