"I didn't know who on Earth she was."
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Pre-royal wedding. Pre-Bond Girl cape gown. And just post-charity fashion show sheer dressKate Middleton wasn't the Duchess of Cambridge. She was just a college girl that happened to hang out with Prince William on the regular. And while pictures from those days are rare, royal photographer Arthur Edwards shared a new snapshot from the before times, letting royal watchers reminisce about how things started out. Edwards, The Sun's royal photographer, shared the photo just before Kate's 40th birthday, which falls on January 9.

In the photo, which was taken at Sandringham in 2005, Kate is wearing flared jeans, pointy-toe pumps, a green jacket, and a scarf. Her signature brown hair is there, too, as is her usual neutral, soft makeup. Edwards says it was the very first photo he ever took of Kate, adding, "I didn't know who on Earth she was."

"Back then you would never have credited that the young woman who walked through those gates would turn out to be our future queen," he said.

Kate Middleton at Sandringham 2005
Credit: The Mega Agency

Kate and William first met as college freshmen back in 2001 at St. Andrews University in Scotland. The rest, well, is a real-life fairy tale that involves a sheer dress, some not-so-nice nicknames for Kate as she waited for an engagement ring, and now, a family of five.

Arthur also recounted a moment right after Kate and William broke up and reconnected in 2010. At a concert to honor Princess Diana, William told him he knew that Kate was The One.

"Well, Arthur, I had to be sure this was the right woman for me because I want this marriage to last forever," Edwards recalls William saying.