Inside the Princess of Wales’ inner circle

If there’s anything the recent months of oversharing from the Sussex camp has confirmed, it’s that there’s never been any love lost between Meghan and Kate. From the duchess’s dig about the Princess of Wales not being “a hugger” (unlike herself) to Harry admitting they don’t get on – “very quickly it became Meghan versus Kate. And, when it plays out so publicly, you can’t hide from that” – it seems these two were never destined to be BFFs.

Luckily, Kate has her own fiercely loyal inner circle, a mix of schoolfriends, childhood pals, and family members who have stuck by her through thick and thin. Here, we reveal the key names in Kate’s gang.

Emilia Jardine-Paterson

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Emilia Jardine-Paterson

If there’s one person to single out as Kate’s best friend, it’s Emilia. The pair were at Marlborough College together, meeting when they were just 13, and have been close ever since.

Born Emilia d’Erlanger, she’s the niece of Viscount Exmouth and was part of the ‘Glossy Posse’ of well-bred teenagers in Gloucestershire who would socialise with William and Harry at their father’s Highgrove home; she even went on holiday to Greece with Charles and the princes as a teen. Many credit Emilia with being the one who first introduced Kate to William, after she brought the two lovebirds together at a house party in the summer of 1999, when they were just 17.

At school, it was reportedly Emilia – nicknamed ‘Emilia de Lingerie’ – who was known as the ‘It Girl’ of Marlborough College, not Kate. Wilder than the well-behaved princess, she was said to keep alcoholic concoctions in honey jars and juice bottles in her dorm cupboard. Little surprise, then, that she was the one to whisk Kate off to Ibiza during her temporary split from William in 2007.

Now a successful interior designer, she’s said to have had a hand in Kate’s interior-design schemes at both Kensington Palace and her Norfolk country retreat, Anmer Hall, where she encouraged the princess to move away from muted beiges and neutrals and opt for more colour.

Her husband, David Jardine-Paterson, is a descendant of wealthy Scottish landowners and was at Eton with William, and they have three children: Alexander, Leo, and Lucia. Kate chose Emilia to be one of Prince George’s godmothers and she remains one of her most trusted confidantes.

Sophie Snuggs (far left)

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Sophie Snuggs

You’ve probably spotted Sophie by Kate’s side on more than one occasion – she’s always on hand at key events, whether that’s a day out at Wimbledon, attending the annual Royal Christmas church service in Sandringham, or helping Kate celebrate her birthday (she’s one of the very few who scores a coveted invite to the low-key event every year). A close family friend of the Middletons, Sophie (née Carter) is the daughter of Norfolk construction tycoon Robert Carter and has been part of the royal circle for years, with her clan one of the elite group of English farming families known as the ‘Turnip Toffs’.

She used to date William’s close pal, Thomas van Straubenzee – who was one of the best men at his wedding and is Princess Charlotte’s godfather – but, in 2018, she married Robert Snuggs, a portfolio director of a finance company, in a smart country wedding at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk. William and Kate were there, but it was Princess Charlotte and Prince George who stole the show, acting as an adorable flower girl and page boy. Sophie is Charlotte’s godmother and the two are clearly close; at her wedding, Sophie was snapped cuddling Charlotte, which was thought to be the first time the young princess was seen being held by someone other than William or Kate in public.

Sophie lives round the corner from the Wales’s Norfolk retreat, Anmer Hall, and in 2019, gave birth to a daughter, Amalia, whose middle name is Charlotte (we wonder who that was inspired by?). A sports lover like Kate, the two childhood friends have long been tennis partners and both enjoy skiing, with Sophie joining William and Kate on a luxe ski holiday to Courchevel in 2016.

Kate with Trini Foyle

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Trini Foyle

Old Marlburian Trini first met Kate at school when they were 14 and has been one of her most loyal and reliable pals ever since. She’s been by her side for some of the best moments of her life – she was there at her wedding to William, as well as all of the christenings of their children – but has also guided her through some of the toughest. Trini was the London friend Kate turned to during her brief split from William in 2007, and the curly-haired school chum was often spotted climbing into the back of a taxi with a pink-cheeked and sweaty Kate after one of their numerous nights out at Mahiki or Boujis.

Born Trini Lough, after Marlborough the two friends both went on to Scottish universities – Kate to St Andrews and Trini to Edinburgh, where she studied politics. Once she graduated, Trini worked as an assistant for Tory member Jeremy Hunt before settling down with her husband, Ted Foyle, in Wandsworth.

When kids came along, Trini took on a new role, as the friend Kate would ask to join her on interminably long pram walks. Trini’s son, Alexander, is a similar age to Prince George and, when the boys were little, the two mums were often spotted strolling with their buggies in Kensington Gardens.

Pippa (left) and her sister, with their mother behind them

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Pippa Middleton

Unlike some siblings in the public eye (ahem), Kate and her little sister Pippa remain incredibly close, and many of the princess’s closest friends say that, in moments of crisis, Kate still retreats to the protective embrace of her family. With just two years between them, it’s often said that the two sisters are more like best friends than siblings, and they’ve always spent as much time together as possible, whether that was going on regular family holidays to Mustique and Courchevel or, in more recent years, getting together for playdates with the kids (Pippa has three children of her own, four-year-old Arthur, who’s just a few months younger than Prince Louis, one-year-old Grace, and newborn baby Rose).

Kate has always trusted Pippa with important moments in her life, from appointing her maid-of-honour to organising her hen do, a private karaoke party at a friend’s house where Kate is said to have dressed up in a bodysuit impersonating Cheryl Cole and sung her hit, Fight For This Love. Of their relationship, Pippa revealed in an interview: “We spend a lot of time together. We have a very normal, sisterly relationship. We’re very close. And, you know, we support each other and get each other’s opinions and things.”

(Left to right) The Duchess of Cambridge’s cousin Lucy Middleton, Hannah and Robert Carter, and Harry Aubrey-Fletcher (back) arriving for the christening of Prince Louis

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Hannah Carter

It’s a curiously small world once you get into the upper echelons of British society. Case in point? Kate’s close school friend Hannah Gillingham, who went on to marry Robert Carter, who just so happens to be the brother of Princess Charlotte’s godmother, Sophie Snuggs. Hannah and Kate played on the same hockey team together at school and have remained close ever since, though Hannah usually prefers to stay out of the limelight and isn’t often spotted out and about with her much-papped pal.

One place they were seen together, however, was at Hannah and Robert’s wedding in 2012. The low-key ceremony was held in the village of Wingfield, Suffolk, and took place the day before William and Kate’s own first wedding anniversary. Instead of sneaking off after the ceremony to celebrate on their own, it was reported the royal couple instead stayed on to drink at a local pub with Hannah and Robert until the small hours of the morning. Based in Norfolk, Hannah and her husband run a construction business called R G Carter and, when Prince Louis was born in 2018, Hannah was named as one of his six godparents.

Alicia Fox-Pitt and Sebastian Stoddart

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Alicia Fox-Pitt

There aren’t many people who are capable of drawing attention from the Princess of Wales, but one person who might just manage it is Alicia – flame-haired and 6ft tall, she’s known for turning heads. The younger sister of Olympic star William Fox-Pitt, Alicia was raised in Knowlton Court, a mansion outside Canterbury, and met Kate at Marlborough, where the two played in several of the same sports teams. Alicia even managed to persuade Kate to take part in the famous Sisterhood rowing team during her temporary separation from William, with Alicia revealing at the time that Kate was “a very gifted sportswoman”.

Alicia married entrepreneur Sebastian Stoddart in July 2013 – the scion of another wealthy family – but, unfortunately, Kate missed the big day as she was due to give birth to Prince George. The pair remain close, however, and still enjoy regular suppers together when their busy schedules allow (Alicia now works as a vet and lives in Vauxhall). Alicia is known as the friend Kate turns to when she wants to let her hair down – the Princess’s one moment of indiscretion seems to have been when she vomited on a train while coming home from an all-night champagne and dancing party at Alicia’s.

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