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updated 12/17/2010 5:24:43 PM ET 2010-12-17T22:24:43

Theirs is a storybook romance — but the course of love did not always run smoothly for Prince William and Kate Middleton. In “William and Kate: A Royal Love Story,” Christopher Andersen reveals the intimate details of their celebrated courtship, including the person who was really behind their headline-making breakup, and how Kate won her man back.

In this excerpt, the young prince faces a hard decision as separation strains his and Kate's relationship.

A prince at a crossroads

William had plenty on his mind: His brother had been told in late February that he had gotten his wish to fight. Despite heightened concerns that he would be targeted by terrorists, Harry received his orders to ship out for Iraq with the rest of the Household Cavalry Regiment's A Squadron in May.

Frustrated in the knowledge that his combat training was probably just a futile exercise, William nonetheless arrived in Dorset on March 16 to begin a ten-week course in tank warfare. Kate, waging a public relations war of her own, plowed ahead on her own.

Read complete coverage at TODAY's royal wedding blog, The Windsor Knot

Just one year earlier at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kate was asked at the last minute by Prince Charles and Camilla to join them in the royal box — a huge step toward establishing her as a probable royal bride. Rather than just show up and hope to be invited, this year Kate wrangled a formal invitation. Once she arrived wearing a jaunty beret and an eye-catching periwinkle blue jacket, Kate was escorted by royal protection officers directly to the box.

The next day's papers were filled with photos of Kate cheering for the horses she bet on to win, and jumping up and waving her arms when they did. However convincing her performance, Kate realized she and Wills — now immersed in the world of hotheaded young officers training for battle — were growing further and further apart.

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Just how far started to become apparent on March 22 — Second Lieutenant Wales's first night on the town with the rest of the hard-drinking men known throughout the British army as the "Booze and the Royals." At Elements, a nightclub in the nearby town of Bournemouth, William knocked back pints of Stella Artois with sambuca chasers while dozens of women in skimpy outfits took pictures of the prince with their cell phones.

"Word went round that William was there playing cheesy eighties music, so we went to take a look," recalled eighteen-year-old Ana Ferreira, a stunning brunette international-relations student from Brazil. "He was dancing, looking a bit wooden — I don't think he would be any good at the samba! But there were lots of girls hanging around him."

Soon, he had Ferreira on one side and her friend Cecilia on the other, posing for pictures. With his right hand, a grinning Wills reached down and grasped Ferreira's breast — an image that ultimately made its way into the papers. "I was a little bit drunk myself," she remembered, "but I felt something brush my breast. I thought it couldn't be the future king, but now that I've seen the picture, it's no wonder he's got a smile on his face! He has big, manly hands and certainly knows what to do with them." (Later, Ferreira e-mailed the photo of William and his wandering hand to her family in Brazil. "My mother thought it was very funny," Ferreira said. "She is pleased I met Prince William even though he was a little naughty.")

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Later that same evening, Wills was "a little naughty" yet again — this time with a six-foot-tall, blond, nineteen-year-old performing arts student named Lisa Agar. "Come on," he said, grabbing Agar's arm and leading her to the dance floor. "Show us how it's done. You're too good for this place."

"He was being very flirty and I was quite taken aback but just went for it," said Agar, who chalked up his behavior to too many pints followed by too many shots of sambuca. "I call that stuff rocket fuel," she said. "It does give you a huge hit very quickly and gets you rolling drunk."

As the evening progressed, the rocket fuel had its desired effect. "He was very touchy-feely and quite pissed," Agar said. "He was not a shy boy and didn't talk about Kate."

Around 3:30 a.m., Wills invited Agar back to the barracks for a nightcap. When she balked, the prince pressed her. "Are you coming back?" he asked. "It'll be a laugh. Come on. We need to go."

Slideshow: A royal couple’s long courtship (on this page)

Agar and a friend followed the soldiers back to the base and were led into the barracks lounge. They spent the next twenty minutes "lying about on a leather chair and sofas," Agar recalled. In the end, she wondered if the prince was depressed over problems in his relationship with Kate. At 4:15 a.m. the prince announced that he would have to get some sleep, and Agar left. "Strangely, I felt sorry for William," she said, "and I thought maybe he was cheering himself up."

When Wills and Kate dined on March 31 at the aptly named King's Head Inn in the Cotswolds with their old friends Hugh and Rose van Cutsem, much of the conversation centered on their wedding less than two years earlier. But the van Cutsems' talk of marital bliss did little to mask what one of their party called the "strange fog of disillusion" that had settled over Wills and Kate.

Kate told her mother and her sister that William had "changed" — the result, she believed, of the physical distance between them and the enormous strain that distance was putting on their relationship. "I think it's really tough on her," said artist and longtime family friend Gemma Billington, "but she handles it well …. It's funny how you think people are different, but we are all just muddling our way through life. Whoever you happen to be going out with, you have to take the rough with the smooth."

Video: Engagement photo shows new royal spirit

Things were, in fact, far more serious than Kate imagined. Now that he was embarking on a military career, William complained that his relationship with Kate felt "confining" and "claustrophobic." More important, the recurring nightmare he was having about her being chased to her death by the paparazzi was making him ever more anxious.

William went to his father for guidance. Ironically, Prince Charles's affection for Kate was precisely what led him to recommend dumping her. He did not bother asking if Wills and Kate were in love; when asked that question after proposing to Diana, Charles famously answered, "Whatever love means." But he did ask his son if he planned to marry "in the end."

Pointing out that he was just shy of his twenty-fifth birthday, William told his father he was not ready to promise marriage to anyone. Then end it now, Charles urged his son. By stringing her along, Papa said, William was being "completely unfair to Kate." Equally important, Charles, who had been pressured by his own father to marry Diana, was not about to make the same mistake with his own son.

Charles knew from experience that William was likely to be seen as a cad for callously breaking up with the loyal Miss Middleton for no apparent reason. Before handing his poor grandmother yet another public relations grenade, it was best to give her fair warning. Rather than approach the Queen directly, William asked his grandfather, Prince Philip, to convey the news to her.

"The Queen was disappointed, of course," a former Palace equerry said. "Prince William and Miss Middleton had been together such a long time. But it was not the Queen's decision to make. She did not wish to interfere one way or the other. She did not want him rushing into a commitment if he wasn't absolutely certain this was the one."

Video: Kate Middleton gets queen’s lunch invite

Eager to escape from the London scene, Kate joined her mother in Dublin for Gemma Williamson's art exhibition at the city's Urban Retreat Gallery, followed by a quick visit to the National Gallery of Ireland. It was a very different scene back in Dorset, where Wills and his fellow Booze and Royals officers were causing a commotion at a bar called Bliss. An audience of several hundred had paid to hear acoustic guitarist Dan Baker. "This gig," Baker later said, "was the pinnacle of my career. I've practiced for years in the hope of a chance to perform like this."

Baker was in the middle of a song when one of Wills's group climbed onto the stage, grabbed the microphone and yelled, "Please stop playing these crap songs. The prince wants dance music!" After a few minutes of awkward silence, the prince and his raucous Army buddies departed. Baker understandably claimed to be "staggered" by the incident. "It was," he said, "the rudest thing I've ever experienced."

Nursing a hangover the following morning, William was unprepared for the news that Second Lieutenant Joanna Dyer, one of his closest friends at Sandhurst, had been killed along with three other British soldiers by a roadside bomb in Iraq. William was already in the midst of a total reassessment of his priorities. Now the shocking death of a comrade-in-arms convinced him that some major changes were in order.

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Since 2003, William had spent at least part of the Easter holiday in the warm embrace of the Middleton clan. This year, however, he declined their invitation without explanation — another ominous sign. Instead, Wills agreed to meet Kate that weekend at her London flat.

Kate had always been careful not overplay her hand. She never complained about his nightclub antics, and for six years had remained mum on the subject of marriage. But now that she was forced to deal with the paparazzi on her own while Wills was serving in the military, Kate needed a commitment — and the promise of royal protection that came with being a royal fiancée. "It wasn't just 'I want to be a princess,' " noted a former member of Wills's royal protection squad. "There were some genuinely scary moments when the crowds and the press were chasing her. She was, to some extent, afraid."

Alas, William was — for the time being, at least — unwilling to make a commitment. Nor was he willing to maintain the status quo. Since Kate was still not entitled to royal protection, the threat to her safety was simply too great. "The press will make your life unbearable as long as we're together," he reportedly told her. "I don't want you suffering the way my mother did."

Kate was not willing to give up quite so easily. She asked him to consider all that they had been to each other, what he really wanted out of life — and how they could make their relationship work. "She told him," a friend from Bucklebury said, "that he made her happy and that she believed she made him happy, and that was all that mattered in the end. But he just shook his head and said that for someone like him, it wasn't that simple."

The next day — April 11, 2007 — William called Kate at Jigsaw on his cell phone. She excused herself, went to a back conference room out of earshot of the other buyers, shut the door, and for the next hour heard Wills sputter the reasons he was breaking up with her. "I can't ..." he stuttered. "It just isn't going to work. It isn't fair to you ..."

Excerpted with permission from "William and Kate: A Royal Love Story," by Christopher Andersen. © 2010 Simon & Schuster.  

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

Video: Wills and Kate: The best romance ever?

  1. Closed captioning of: Wills and Kate: The best romance ever?

    >>> and now to the royal wedding of prince william and kate middleton . this morning a new book is providing us with even more insight into what's being called the greatest love story of the century. joining us now is nbc news royal contributor and longtime friend of kate middleton , jessica hay. jessica , good morning.

    >> good morning, amy. how are you?

    >> i'm doing well. and we mentioned you are a good friend of kate middleton . how is she holding up to all of this attention? i know she's dealt with it in pieces up until now. but this is probably at a whole new level.

    >> yeah, absolutely. she has been with him for a long time so she's had a long time to prepare for what is going to be a massive public occasion in april. now, i think, from what i've heard, she's holding up pretty well. she's got a good head on her shoulders, as i've said before. and she's a very calm person. of course, it's going to be stressful for her. but she loves william . so, for her, it's just a natural progression .

    >> i'm sure, as all of us saw what william 's mom, princess diana , went through, with the paparazzi, is she prepared for that kind of attention? is she nervous about it?

    >> i think deep down she's very nervous, obviously, with the past that happened to diana. she obviously doesn't want that kind of thing to happen again. and obviously william doesn't want that to happen to her, either. although she is prepared. i don't think there's going to be so much public scrutiny over her. they're going to give them a lot of privacy.

    >> just ten days after the announcement of their engagement a new book has hit the shelves

    called "william and kate: a royal love story ." the book has been written by the royal reporter of "the sun." can you describe what their budding romance was like?

    >> well, way back when they first started it was just like any other normal couple. they clicked instantly. they have a lot of similar interests. which i think, you know, bodes well for them. and they were just like any other normal couple. they used to go out to parties together. you know, friends, going to the pub. just normal things. and i think that's why they make such a lovely couple. and they haven't changed. they're still exactly the same. they're almost still in their honeymoon period .

    >> the book has gone so far as to call their romance the greatest love story of the century. that's quite a tall order. is that how you would describe their romance?

    >> i would describe it as a very, very lovely romance. if you call it the greatest, that's generalizing a lot. but i think it is a very lovely romance. and you know, we're lucky to have those two. because, they do make the world a bit more of a happier place at the moment.

    >> it is nice to watch them so in love. jessica hay, thanks so much. we appreciate it.

Photos: A royal couple's long courtship

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  1. William and Kate

    On April 29, 2011, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married, eight years after they first met at university. The prince popped the question five months earlier to his longtime girlfriend during a vacation to Kenya. Take a look at their top moments.

    Official wedding photo The online version of the royal wedding's official program includes a never-before-seen portrait of the couple, shot by Mario Testino. Testino also shot their official engagement pics. (Mario Testino / Art Partner) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A pre-wedding outing

    Kate Middleton, or the Duchess of Cambridge as she is known after the wedding, waves as she walks with Prince William in Darwen, England, on April 11, less than three weeks until the royal wedding. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Royal couple mania!

    Excited fans line up to see Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in Darwen, England, on April 11. The prince was in the town to officially open the school. (Lindsey Parnaby / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Weather or not

    Heavy rain didn't prevent Kate Middleton and Prince William from thrilling the crowd that gathered to see them as they arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in northern England on April 11. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A perfect flip

    Prince William looks on as Kate Middleton tosses a pancake during a visit to City Hall on March 8, 2011, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Indigo / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wedding blooms

    Britain's Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, speak to wedding florist Rachel Gibson during a visit to the Greenmount Agriculture & Food College, in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on March 8, 2011. (Paul Faith / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Remembering Christchurch

    Prince William looks on as his fiancée Kate Middleton signs the book of condolence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquake at the New Zealand High Commission in London. (David Parker / WPA Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Romantic homecoming

    Prince William and Kate Middleton returned to the university where they met and fell in love on Feb. 25 with an official visit to St. Andrews on the east coast of Scotland. (Danny Lawson / WPA Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pouring some bubbly

    Prince William and his blushing bride-to-be Kate Middleton performed a bit of royal duty, making a rare public appearance in Anglesey, Wales to christen Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station’s brand new lifeboat, the "Hereford Endeavour" on Feb. 24, 2011. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Official engagement portraits

    The couple pose in their official engagement portraits, taken by photographer Mario Testino in the Cornwall Room at St James's Palace in London on Nov. 25, 2010. (Mario Testino / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Engaged at last

    William and Kate pose for the media at St. James's Palace in London on Nov. 16, after they announced their engagement. The couple are to wed April 29, 2011. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Diana's ring

    This close-up shows that the engagement ring Prince William gave Kate Middleton was the one that had belonged to his mother, Princess Diana. The ring is an oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds. (Paul Hackett / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Royal couple

    Months of speculation about William and Kate's engagement grew more intense when the couple attended Harry Meade and Rosie Bradford's wedding at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul on Oct. 23, 2010, in Northleach near Cheltenham, England. (Indigo via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Chic chapeau

    In an eye-catching hat, Kate Middleton attends the wedding of Nicholas van Cutsem and Alice at The Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks on Aug. 14, 2009, in London. Middleton had been named to Vanity Fair's international best-dressed list in July 2008. (Indigo via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Wedding guests

    Prince William and Kate Middleton attend the wedding of friend Chiara Hunt in Salzburg, Austria, on Sept. 6, 2008. Two years and two months later, it was announced that the prince and his longtime girlfriend had finally become engaged. (Ikon Pictures via Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A jolly good time

    Prince Harry, Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall laugh together as they watch the Order of the Garter procession at Windsor Castle on June 16, 2008. (Tim Graham / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Together again

    Prince William and Kate Middleton at a Royal Air Force graduation ceremony held at RAF Cranwell, England on April 11, 2008. Middleton's accompanying the prince as he was awarded his RAF wings was a clear indication that the couple had reconciled after a widely reported split a year earlier. (Michael Dunlea / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A day at the races

    Kate Middleton attends a horse race at the Cheltenham Festival in Gloucestershire, western England, in this March 16, 2007, photograph. (Eddie Keogh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. On the slopes

    Prince William and Kate Middleton were spotted skiing in Klosters, Switzerland, on March 19, 2008, one of a number of public appearances together that showed that they had reconciled after a reported April 2007 breakup. (Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. They're off!

    Prince William and Kate Middleton on the first day of the Cheltenham Race Festival in Gloucestershire, on March 13, 2007. One month later, the media reported that Middleton and the prince had broken up. (Stephen Lock / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Separate seats

    Prince Harry (front left) and Prince William (on Harry's left) are clearly enjoying a performance at the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium in London on July 1, 2007. So is Kate Middleton (upper right corner). At the time, rumor had it that William and Kate had reconciled after their split in April 2007, but they sat separately, insisting that they were "just good friends." (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Sports fans

    Prince William and Kate Middleton attend a rugby match in London in this Feb. 10, 2007, photo. (Richard Heathcote / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Paparazzi prey

    Photographers snap pictures of Kate Middleton as she leaves her Chelsea home on Jan. 9, 2007, her 25th birthday. The growing media attention that she attracted at this time prompted warnings to the press from Prince Charles, Prince William and Middleton's lawyers. As a result, two newspaper groups decided to cease publishing paparazzi photos of Middleton. (Solo via ZUMA Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Lady in red

    Kate Middleton arrives at the Sovereign's Parade at The Royal Military Academy in Camberley, west of London, on Dec. 15, 2006. (Ben Gurr / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Guest of honor

    Kate Middleton is seen at the wedding of Laura Parker Bowles and Harry Lopes at St Cyriac's Church, Lacock on May 6, 2006, in Wiltshire, England. (Tim Graham / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Model behavior

    Kate Middleton models on the catwalk at a student fashion show attended by Prince William on March 26, 2002, in St. Andrews, Scotland. The prince reportedly paid 200 pounds to sit in the first row and watch Middleton model a sheer dress over a black bandeau and bikini bottoms. (M Neilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Heads on a platter

    In November 2006, British retailer Woolworths showed a china plate representing Prince William and Kate Middleton as a commemorative gift for their wedding. Four years later the prediction finally came true when the royal family announced that the couple were engaged. (Woolworths via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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