ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters Life!) - When Britain’s Prince William went to St Andrews University, little did he know he’d find his future bride in the tiny coastal town.
But when he proposed to long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton last week, William joined a string of St Andrews graduates who met their spouses at “Britain’s top matchmaking university.”
St Andrews, one of Britain’s oldest universities, prides itself on a long tradition of alumni getting married to each other. It says one in 10 students meet their spouses there and at William and Middleton’s 2005 graduation, the principal told graduates they may have met their partners.
“It think it’s fantastic news, the whole of Scotland is excited,” St Andrews resident Christine Dodd, a pensioner, said. “St Andrews was proud when he came to study here, you can imagine the delight now that a royal match was made here.”
Picturesque St Andrews, on Scotland’s east coast, is known for its golf courses, clean beaches and historical buildings.
It has no nightclubs and students socialize through dinner parties and social club or “society” balls.
“It would be nice if they got married here,” a shop assistant who gave her name as Mary said. “It’s all thanks to St Andrews that they are together.”
William and Middleton, both 28, met in 2001 when they studied art history together, although he later switched to geography. William lived a fairly typical student life.
He attended social events, including a charity fashion show where Middleton was photographed wearing lingerie. They shared a house with two other housemates on the outskirts of the town and romance blossomed.
William’s office said on Tuesday that he and Middleton will marry on April 29, 2011 at London’s Westminster Abbey, three decades after his parents Charles and Diana’s spectacular wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral.
“We are absolutely delighted for William and Kate and their families,” the university, which launches its 600th anniversary celebrations next year, said in a statement.
“We will be proud to share our anniversary with the royal couple. We hope that they will take the opportunity to return to Scotland and join us in celebrating the romance of St Andrews.”
Former students testify to the romantic power of St Andrews.
Kitrhona Ramday, who was at St Andrews at the same time as William and Middleton, is preparing her wedding to a fellow St Andrews graduate in the university chapel next July.
“The town brings together such a wealth of individuals so you meet people you wouldn’t necessarily see yourself mixing with, it widens your circle,” the 29 year old said.
“Just like Will and Kate -- she’s not necessarily the kind of person you would expect him to end up with but St Andrews brings quite diverse people into your small environment.”
Mike Bayston, 32, met his wife Gillian, also a graduate, after he had left St Andrews and returned to visit his student sister. Romance blossomed once Gillian moved to London, where the couple now live, and they got married a few weeks ago.
“(It‘s) the isolation of the place and the style of socializing in St Andrews -- that’s what makes such strong friendships, in that sense that also leads to prevalence of marriages,” he said.
“There is no escape in St Andrews. Because you spend so much time with your partner, the relationship also moves faster than if you were in a different student environment.”
Walking arm in arm with his girlfriend, student Sean said he had heard about the St Andrews matchmaking reputation when he applied for a place. “That’s why I came,” he said, laughing.
Editing by Paul Casciato