The hair-raising inside story of Kate's wedding day… by the men behind that unforgettable look
12:08 GMT, 29 April 2012
Turning heads: Kate on her big day with the 'demi chignon' style
It was on November 16, 2010, that hairdresser James Pryce’s career took an unexpected turn and his life, as he knew it, changed for good.
The 34-year-old Londoner was working as a senior stylist at the Richard Ward salon just off Sloane Street when he received a call from a senior adviser to Prince William and Kate Middleton.
They asked if he could go to Clarence House as soon as possible – an announcement was imminent and Kate would be making a television appearance. The request, he was told, came directly from Miss Middleton.
‘Of course I accepted immediately,’ says Pryce. ‘They told me she and Prince William were engaged to be married.
‘Lots of thoughts went through my head and I admit I did let my mind run away with me – I couldn’t help but think about the wedding and whether I would be lucky enough to be asked to do that.’
Pryce was indeed lucky enough to be asked, and he accepted the commission of a lifetime.
‘Life became very strange almost overnight after they announced their engagement,’ says Pryce. ‘I had journalists booking in for cuts with me, and Kate lookalikes coming into the salon. Every woman with long brown hair suddenly wanted what was being called The Kate blow-dry.’
Pryce knew when it came to the wedding day on April 29 that the elegant ‘half-up, half-down’ style he had created – christened the demi chignon – had to be perfect.
From January until April he worked to perfect the style, while his boss Richard Ward assigned eight stylists to work on the bridal party in complete secrecy.
Ward was also trained to do the bride’s hairstyle.
‘I knew where every pin went, just in
case James had food poisoning or something awful like that and I had to
do Kate’s hair on the day,’ he recalls. ‘I’d practised on my assistant
Sam and I knew the style so well I could do it with my eyes closed. We
It was Pryce,
however, who worked with Kate creating mood boards and practising the
style at Clarence House as the big day drew near.
Trend-setting: Kate and Prince William announce their engagement in November 2010. Her blow-dried style – her 'usual' – became known as The Kate
As the son of two hairdressers, Pryce,
of Kensal Green, North London – who now works as a senior stylist at
trendy Holland Park atelier Josh Wood – always knew he wanted to
continue the family tradition.
‘It was the most important blow-dry
I’d ever done and it was a great honour,’ says Pryce.
‘Kate was wearing
that amazing blue Issa dress and she just asked for the usual.’
despite having cut the Middleton family’s hair for seven years, he
could never have imagined that a blow-dry one crisp November afternoon
would have such an impact on his career.
As he made his way to the Palace that day, he knew that a few hours later
the world would be watching his client as she and the Prince gave their
first television interview.
‘It was the most important blow-dry
I’d ever done and it was a great honour,’ says Pryce. ‘Kate was wearing
that amazing blue Issa dress and she just asked for the usual.’
usual’ is a style that has become known as ‘The Kate’. It is a blow-dry
that many have tried to emulate but few can achieve and is best suited
to naturally glossy, thick hair.
Stylists: James Pryce, left, who created the hairdo, and Richard Ward
‘Kate has beautiful long hair and she keeps it in amazing condition with regular trims and weekly conditioning treatments,’ Pryce reveals. ‘Her hair was always going to be a real focal point on the wedding day.’
The two discussed different styles and Pryce presented Kate with a number of options. ‘I put together mood boards with drawings and clippings from magazines,’ says Pryce.
‘She had a clear idea of how she wanted her hair to look. She wanted it half-up, half-down, as she knew her face had to be properly seen.
‘There was talk of her wearing flowers in her hair but in the end it was decided that a tiara would be more suitable. I think she decided on the tiara in February or March.
‘The half-up, half-down style was perfect because the tiara needed something to sit on.’
According to Ward, the tiara was fitted using a small plait in the centre, which was then sewn into Kate’s hair to prevent it from moving.
‘That was my biggest worry,’ he recalls. ‘I remember watching Princess Diana leave St Paul’s Cathedral [at her wedding] and her tiara wasn’t central.’
Kate was said to have had a choice of tiaras from the Queen’s personal collection and decided on the Cartier Halo, which was given to the Queen by the Queen Mother on her 18th birthday. The tiara was made in 1936 with 149 baton diamonds. ‘Kate chose the tiara that she loved and we practised with that,’ says Pryce.
The practice sessions were at Clarence House in William and Kate’s private quarters. Says Pryce: ‘The tiara never left Clarence House, I was absolutely in awe of it and the history of such a special piece of jewellery.’
Global event: With the eyes of the world on the biggest Royal Wedding for a generation the styling had to be faultless
Pressure: Pryce knew when it came to the wedding day the elegant 'half-up, half-down' style he had created 'christened the demi chignon' had to be perfect
The stylist had a number of secret
practices with Kate and says it was her calmness that helped him to keep
his nerve. ‘I spent every minute thinking about the hair and how to do
it. I came into the salon on my days off and practised on the girls at
work with a fake 10 tiara.’
The half-up half-down style from the back became an overnight phenomenon
that the world would be admiring his work when Kate walked up the aisle
at Westminster Abbey, Pryce knew he had to create something timeless
‘Kate had described the neckline on the dress but she
wouldn’t tell me anything else,’ he says. ‘I didn’t know it was going to
be lace, I didn’t know who the designer was until minutes before the
On the big day itself, Pryce, Ward and their team convened at Clarence House at 6am and made their way to The Goring hotel where the bridal party was staying.
Pryce and Ward were assigned to Kate for the day while Adolfo Vollono tended to Kate’s mother Carole and wedding-hair expert Fiona Chandler was responsible for Pippa’s elegant up-do.
‘When we set off the streets were
eerily silent. I remember there being a strange calm and the police
setting up the barriers,’ recalls Pryce. ‘
The paparazzi were outside the
hotel and the street had been closed. We went straight upstairs to a
room that had been reserved for doing Kate’s hair.
came in at about 8.30 and she was amazingly calm. There were no
interruptions, it was my time with her and you couldn’t hear anything
There was no noise from the street and no TVs in the background.
She was keeping me calm,’ says Pryce. ‘She was very collected and she
kept it together. That’s just her, that’s why she’s so great.’
came in at about 8.30 and she was amazingly calm… she was keeping ME calm'
styling took an hour and a half and Ward, who assisted Pryce, recalls: ‘When he finished and she walked out to go and get into her dress, James
and I had a hug.
'It was a very proud moment. We had all put so much
hard work into it.’ Pryce says he will never forget seeing Kate in her
dress for the first time.
‘I had gone to her suite to do one final
check,’ he remembers. ‘I went in and I was just bowled over. I was like,
“Wow! You look amazing.” The vision of her was just incredible.’
Party time: Kate wore her hair down for the wedding reception
While Ward stayed at The Goring, Pryce
accompanied dress designer Sarah Burton to the Abbey where they were
seated at the back, close to Sir Elton John.
through the last hymn, he had to leave for Buckingham Palace, ready to
check Kate’s hair for the official photographs and balcony appearance.
‘It barely needed anything – the tiara had stayed firmly in place,’ says
Several hours later Pryce returned to
Clarence House, where William, Kate and Prince Harry were watching the
wedding on playback.
asked to go and do Kate’s hair for the evening. Kate wanted her hair
down and needed help taking the tiara out. It was lovely seeing them so
relaxed and happy. You could see how in love they were.
‘The tiara came out very easily, and
Kate and I had already agreed that I would just blow-dry her hair like
we always did. I did what I’d done many times before.’
Later, as he walked along The Mall, Pryce took in for the last time the crowds who were still gathered.
was feeling so very happy,’ he says. ‘I headed to Hampstead where I’d
arranged to meet friends at my local. I got a big round of applause and a
few well-earned drinks.’
Then it was back to work on Monday – and back to reality with a bump.
Craze: Every woman with long brown hair suddenly wanted what was being called The Kate blow-dry, according to James Pryce
… and for their paper anniversary, a dish en papillote
A couple's first wedding anniversary is known as ‘paper’, symbolising the fresh but still fragile nature of the marriage.
So when the Duchess of Cambridge began planning a candlelit dinner to share with her husband this evening, she challenged herself to incorporate the theme into the meal.
The Mail on Sunday understands that, as a result, the couple’s special dinner will be fish cooked en papillote – in parchment – at their farmhouse in Anglesey, North Wales.
They were believed to have returned there this morning after spending yesterday at a wedding.
Sources say the Duchess has been planning the meal for weeks. ‘She loves cooking for William, and she wanted to do something special for their anniversary,’ says a source.
Cooking en papillote involves wrapping fish in parchment paper, often with herbs and stock, then baking it, allowing the food to steam and the flavours to mingle.
The parcel is then usually served intact and opened at the table.