Taffeta Gray

Downe time

At school with Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton has asked her wedding guests and well-wishers to donate money to Beatbullying, a British anti-bullying charity. This announcement has led to some silly stories in the press about how badly she was bullied when she was a pupil at Downe House, a girls boarding school in Berkshire. She was tormented, it’s said, because she was ‘too perfect’, so she left after two terms for Marlborough College, where girls mind perfection less.

I was a couple of years above Kate, or Catherine as she was known, at Downe House. I don’t remember her, but a friend of mine in her year recalls her being ‘quiet and square, with brown hair’. In fact none of my old school pals can remember much about her, which suggests she wasn’t excessively singled out.

What does sound like nonsense is the idea that Kate was picked on for being ‘too pretty’, as my old headmistress claimed in an interview with the Daily Mail. What rubbish! Kate doesn’t appear to have been egregiously attractive at that age, and anyway it is never the pretty ones who get a hard time.

Downe House was undoubtedly a strange place, but not because of any unbearable boarding-school bitchiness. There were duvets and mattresses thrown out of the window in the middle of the night, but this was done more in a spirit of excitement than malice.

Unlike Kate, I was neither sporty nor tall, but I was for the most part left alone. The worst thing that happened to me was one night outside the shower. Some of the older girls rugby tackled me, pinned me down, took my towel off and sprayed my groin with blue hairspray. Then they threw me out into the corridor naked. My housemistress, Mrs Howard, and her vegetarian dogs discovered me curled up on the floor, but they weren’t too interested.

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