Striking, private, and almost royal: Kate`s Story

A reluctant fashion icon who says she doesn`t fuss over her clothes - but looks stunning in just about anything.

London: She`s a country girl who loves the
late-night club scene. A reluctant fashion icon who says she
doesn`t fuss over her clothes - but looks stunning in just
about anything.

Kate Middleton has kept her thoughts to herself and a
circle of trusted friends during her long romance with Prince

Until she spoke out about her love for the 28-year-old
prince and her admiration for his mother, the late Princess
Diana, on the day their engagement was announced, Middleton
had kept totally mum about her relationship and her thoughts
about joining "The Firm," as the royal family is popularly

So who is the future queen, and what matters to her?

Only her closest friends know if she has hoped for
years to marry William, as some schoolmates say - pointing out
that she went out of her way to catch his eye their freshmen
year at college. Or if she was content in her role as the
on-again, off-again girlfriend of one of the most eligible men
in the world.

In the absence of words there have been images.
Kate glamorous in evening wear, Kate lounging on a
yacht in a white bikini and - most surprisingly - Kate in
black bra and panties topped by a sheer dress at a charity
fashion show in early 2002, when she and the prince were just
friends. That event prompted William, according to biographer
Katie Nicholl, to tell a friend that "Kate`s hot."

Shortly afterward, Nicholl said, the prince made his
move, setting in motion the events leading to next year`s gala
royal wedding.

After romance blossomed, Middleton made an effort to
keep out of the public eye so she and William could enjoy each
other`s company in private, Nicholl said.

"They tucked themselves away," she told The Associated
Press. "They ordered curries from the local curry shop at the
end of the road. They called in DVDs.

They had a very successful understanding that they
would never be photographed together, they wouldn`t be
pictured holding hands. When they turned up together, it was
separately. And that stood them in good stead. They could keep
that relationship clandestine for the best part of a year."

It has not always been smooth sailing. The prince
pursued several other young women while dating Middleton, and
the college sweethearts separated several times over the years
- once in 2004, when William reportedly complained of
claustrophobia in the months before graduation; and later in
2007, when William was photographed dancing the night away
with other women at nightclubs.