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Will and Kate: They're Just Like Us!
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Will and Kate: They're Just Like Us!How Will and Kate are modernizing the monarchy.

Photograph of Prince William and Kate.

Okay, so they may have palaces, dukedoms and their portraits on currency. And they'll be King and Queen someday! But these twentysomethings may just be the most relatable royals to ever wear crowns. From their "normal" meeting to premarital cohabitation, we take a look at the ways in which Will and Kate are putting a modern spin on the monarchy.

They Date Who They Want
While Kate--er, Catherine--isn't exactly from the wrong side of the tracks, she was a surprising choice for Prince William. She is, after all, a commoner, with no noble title, no aristocratic ties and no previous connection to the Windsor clan. While a young Will was frolicking behind palace walls, little Kate was enjoying an ordinary childhood in sleepy Buckleberry in Berkshire. But who doesn't love a good Cinderella story...

A collage of images from William and Kate's childhood and younger years.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (a.k.a. Scotland), a handsome young prince meets a fair maiden of humble origins on the grounds of a hallowed institution (a.k.a. the University of St. Andrews). The prince finds himself in the same class as said fair maiden. Let ye royal courtship begin! One very sheer dress (pictured above, top right), a brief breakup and eight years later, the maiden accepts her prince's proposal, and thus begins the fairy-tale wedding of the millennium.

The princess' presence at the prestigious school in the first place--and their fateful meeting--owe a debt of gratitude to noisemakers and party favors. Kate's family tree was rooted in the coalmines of County Durham. But in 1987, her entrepreneurial parents, Carole and Michael (pictured below, left), founded the party-supply business, Party Pieces. The sky seemed to be the limit in the balloon biz, as the Middletons quickly rose to millionaire status.

Photographs of Kate Middleton's parents, Carole and Michael, and Prince William's parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The family's new-found wealth fueled Kate's climb up the social ladder. It enabled them to send Kate and her siblings, little sis, Pippa, and bro, James, to the most proper of prep schools, gain admission to the right uni, and ultimately bunk with an heir! Had it not been for party hats, paper streamers and plastic tiaras, the prince and this pretty "pauper" might never have met.

Kate is destined to become a true people's princess. While Prince William's late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, billed herself as such, that crown may better fit Kate's head. Diana's blood was certainly blue well before her betrothal to Charles. "She was an aristocrat from that great traditional family, the Spencers," says Christopher Andersen, author of William and Kate: A Royal Love Story (Simon & Schuster, 2010). "But Kate is the real deal--a princess of the people."

To really drive this point home, Kate skipped the usual carriage ride to the church on her big day. Instead, she hopped a ride with her dad to the ceremony--though that ride came with a Rolls Royce hood ornament. Common, yes. Poor? Certainly not!

They Move in Together Before Saying "I Do"
Nearly two-thirds of couples shack up before marriage. And Will and Kate are no exception. The royal pair have been living together in Anglesey, Wales, since last year--and they even shared a house at university. In 2010, the second in line to the throne and his fiancée took up residence in a secluded cottage, a short commute from Will's day job as a Royal Air Force (RAF) search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.

Photographs of Kensington Palace and William and Harry training for RAF.

This is in sharp contrast to their parents and centuries of royal couples before them, for whom modesty reigned supreme--in appearances at least! So, is it like a virgin for these two lovebirds? While no one can be certain what happens in the royal boudoir, chances are these roomies have bedded before being wedded, like the majority of their commoner peers.

After the wedding, the newlyweds returned home to their Welsh love nest while Will finishes his RAF tour. But on weekends, they'll commute back to London. And royal insiders are predicting they may call Kensington Palace home, sweet home someday. Prince William's childhood home, and Diana's residence after her split from Charles, holds a special place in his heart. Though we hear that Kate has her eye not on Di's former digs in the palace, but on Princess Margaret's old apartment within Kensington.

Their Parents Help Pay for the Wedding
Miss Manners tells us that the bride's family traditionally foots the bulk of the bridal bill. But when the family on the other side of the church consists of a Queen, a few heirs, dukes, duchesses and various princes, things are a wee-bit different.

Contrary to some claims in the media, British taxpayers did not pay outright for the wedding of the century. The state covered the hefty security expenses, but the royals also helped defray those costs. And while the final tally of who paid for what will never be made public, we do know that the Queen picked up the tab for the ceremony and afternoon reception at Buckingham Palace, while Prince Charles covered the evening's private dinner and dance on April 29th.

Kate's self-made millionaire parents paid for their daughter's Alexander McQueen dress, among other costs of the big day. This is in sharp contrast to other "common" royal brides, including Sarah Ferguson and Prince Edward's wife, Sophie, whose families reportedly forked over zilch for their big days.

Will and Kate kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

And what of this royal budget? Unlike recent celeb weddings, which have toppled seven figures (we're talking to you $3.5-million bride Chelsea Clinton!), Will and Kate's nuptials--minus the cost of security--likely totaled six figures. While that seems too rich for our common blood, consider the mind-boggling budgets of these unions: $1.5 million for Catherine Zeta-Jones & Michael Douglas, $2 million for Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes, $3.5 million for Liza Minnelli & David Gest. And those weddings weren't even broadcast to 2.5 billion viewers!

They Have Pet Names for Each Other
While yours may be Pookie or Sweetcheeks, theirs are more like Her Royal Highness Princess Catherine of Wales. That was the moniker Prince William wanted bestowed upon his new wife by the Queen. But this seemingly innocuous title change would have had far-reaching implications for the monarchy.

Photographs of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie; William and Kate.

It would have made Kate a princess in her own right--like Will's cousins Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie--and not just through marriage. But British princesses are born, not made. If the Queen had granted Will's wish, and made Kate a princess in her own right, it would have been a significant break from royal custom and a first.

Instead, Her Majesty made Will and Kate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Keeping with tradition, the Queen doled out the dukedom on the morning of the wedding. Similarly, her son Prince Andrew became Duke of York, while his bro Prince Edward got Wessex when he got hitched. (We wonder if they registered for that?!)

Because the doting grandmother offered up the dukedom, Will and Kate are officially known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But word around the palace is that Prince William (and likely the world) will refer to the duchess as Princess Catherine.

They Wash Their Own Dirty Socks
Shortly after announcing their engagement, Will and Kate made another surprising proclamation: After the wedding, they would live in Wales without any servants. No servants?! Tsk, tsk. The Queen's royal household numbers 1,200, while Prince Charles employs 149 maids, butlers, chauffeurs and cooks. But the future King and Queen of England have decided to live like normal newlyweds--cooking their own dinner, cleaning their own castle and picking up their Majesty's own dry cleaning.

Photograph of Prince William and Kate grocery shopping.

"Kate is the first person who truly understands what it's like to live a normal life. They will be a very contemporary king and queen," says royal scribe Christopher Andersen. "Their courtship and plans for the monarchy," he adds, "are something we've never quite seen before."

They Won't Play Favorites with Their Kids
So, you want to rule England? The prerequisites are pretty clear: You must belong to the Church of England, you can't marry a Catholic, and you must be the first-born son of the current King or Queen--or daughter, but only if no legitimate boys happen to come along subsequently.

Leave it to Will and Kate to turn these 300-year-old tenants on their heads! Under current rules, if Prince William and Kate have a girl first, she doesn't automatically become the next Queen of England--if they then have a son, he overtakes his older sis in the line of succession.

Photographs of the young Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen with a Charles and Anne as kids.

But the couple has reportedly initiated steps to prevent such favoritism in their future family. However, it'll require more than just a wave of the Queen's royal scepter. Changing the line of succession must be ratified by the British Parliament--along with all 16 Commonwealth nations where the Queen is officially head of state, including Canada and Australia.

Getting such approval could take many years though, and it's a long shot at best. So in spite of their best efforts, their future daughter's crown could hit the castle's glass ceiling. But we'll have to stay tuned for that one. For now, let's just watch two lovebirds bask in newly wedded bliss and hold further analysis of their modern monarchy till after the honeymoon period!