5 Secrets to Kate Middleton and Prince William's 11-Year Royal Marriage

From college sweethearts to a family of five, Kate and Prince William are a modern-day fairy tale

Kate Middleton and Prince William
Prince William and Kate Middleton. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty

Kate Middleton and Prince William are celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary on Friday. After 11 years of marriage, what's the secret to their successful royal love?

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tied the knot at Westminster Abbey in London on April 29, 2011. They are now full-time working members of the royal family and parents of three — Prince George, 8, Princess Charlotte, 6, and Prince Louis, 4 — and slowly introducing their children to royal life.

But any relationship takes work, especially when it's in the public eye. Find out how Kate, 40, and Prince William, 39, have kept their spark alive.

1. They built a strong foundation

Prince William and Kate met as students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, but their relationship wasn't romantic at first. By their sophomore year, the pair had become housemates, sharing a four-bedroom flat with two other friends and frequently walking to classes together.

"It's a relationship based on friendship," royal author Robert Lacey previously told PEOPLE Royals.

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However, the pair "definitely had chemistry," Laura Warshauer, a New Jersey native and St. Andrews student who lived in the same dorm as the pair, said in PEOPLE's special edition William & Kate: 10 Joyous Years.

"Whenever Kate was in the room, Will was obviously paying attention to her," Warshauer continued. "When we'd be sitting at lunch in the dining hall and the two of them would be talking, it was amazing to see how natural it was, how they had so much to say to each other. Looking back, there were all these small moments—certainly moments where I was like, 'Wow, this could really be something.'"

Middleton Family/Clarence House via Getty
Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2005. Middleton Family/Clarence House via Getty

Even after college, Kate and Prince William took their time with dating, including a brief breakup before getting engaged in 2010.

During their engagement interview, Prince William said, "We've talked about today for a while, we've talked about this happening so Kate wasn't in the dark at all when we were planning it for at least a year if not longer, it was just finding the right time. And that's what most people say about couples, it's all about timing. And I had my military career and I really wanted to concentrate on my flying and I couldn't have done this if I was still doing my training, so I've got that out of the way and Kate's in a good place in terms of work and where she wants to be and stuff, and we both just decided now was a really good time."

2. They modeled their marriage

Kate and Prince William looked to the 73-year marriage of his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, to navigate the relationship spotlight. Likewise, the couple has made it clear that Kate's parents, Carole and Michael — who have been married for over 40 years — are a pillar of their family life.

"Kate's got a very, very close family," Prince William said during their engagement interview. "And I get on really well with them and I'm very lucky that they've been so supportive."

He added, "Mike and Carole have been really sort of loving and caring and really fun and have been really welcoming towards me, so I've felt really a part of the family and I hope that Kate's felt the same with my family."

3. They choose great causes

Kate and Prince William have backed issues with broad appeal and staying power, including mental wellbeing and aid for veterans.

At the charity Jigsaw in Dublin in 2020, volunteer Abigail McDonnell said the couple has "a genuine passion for [mental health]. You can tell they really care."

In addition to their joint causes, they support each other with their individual missions. Prince William has supported Kate when she has taken on projects related to the early years of the child's life, while Kate has done the same for her husband, including joining him at the first Earthshot Prize awards last year.

Kate "was so clearly really proud of him when he came back from his speech," says Getty royal photographer Chris Jackson, who was capturing exclusive behind-the-scenes images of the event for PEOPLE. "She had been watching on the backstage TV. They are a strong team."

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Diamond Jubilee Tour
Prince William and Kate Middleton. Samir Hussein/WireImage

4. They make time for fun

The famously competitive couple isn't afraid to go head-to-head, whether they're racing each other in a charity sailing competition, facing off on the soccer field or trying their skills in a land yachting race. They also have plenty of fun from the stands of sporting events like Wimbledon and rugby — where there is a bit of a household rivalry (Prince William has been patron of the Welsh Rugby Union since 2016, while recently took over as patron of the Rugby Football League and the Rugby Football Union).

Kate and Prince William also know how to have fun during royal outings, whether they're showing off their dance moves or taking a side trip to go scuba diving during a recent visit to Belize.

5. They parent as partners

Unlike previous royal generations, William and Kate "can mix traditional duty with being thoroughly modern parents," said a family friend.

While they do have the help of nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, the couple makes sure to limit their royal work during school breaks (sometimes taking them on trips!) and spend plenty of time with their kids. The entire family enjoys cooking, playing outdoors and riding bikes.

The couple is hands-on, friends say, both in the morning (when the kids argue over songs to play at breakfast) and at school pickup.

"Kate likes to keep an ordinary life," a source said.

Prince William and Kate Middleton St. George's Chapel Easter Service
Kate Middleton, Prince George, Prince William and Princess Charlotte. Andrew Matthews-WPA Pool/Getty

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After the kids head to bed, Kate and Prince William wind down from the day in a relatable way.

"William will bring Kate a gin-and-tonic," a family friend told PEOPLE. "They look after each other, but in different ways."

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