Is there a more delightful sporting event than Wimbledon - the sporting occasion that heralds the height of summer? Next week, spectators from all over the world will descend upon the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for what promises to be another fortnight of unforgettable tennis. A parade of glamorous style will be on display, 320,000 glasses of Pimm's (naturally) and 140,000 portions of English strawberries will be consumed. Steeped in tradition, it is the tournament almost every player wants to win most, and it is also the only tennis major played on grass, with players donning white, precisely as they did a century ago. It is also the only Grand Slam tournament with a Royal Box and on Monday, with the first round underway, Wimbledon's new royal patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, will attend for the first time in her new role. Of course, Kate has been an avid tennis fan and keen player for years and years. Sightings of the Duchess in the Royal Box have become something of an annual tradition - a staple on the 'Kate calendar' which is guaranteed to continue growing thanks to the patronage.
When William and Kate graduated from St Andrews the media and fans alike were eager to 'get to know' Prince William's love. Sightings at Wimbledon provided some of the earliest photo opportunities.
A particularly memorable set of photos springs to mind, of Kate enjoying a dance with William and Harry's friend, Guy Pelly, at Richard Branson's pre-Wimbledon party at the Roof Gardens in 2006. Kate was clearly having a ball.
Kate chatting with Sir Richard Branson.
And enjoying the buffet...
Kate takes in the skills of Rafa Nadal and Robin Soderling with a friend in 2007.
A stylish Kate attending the 2008 Championships in her white Issa Lucky Dress (you may remember Kate had the dress in multiple colours and it was around this time the brand began to become her 'signature') and Patrick Mavros earrings. Zimbabwean jeweller and sculptor Mavros creates works inspired by the natural world of his native Matabeleand and the tribal customs which accompany his culture. She was photographed wearing his £150 Ndoro Dangle Silver Earrings several times pre-engagement. Ndoros are Southern Africa's most striking totems of prestige and beauty. They are originally a sea shell which has been ground flat into their distinctive whirl shape. The sterling silver earrings feature five small dangling ndoros. I seem to recall a number of reports around the time claiming they were a gift from William.
You'll notice the blonde lady beside Kate is Princess Charlotte's godmother Sophie Carter. Sophie and Kate are firm friends and she is a regular visitor to Anmer Hall along with the Meades. Described as "discreet and loyal", she was once in a relationship with another of Charlotte's godparents and one of William's closest friends - Thomas van Straubenzee. William and Kate have been said to engage in a spot of matchmaking, helping the former couple rekindle their flame by inviting them to the French Alps last year. Newly divorced Thomas was briefly married to Lady Melissa Percy.
During the 2007 break up, attention on Kate reached fever pitch and subsequently continued. Despite the level of interest, Kate was still able to spend the day at Wimbledon relatively undisturbed. She was grateful for this, and so much so she penned a letter to the All England Club in July 2008.
"My friend and I had such a fantastic time and it was great to be able to enjoy the day knowing we could have a little peace and quite (sic) if things got too hectic,” she wrote. It was a wonderfully relaxed day and we even spent part of it on the Henman/Murray Hill which was great fun. I really was not expecting to be looked after with such hospitality and I certainly was not expecting to see any of the Centre Court games.
Thank you so much for the wonderful seats. It was so special to see the end of Murray's game and Nadal's easy walk into the quarter finals. Thank you again for making it such a fun and enjoyable/easy visit.” The note, dated July 12, 2008 is signed "Best wishes, Catherine Middleton".
It is understood Kate granted officials permission to display the letter in a glass cabinet inside the All England Club's museum after the royal wedding.
Knowing Kate's love for the tournament, it was a certainty the newly-married Cambridges would spend at least one day at the Championships in 2011. The Royal couple gave Andy Murray a standing ovation after he stormed into the quarter finals with a straight-sets victory over Frenchman Richard Gasquet. It marked William's first visit to Wimbledon in 17 years. The couple even joined in a Mexican wave.
Kate opted for the fashion forward Temperley London Moriah dress, with classic waist-nipped shape, structured bodice, hand-embroidered straps and a tiered skirt. The white dress was the perfect choice for Kate's Wimbledon debut as Duchess of Cambridge. The dress was teamed with Kate's much-loved L.K. Bennett Sledge pumps.
The most talked about aspect of Kate's look was not her dress, however, it was her 'C' charm bracelet. The gold bracelet was a wedding gift from Kate's step-mother-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall. The disc charm has Kate's monogram on one side, and Camilla's on the other. Both Cs are under a coronet, but Kate's C has an extra curl, while Camilla's is surrounded by a circle. If I'm not mistaken, Kate hasn't worn it publicly since.
In 2012, Kate selected her popular McQueen sailor dress from the 2011 Canada tour. Like many of the pieces the Duchess debuted during that tour it's a very versatile piece and has aged very well.
For the 2012 men's final between the 'Prince of Tennis' Roger Federer and Andy Murray, Kate was joined by her sister Pippa who is also an enormous fan of the sport (we now know she's actually good friends with Federer and he attended Pippa's wedding). Kate repeated a chic dress and jacket by Joseph.
Pippa wrote a column on Wimbledon for The Spectator:
'Ah, good old Wimbledon: a fortnight of rhythmic ball thumping, ooh-ing at Federer’s forehand, aah-ing at Djoko the elastic athlete, and praying against common sense for good weather and British success. Some foreigners can be sniffy about Wimbledon’s particular charms — all that Union Jack patriotism, excitement over strawberries and cream and English eccentricity. ‘Grass is for cows,’ said the Argentinian Guillermo Vilas, famously, a line still repeated by some Latin players who can’t handle the low bounce and quick pace of the green stuff. Well, moo to them. Wimbers is tennis at its best, the grandest of all slams, which is why I like to go every year, at least twice.'
Kate didn't attend in 2013 as she was in the final stage of her pregnancy with Prince George, but she made a stylish return in 2014 wearing her white Zimmerman 'Roamer Day' dress with a red scarf and Anya Hindmarch clutch.
The Duke and Duchess had a splendid afternoon - exchanging smiles and jokes throughout.
Kate's parents Michael and Carole Middleton were also there that day. They are both regular visitors to the tournament.
Days later William and Kate were back in the Royal Box as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic squared off for the men's final. William and Kate congratulated Novak after the match. During the chat the tennis star asked Kate about playing. "I'm slightly out of practice since having George," she said. Kate also revealed the two enjoy "competitive games", and when asked who wins most she said: "It's even."
Kate opted to inject a serious pop of colour into her Wimbledon wardrobe wearing her Jonathan Saunders Evelyn dress. The forest green, aqua and white print gives the garment a summery feel. It's from the designer's Pre-Fall 2012 collection and originally retailed for £840.
The Cambridges were court-side for men's quarter-finals in 2015.
Kate selected the vibrant red L.K. Bennett Cayla dress for the outing. The cardinal red dress featured a full skirt which falls below the knee, artfully placed seams and elbow length sleeves. It was around that time we saw the Duchess begin to favour longer dresses, particularly the midi length.
Kate was vibrant in her colour-block Roksanda dress (affectionately known as the 'Banana dress' thanks to William).
The visit was more 'official' than we had previously seen for Kate. Before matches began, HRH met tournament officials, service personnel, ball boys and girls.
The Duchess took her seat in the royal box beside Gill Brook, wife of the chairman of the AELTC. Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb and Dame Maggie Smith were also in attendance. It's always interesting to see the variety of well-known faces there.
One of my favourite Wimbledon looks on Kate was the fabulous obsession print Alexander McQueen dress she wore in 2016 for the men's final. The eye-catching piece featured a jewel neckline, A-line silhouette, straight hem and nips in at the waist for a flattering silhouette. I thought it a great choice - it instantly stood out in the photos.
It was a tense match.
Come on Andy!
An emotional Andy Murray was victorious as he took the title in three straight sets. The couple had watched him fall at the final hurdle before, so they were undoubtedly delighted to see the British number one victorious.
A congratulatory chat with Andy quickly turned to the subject of babies. More from the Telegraph: "'After expressing delight at the straight-sets victory, the royal couple exchanged thoughts with Murray on parenthood - and the difference a good night's sleep can make. William joked: "I don’t know how you managed that with no sleep....How’s your daughter doing is she alright?" Murray responded with a smile: "Yeah she’s great yeah, she’s really good at sleeping. The last three nights she slept through." William said it must have been "a good omen." However, when Murray politely asked about the royal children, Kate responded: "No, today is about you.... you played so well, well done. "She later added that Murray "can relax with your family now".
In December, a rumour which had been doing the rounds for years finally came to fruition. News the Duchess of Cambridge would take over as patron of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, better known as Wimbledon was finally confirmed. The Queen has never been a lover of tennis and given Kate's history with the tournament, it's a patronage match made in heaven. At the time, the Telegraph reported:
'The Queen has been Patron of Wimbledon since 1952, the first year of her reign, though she is not a tennis fan and has only taken her place in the royal box a handful of times. Paying tribute to her years of service, Philip Brook, chairman of the AELTC said: "We would like to thank Her Majesty for her long and unwavering service to the Club and the Championships during her time as our Patron. We remain immensely proud of her role in the history of the Club and the Championships.
"We would like to welcome HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, who will take up the Queen’s former duties as our Patron, and also recognise with appreciation the ongoing contribution of HRH the Duke of Kent, who will continue his long-standing role as our President." The Duke of Kent is expected to continue presenting the singles trophies at Wimbledon, but the Duchess may be invited to present some of the trophies for doubles.'
On Monday, Kate will attend for the first time as Royal Patron. Compared to previous years, we'll see more official elements incorporated such as meeting those involved behind-the-scenes and of course the players and coaches. The tournament ends on 16 July and, as it isn't interfering with dates for the Germany/Poland tour, I anticipate we'll see Kate there at least twice. It promises to be another fortnight of spectacular tennis.
No doubt ardent tennis fan Kate will ace her new role! :)