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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March 2005, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Popular girl who caught royal eye
Prince William
The prince befriended Kate Middleton at St Andrew's University
Photos of Prince William and girlfriend Kate Middleton have fuelled media speculation about their relationship.

The pair were pictured on Thursday in several tabloid newspapers beside Prince Charles on the annual royal trip to the Swiss skiing resort of Klosters.

The picture has been taken as an illustration of her increasing acceptance into royal circles.

The pair, both 22, met at St Andrew's University, where they were both studying history of art.

Prince William later switched to geography. Miss Middleton is credited with persuading him to continue his studies when he considered leaving university in his first year.

The eldest child of Michael and Carole Middleton of Bucklebury, Berkshire, Miss Middleton was educated at the exclusive Marlborough College.

Former classmates describe her as level-headed, popular and talented.

A-grade pupil

One, Charlie Leslie, said: "Kate is an absolutely phenomenal girl - really popular, talented, creative and sporty. She was captain of the school hockey team and played in the first pair at tennis."

A college master said: "I don't think you'd find anyone in Marlborough with a bad word to say about her. She excelled in all her subjects and was an A-grade pupil across the board."

While her parents continued to run their mail-order business "Party Pieces" from home, Miss Middleton's relationship with the prince apparently flourished during weekends alone on the Queen's Balmoral estate - at a secluded cottage given to William and Harry as a bolthole.

Press attention

She began sharing a four-bedroom townhouse in the Fife university town St Andrew's with William and two others at the start of their second academic year, before the four moved into a cottage outside the town for the third year.

The group have often been seen out on the town, drinking in bars including Ma Bells and the West Port.

Miss Middleton has been on several holidays with the prince and was one of a close coterie of friends invited to William's 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle.

Her appearance on the princes' annual skiing trip last year drew the attention of the press - and with the end of the pair's university career just months away it looks unlikely this will diminish.


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