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A Body Language Expert Analyzes 13 Iconic Photos of Prince William and Kate Middleton

The "Babe Ruth of body language" has a lot to say about what the body language of the Prince and Princess of Wales reveals in these images

Reading between the lines

When it comes to reading nonverbal cues, Patti Wood, MA, is a pro. She holds advanced degrees in body language and nonverbal communication, is the author of several books on the topic, including SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma, and is frequently called on by law enforcement, hospitals, universities, government agencies and the media to decipher what’s really going on in a tricky situation. Here, Wood chats with Reader’s Digest about the body language in these photos of the future king and his longtime love and wife of 11 years, Kate Middleton. You can also find out what Wood deciphered was really going on in these iconic photos from history.

Just a couple of kids in love

Long before they became the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate were just a couple of college kids. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, considering Prince William was born a future king. But you might not realize it looking at this adorable photo of the couple on the day of their graduation ceremony at St. Andrew’s University on June 23, 2005, in Scotland. “What I love about them in this photo is how spontaneous and unposed they are,” Wood says. “There’s so much joy, energy and movement in this photo. She’s leaning her body into his, and he’s responding by creating a heart shape with his body and hers. I also love the intimacy of her hand on his belly and how he gently places his hand on her to show connection.” Find out what Kate Middleton’s job was before she became a royal.

Touching me, touching you

This photo was taken moments after William finished playing the Field Game in an “old boys match” at Eton College on March 18, 2006. The young couple appears to be sharing a sweet kiss (and perhaps even a conspiratorial secret?), but what really stands out to Wood is how the young couple’s bodies mirror one another. “Their matching touch shows they feel equal love and strength in the relationship,” she explains. Here are a few body language tricks you can use right now to get what you want.

Attending another couple’s wedding

In this photo from Oct. 23, 2010, in which William and Kate attend the wedding of their friends, Harry Meade and Rosie Bradford, Wood sees the hints of the young couple’s upcoming engagement. “Wedding photos can be difficult to read,” Wood points out, but it’s clear from this one that these two are in a really good place. She clearly has his full attention, with the way he’s turned his head toward her. Wood also notes that their elbows touch as they walk, suggesting they really want to be close to each other.

It’s official

This is William and Kate’s official engagement photo, taken on Nov. 16, 2010, at St. James’s Palace in London. After eight years together, the couple became engaged during a holiday in Kenya, and you can see not only how thrilled but also how connected they are. “I love how he tilts his upper body into her in the official photo,” Wood says. “Even in such a formal, posed photo, it shows he’s willing to lean into her,” and yet she meets him halfway by draping her arm through his elbow in a show of formality. And let’s not forget those toothy grins, which Wood reads as pure and genuine. All you have to do is “count those happy teeth,” she says. Find out what else your smile can reveal about you.

Unmistakeable happiness

With their wedding drawing near, William and Kate attend the Naming Ceremony and Service of Dedication of the Atlantic 85 Lifeboat, Hereford Endeavour, on Feb. 24, 2011. Even if you didn’t know this was taken just weeks before their wedding, you’d “know,” according to Wood, who can’t help but notice how happy Kate seems (“She’s just lit up with happiness!”) and how the gaze between the two is so perfectly and mutually eye-to-eye.

Greeting the crowd right after their wedding

You see that perfectly mutual gaze once again in this photo taken on April 29, 2011, right after their wedding at London’s Westminster Abbey. But what really stands out for Wood, in this case, is that while it would be perfectly acceptable for the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to have their attention fixed on the crowd gathered before them, it’s clear that they only have eyes for each other. It’s those tiny details that tell so much, and here are 15 more you might have missed about William and Kate’s wedding day.

Could they be any happier?

It’s day six of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and sure, it’s possible these two are just really enthusiastic about sports. But it’s far more likely their mutual “glee,” as Wood puts it, has to do with how they feel about each other. “Look how they’re all wrapped up in each other,” Wood points out. And she means it literally. “Once again, their bodies are forming a perfect heart shape.” If she didn’t know they were a royal couple, she might mistake them for a couple of high school kids at the homecoming game who are “hot for each other.” Don’t miss these candid rarely seen photos of the royal family.

And baby makes four

This photo of Kate and William leaving the Lido Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital with their second child, daughter Charlotte, on May 2, 2015, is emblematic of just how “in sync” they are. Gazing mutually in the same direction, as Wood points out they often do, they focus their attention on their new bundle of joy, and yet William’s arm is wrapped around Kate, and their bodies overlap in the photo. Find out why Princess Charlotte’s children won’t have royal status.

Goofing around in the Alps

Enjoying a brief skiing holiday in the French Alps on March 3, 2016, Kate and William seem to find themselves feeling “playful,” Wood tells Reader’s Digest. It’s evident how much she is “enjoying his energetic and playful desire to hold her close and dance in the snow.” Not only do we see closeness, but also a passion. What you don’t see, of course, is all that goes with traveling as a British royal. For that, you’ll have to check out these juicy secrets of royal family travel.

The Cambridges at the Sussex wedding

On May 19, 2018, His Royal Highness Prince Harry married Meghan Markle as the world watched in awe. Later, it was revealed there may have been some tension between the Cambridges and the newly married Sussexes, and it may be evident here, as Wood notes Kate is looking a bit more tired than usual—though, of course, that might be because she gave birth to baby number three, Prince Louis, less than a month earlier. But, as always, William makes a point of leaning in as he speaks to his wife. As a family, “they form a tight cluster,” Wood adds. “Gently holding hands with their children, they’re clearly a close family unit.” Find out all the tiny details you probably missed at Meghan and Harry’s wedding.

A bit more posed and proper than usual

Wood can’t help but notice how posed and proper Kate and William look as they attend the first day of the Royal Ascot at the Ascot Racecourse in London on June 18, 2019. A top-hatted William reaches his hand toward his wife, who stands stiffly beside him, her own hands firmly clutching her purse. At the time this photo was taken, the media was reporting that William had had an extramarital affair with Kate’s now-former friend Rose Hanbury. Whether it’s true or not, Kate’s tension is difficult to conceal, despite the fact that William seems to be seeking her approval. Did you know Kate and William always break this royal rule?

The camera sees all

Clearly, 2019 was a tough year for Kate and William. First, there was the aforementioned media brouhaha, and then there was the departure of the Sussexes to North America, possibly forever. That being said, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did make a brief return to the United Kingdom in March to observe Commonwealth Day with the royal family. Nevertheless, in this photo taken on March 9, Wood notices how the stress has taken a toll on William and Kate (not to mention Harry, who looks vaguely rumpled and a bit disgruntled as Meghan struggles to maintain a smile). “They look like they’ve aged decades, and their heavy sadness doesn’t match the event,” she says.

A glimmer of sunshine and hope for the future

Even for those who managed to avoid infection in the height of the pandemic, that time presented some enormous challenges. Yet William and Kate seem to be happily in sync once again in this screenshot of a video call on May 15, 2020, in which the couple is shown speaking to crisis volunteers. Wood notes how their bodies overlap, and Kate’s head is tilted naturally toward William, with his tilted toward her. And if they had appeared to age decades in the photo from Commonwealth Day, it appears they’ve now reversed the process. Next, read on for 15 things you probably never knew about the future king.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren has covered knowledge, history, the British royal family, true crime and riddles for Reader's Digest since 2017. Having honed her research and writing skills as an attorney in the 1990s, she became one of HuffPost's first bloggers in the early 2000s, graduated to reporting hyperlocal news in the 2010s and has been researching and writing news and features for a wide variety of publications ever since. Aside from Reader's Digest, her work has appeared in Mashed, Tasting Table, Eat This, Not That!, Grown and Flown, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Insider, Business Insider and many others.