ROYAL bride Kate Middleton suffered a devastating ordeal at the hands of a gang of vicious bullies when she was a schoolgirl.
Her teenage tormentors at posh Downe House school even put excrement in her bedsheets, and hounded terrified Kate, then 13, for being “too perfect”.
The beauty, 29, who will marry Prince William later this month, was regarded as a “nonentity” by tormentors who turned her life at the 30,000 pound-a-year girls’ boarding school into a tear-filled nightmare.
Their spiteful attacks on the future princess demonstrated shocking cruelty – and prompted Kate to choose Beatbullying as one of the charities her wedding guests will be invited to support.
“She hated it, absolutely hated it. The girls there were horrible. They used to put faeces in her bed and she was very, very badly bullied,” says her closest friend from that time, Jessica Hay.
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Until now, the official line has been that Kate just didn’t “fit in” at the school, in Thatcham, Berkshire.
But a new book, to be released just after the royal wedding on April 29, tells why she was moved, after only two terms there, to famous Marlborough College in Wiltshire in 1996.
“The bullying was far worse than just knocking her schoolbooks out of her hands or pushing her to the back of the lunch queue. Poor Kate was lonely, homesick and frequently in tears.”
“She had run into a pack of bullies who reduced her to an emotional wreck. Until then she had been at mixed schools and had no experience of how bitchy girls could be.
“She was the outsider who was probably too nice for her own good. It didn’t help that she was so tall and self-conscious about her eczema.”
Emma Sayle, who was four years above Kate but became her friend when they were both in their twenties, believes that Kate simply wasn’t pushy enough.
“Another, more unkindly, said, ‘In our peer group she was regarded as a nonentity. All the social-climbing girls – and there were lots of them at Downe House – thought she was not worth bothering with’.
“So it was not a case of Kate sticking it out so it would be the making of her – Michael and Carole had very strong concerns about their daughter’s emotional state.”
Kate’s parents went to see the then Marlborough headmaster, Ed Gould, to plead with him to take Kate in the middle of the summer term.
Mr Gould listened sympathetically to their story and found her a place in the school’s all-girl house Elmhurst, renowned for its sporting excellence.
Kate’s emotional state was so fragile house matron Miss Gould – no relation to the head – rounded up all the girls in the common room to warn them to be especially kind to her.
And when she arrived at her new 29,310 pounds-a-year boarding school, Kate was a shadow of the happy young girl she had been before Downe House, which now boasts of a Prevention of Bullying Policy on its website.
Pal Gemma Williamson recalls her arrival at Marlborough.
“She was very thin and pale – and she had very little confidence,” she says.
Jessica, 28 – who would end up in the next bed to Kate in the dorm – recalls: “Miss Gould was an absolutely lovely woman and she told us to be aware that we had a girl coming in called Catherine. She told us, ‘She was at Downe House and just be aware that she didn’t get treated very well. Please try to make her comfortable’.
“All of us were fairly down-to-earth people, so there was no problem with her fitting in at all. We weren’t in the cool group – we were just in the middle.
“Elmhurst was a great house for bringing on people who were like that. It helped to bring out the best in Kate. There was no problem with her fitting in at all. It turned out to be amazing.
As Kate won the trust of her new pals, she told them how she “absolutely hated” her time at Downe House, which numbers BBC sports presenter Clare Balding, TV sitcom star Miranda Hart and model-turned TV chef Sophie Dahl among its former pupils.
Jessica says: “Kate is intelligent, sporty, down to earth and a very nice, soft kind of person. I don’t think she had a very good time there.
“She was not the kind of person who could necessarily stick up for herself in an argument.”
But Kate was able to settle into her new surroundings quickly. Despite being shy and subdued, she still stood out. Unlike her pals, she didn’t wear make-up, but still looked “absolutely gorgeous”, says Jessica.
Gradually Kate was able to tell her new dorm friends the full extent of her misery at her previous school.
Head Mr Gould came to Elmhurst during Kate’s first week when many of the girls were in the common room watching television. Jessica recalls: “He was so involved with the pupils – but he came in to see if she was all right. And I heard her say to him, ‘I am so happy’.”
Kate also had the benefit of a school counsellor, Mrs Bryant, who kept an eye on how she coping. Her mentoring helped to bring Kate out of her shell. She showed just how much she was blossoming at Marlborough when she happily joined classmates in a fun version of Blind Date.
Kate was chosen to play host Cilla Black and entered into the spirit of it all with enthusiasm.
She had to borrow her outfit from Jessica – which made everyone laugh because the two girls were such different heights. Jessica says: “I lent her this really short black skirt, black fishnet tights and this kind of lime-coloured blouse.
“And then she put a wig on. It was so funny because she was so much taller than me.”
Kate was soon giggling along with her classmates. And in her best Scouse accent, she introduced each of the ‘contestants’, saying: “Now then, luv, what’s yer name and where d’you come from?” Jessica says: “It was so funny.
“It happened about six months after she arrived. We had finally brought her out of herself and restored her confidence.”
Kate, now 29, left Marlborough with two A grades and a B at A-level to study History of Art at St Andrew’s University where she met Prince William.
She has never publicly spoken about her bullying ordeal – but has asked the 1,900 guests at her wedding to donate to charity Beatbullying, which has campaigned with the News of the World to stamp out the national problem.