While these days the Duchess of Cambridge is widely beloved, for nearly a decade she suffered in silence as she was humiliated and chased by the paparazzi.
No one will ever really know the exact date it happened.
Was it the day in November 2010 that Kate Middleton, beaming and wearing a blue Issa frock that would sell out within hours, walked into an ornate room in St James' Palace with Prince William for their engagement press call?
Was it when she regally made her way up the aisle of Westminster Abbey in 2011 to trade any semblance of a normality for a life that would be chronicled in history books?
Or even, when she stood on the steps of the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in 2013, cradling the future King, her position in the royal family tree irrevocably cemented?
Because at some unspecified stage during those years, something extraordinary happened. The UK press, by and large, morphed into one, big patriotic Kate cheer squad, all but gluing a halo above her famously blow-dried locks and writing about her with a reverence bordering on the nauseatingly sycophantic.
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While more recently, Meghan Duchess of Sussexes' tortured, and at times combative relationship, with the press has come under the microscope, Kate was not always the protected species she is now.
Rather, there is a baffling amnesia these days about the way the now mother-of-three was treated by the press for the better part of a decade prior to her quasi-beatification.
For years, photographers camped outside her house, abused her, and hounded her day and night. She was derided on a global scale; had photos of her breasts splashed across tabloids and had to stand by while her family was mauled and mocked by the tabloids again and again.
Doors to manual
It was bound to happen. Whatever woman ended up capturing Prince William's heart and became his first serious, public girlfriend was always going to face a raking over the press coals but from the outset, Kate faced a difficult time.
When news broke in 2003 that she and the future King were dating, the British media went to town, delighting in playing up the fact she was a commoner. Her family's middle-class roots, and things such as the fact that her mother Carole was born in a council flat and was descended from coal miners, were repeatedly referenced.
In December 2006, the Middletons attended William's Sandhurst passing out parade, which was also attended by the Queen. The press had a field day about the fact that Carole chewed gum throughout the ceremony. Another recurring trope was that Carole was "pushy" and was accused of "scheming to push her eldest daughter up the social ladder."
When William and Kate broke up the following year (they would get back together within months) Carole and her non-aristocratic ways were widely blamed by the press for the split.
The gum-chewing incident was an "unforgivable faux pas by a woman who might become mother of the future Queen" one paper pompously reported.
"Kate was too middle class," the Mail on Sunday reported at the time, while the Mirror claimed she and her family were "Not posh enough for royals".
Then, 'Toiletgate' broke, claiming that Carole had also committed the unforgivable social sins of saying 'toilet' rather than 'lavatory,' and "pleased to meet you" rather than "how do you do" when she met the Queen for the first time.
Perhaps the most stinging revelation that came out in the wash up following the break up was that William's friends were alleged to whisper "doors to manual" (in snobbish reference to Carole's background as an air hostess) when Kate entered the room.
You can nearly hear the snickering from here.
The wisteria sisters
Carole was not the only Middleton to come in for a bruising time.
Kate and Pippa were widely reported to have been called the 'Wisteria sisters' – because they were highly decorative, terribly fragrant and had a ferocious ability to climb – in smart circles in London.
In 2008, though society bible Tatler named her the most eligible woman in Britain, the profile also said that she "goes to a lot of parties, but mainly as the caterer." Ouch.
For years, the press perniciously and constantly mocked Kate by calling her "Waity Katy" taking a certain sort of gleeful joy in portraying her as forlornly, and futilely, hanging around for Wills to pop the question. (Likewise, it was reported that William's friends had dubbed Kate "the limpet".)
"Absolutely outrageous paparazzi harassment"
Though she and William were protected from the press when they were at university in Scotland (Fleet Street had agreed with the palace to give William a break while he was studying), London was a different matter.
Once the couple graduated and Kate moved into the $3.5 million Chelsea flat that the Middletons had bought for their daughters, she faced a daily onslaught. She was papped shopping, at a bus stop, getting groceries in her trackies and riding her bike.
In October 2005, Kate used the firm of Harbottle & Lewis – the same legal firm used by the royal family – to send a warning shot to British newspaper editors, arguing she had been hounded by photographers and asking them not to publish material regarding her private life.
Things came to a head on Kate's 25th in January 2007 when around 30 photographers waited outside her flat, with speculation reaching fever pitch that the couple was set to announce their engagement.
In the video of the incident, the men mob Kate, forming an intimidating pack as she tries to get to her car. A clearly distressed Kate is finally able to drive away.
Things had reached such a fever pitch that a spokesperson for Kensington Palace took the unusual step of putting out a rare statement, saying that "Prince William is very unhappy at the paparazzi harassment of his girlfriend."
Even the then-mayor of London Ken Livingston weighed in on the incident, saying "I think it is absolutely outrageous what is happening with Ms. Middleton."
Things did not improve. There is grainy footage of another run-in with a pack of photographers, believed to be from October of that year, when Kate and another woman are surrounded by a scrum of photographers.
Kate can be heard begging them "Please leave me. Stop it."
One photographer retorts, "Just move your hand and we will leave you alone."
Kate stands her ground, saying "NO, I'm not going to move my hand. This is my private life, I'm not going to move my hand."
When they finally back off, one sneeringly says to her, "Thanks your highness."
The same year, Kate made her first official complaint to the press watchdog over a close-up image, taken of her on her way to work.
The drug sting
In October 2009, two undercover News of the World reporters filmed Kate's uncle, Gary Goldsmith in a drug sting, allegedly "chopping up" cocaine in front of them and offering to set them up with expensive prostitutes.
Christmas eve media hunt
In 2010, Kate was awarded $18,500 in damages and an apology from the Rex Features photo agency after they internationally syndicated and sold photos of her playing tennis taken the previous Christmas Eve, at a Cornwall holiday house. (No British papers published the shots.)
Even after William proposed and the couple announced their engagement to the world in 2010, Kate and her family did not get much reprieve.
The Independent Press Complaints Commission, Britain's media watchdog, issued a warning to the country's newspaper warning them not to harass any of the Middletons.
In 2011, a week after Wills and Kate tied the knot in front of a global audience of billions, an old racy photo of her sister Pippa wearing a bra and dancing with a man in boxers hit the net, with the boozy hijinks standing in stark contrast to the Middleton family's polished turn at the wedding.
The 26-year-old royal bridesmaid faced further humiliation when the following week a topless photo of Pippa hit the press, taken when she had very briefly removed her bikini top during an Ibiza holiday.
In September 2012, Kate and William went to France for a holiday, staying at a chateau owned by the now-Earl of Snowdon (Princess Margaret's son). A photographer, about half a kilometre away from the property, snapped the duchess sunbaking topless. The shots were published in the French edition of Closer and the Italian gossip magazine Chi.
The Cambridges called in the lawyers, ultimately resulting in both Closer and its editor and owner facing steep fines.
In February 2013, Chi published photos of a pregnant Kate in a bikini, taken during a holiday in Mustique. While the British press refused to publish the paparazzi shot, they ran in other countries including Australia.
And then came, sort of, peace. These days, Kate is only occasionally photographed by the paparazzi and even then it is her normally doing such quotidian things as the supermarket shopping or buying kids' books.
After the arrival of Prince George in 2013, there was an outcry when pictures were published of Kate pushing his pram in Kensington Gardens. Later, the palace and Fleet Street reached an understanding that they would not buy any images of the royal tot taken surreptitiously, that is, during private moments.
These days, Kate's reputation is of being a squeaky clean, dull, near-perfect duchess. However, looking back at what she endured, by and large with incredible composure and dignity, it is clear that underneath that charming smile lies a woman with a backbone of steel.
Now that is a Queen-in-the-making.