In honor of Duchess Kate's birthday — she turns 38 on Jan. 9, 2020 — check out 15 fun facts you probably didn't know (but should!) about the elegant royal, loving mother of three and future queen…
1. She's related to George Washington
Duchess Meghan isn't the only royal wife with American ties. According to Boston's New England Historic Genealogical Society, Duchess Kate happens to be the eight times removed eighth cousin of America's first president, George Washington, as well as the seven times removed ninth cousin of explorer Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) plus the three times removed 13th cousin of famed American WWII General George S. Patton. Interestingly, the Duchess of Cambridge's late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, was also a distant cousin of George Washington. Kate might have been a commoner before marrying Prince William but genealogists have also discovered that they are , in fact, 15th cousins through a shared ancestor who lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
2. She had an international childhood
Duchess Kate's dad, Michael Middleton, spent time working as a flight dispatcher while her mom, Carole Middleton, worked on the ground crew for British Airways and as a flight attendant. Due to her dad's job, Kate spent three years living in Amman, Jordan, as a child in the 1980s.
3. She has a long royal history
Even as a 10 year old, Duchess Kate was preparing for a noble future. During a school performance of "Cinderella," she was cast as Prince Charming.
4. As a teen, she fancied a Levi's model
In her official 2010 engagement interview with then-fiancé Prince William, Duchess negated reports that she had a poster of the handsome royal on her wall as a teen. "He wishes," Kate quipped. "No, I had the Levi's guy on my wall, not a picture of William, sorry."
5. She once broke up with Prince William for a few months
In 2007, Duchess Kate and Prince William split up for three months. She said during their official engagement interview in 2010 that time was challenging but important: "You find out things about yourself that you maybe hadn't realized… You can get quite consumed by a relationship when you're younger, so I really valued that time."
6. She trained to race across the English Channel
During that 2007 breakup with Prince William, Duchess Kate joined the all-female crew of a dragon boat that was prepping to race a male crew across the English Channel to raise money for charity. However, after weeks of training her relationship with William started to heat back up and the palace reportedly pressured her to drop out of the race in order to avoid the media distraction.
7. She wears Princess Diana's engagement ring
When Prince William proposed to Duchess Kate in 2010, he used the same white gold ring with 14 diamonds and a 12-carat sapphire that his late mother, Princess Diana, chose for her own engagement to Prince Charles in 1981. The ring, which was crafted by jewellers Garrard & Co., first reportedly went to William's younger brother, Prince Harry, following Diana's death in 1997. According to the Princess of Wales' former butler Paul Burrell, the boys had the opportunity to choose pieces from their mother's jewelry collection when she passed away and Harry picked the sapphire ring while William chose Diana's Cartier watch. But shortly before William proposed to Kate, Paul said in the 2018 Amazon Prime documentary "The Diana Story," "Harry said to him, 'Wouldn't it be fitting if she had Mummy's ring? Then one day that ring will be sat on the throne…'"
8. She kept things traditional on her wedding day
For her 2011 wedding with Prince William, Duchess Kate had something old (the historic Carrickmacross technique used to craft her gown), something new (a pair of earrings gifted by her parents), something borrowed (the queen's Cartier Halo Tiara, which previously belonged to the late Queen Mother), and something blue (a colored ribbon sewn into her dress).
9. The royals' collaborative focus on mental health was her idea
Everyone knows that the Cambridges and Sussexes support mental health initiatives in a big way, but many might not realize that it was actually Duchess Kate who sparked the idea to make it a core priority for herself, Prince William and Prince Harry in 2016, leading to their support of Heads Together, which is a national coalition of organizations working to shift the dialogue around mental health. "It was Catherine who first realized that all three of us were working on mental health in our individual areas of focus," Prince William said in a 2018 speech. "She had seen that at the core of adult issues like addiction and family breakdown, unresolved childhood mental health issues were often part of the problem."
10. She loves the same TV shows as her future subjects
Just like the rest of us, Duchess Kate and Prince William like binging a good TV series. Appropriately, one of their favorites was "Game of Thrones." No word on what she thought of the finale… William's also revealed that Kate and her mother, Carole Middleton, love watching BBC's "Strictly Come Dancing," the British version of America's popular "Dancing With the Stars." While talking to some of the show's judges at a charity gala in November 2019, People magazine reported, the Duke of Cambridge admitted, "I have watched the show a couple of times," adding, "Catherine is a huge fan and my mother-in-law loves it."
11. She loves a spicy curry
Whether she makes it herself or springs for delivery, Duchess Kate loves a spicy curry. It was reportedly her favorite dish during her first pregnancy, and she and Prince William still like eating Indian and Pakistani food now. "It's so hard cooking curry with the family though," Kate said in October 2019 while visiting the Aga Khan Centre in London ahead of an official royal visit to Pakistan with William. "The children have a portion with no spice, yours is medium," she said, referring to William, "and I quite like it hot." Kate added that she's not the only family member who can tolerate a spicy curry: "[Our daughter Princess] Charlotte is pretty good with heat," she added.
12. Sticky toffee pudding is one of her favorite desserts
Duchess Kate enjoys the occasional dessert too. Specifically, the sticky toffee pudding from the Old Boot Inn in Stanford Dingley, a village in Berkshire, England, down the road from her parents' Bucklebury estate. (The establishment's former chef, Rody Warot, confirmed Kate's love of the dessert to People magazine.) And this is British pudding, which means it's a super-moist sponge cake covered in delicious sauce, not the thick yogurt-like treat you'd find in the United States.
13. She's a talented photographer
In her pre-royal days, Duchess Kate took pictures for her parents' party-supply business. Today, her favorite subjects are are three kids, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. In fact, Kate's often the photographer behind the official images released by the palace to mark the kids' birthdays and other royal milestones. In June 2019, Queen Elizabeth II honored Kate when the monarch passed on the Royal Photographic Society patronage that she'd held for an incredible 67 years to the Duchess of Cambridge.
14. She's suffered from a debilitating form of morning sickness
Duchess Kate has suffered from a severe form morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum during all three of her pregnancies. When she was carrying her first child, Prince George, she struggled so much that she wound up in the hospital.
15. She has three official names
Depending on what part of the United Kingdom she's in, Duchess Kate — who was born Catherine Elizabeth Middleton — goes by different titles. In England, she's the Duchess of Cambridge. In Scotland, she's the Countess of Strathearn. And in Northern Ireland, she's Lady Carrickfergus.