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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 Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reveals in these images.

The Duke And Duchess of Cambridge - Official Tour PortraitHandout/Getty 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 upon by law enforcement, hospitals, universities, government agencies, and the media to decipher what’s really going on in a tricky situation. Here, in honor of the 38th birthday of His Royal Highness Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, Wood chats with Reader’s Digest about what’s really going on in these photos of the future king and his longtime love and wife of nine years, Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Find out what Wood deciphered was really going on in these 11 iconic photos from history.

The Middleton Family Release Images Of Kate MiddletonHandout/Getty Images

Just a couple of kids in love

Long before they became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate were just a couple of college kids. OK, well 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

Kate Middleton Joins Prince William At Eton College For Sporting OccasionMax Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

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 9 body language tricks you can use right now to get what you want.

Prince William and Kate Middleton Attend Harry Meade And Rosie Bradford's WeddingMax Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Attending another couple’s wedding

In this photo from October 23, 2010, in which William and Kate attend the wedding of their friends, Harry Meade & 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 one another.

Clarence House Announce The Engagement Of Prince William To Kate MiddletonChris Jackson/Getty Images

It’s official

This is William and Kate’s official engagement photo, taken on November 16, 2010, at St. James 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.

Prince William and Kate Middleton visit Trearddur Bay RNLI Lifeboat StationMax Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

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 February 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.

Mark Cuthbert ArchiveMark Cuthbert/Getty Images

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 new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to have their attention fixed on the crowd gathered before them, it’s clear that all they have eyes for is 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.

Olympics Day 6 - Cycling - TrackPascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

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 21 candid rarely seen photos of the royal family.

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Depart The Lindo Wing With Thier Second ChildSamir Hussein/Getty Images

And baby makes four

This photo of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge 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 synch” the Cambridges 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.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Enjoy Skiing HolidayWPA Pool/Getty Images

Goofing around in the Alps

Enjoying a brief skiing holiday in the French Alps on March 3, 2016, the Cambridges 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 15 juicy secrets of royal family travel.

Prince Harry Marries Ms. Meghan Markle - Windsor CastleWPA Pool/Getty Images

The Cambridges at the Sussex wedding

On May 19, 2018, His Royal Highness Prince Harry married Miss 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.

Royal Ascot 2019 - Day OneSamir Hussein/Getty Images

A bit more posed and proper than usual

Wood can’t help but notice how posed and proper the Cambridges 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 that William seems to be seeking her approval. Did you know Kate and William always break this royal rule?

Commonwealth Day Service 2020WPA Pool/Getty Images

The camera sees all

Clearly, 2019 was a tough year for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 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. Find out popular theories behind Harry and Meghan’s royal resignation.

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Mark The First Anniversary Of Crisis Text Service "Shout"Chris Jackson/Getty Images

A glimmer of sunshine and hope for the future

Even for those who have managed to avoid infection, the pandemic has presented enormous challenges. Yet we’re happy to see William and Kate seem to be happily in synch once again in this screenshot of a video call on May 15, in which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are speaking to crisis volunteers. Wood notes how their bodies overlap, and Kate’s head is tilted naturally toward’s 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 Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.