Carly Massy-Birch and Rupert Finch: How ‘The Crown’ depicts William’s prior girlfriend and Kate Middleton’s previous boyfriend

Although the series uses a different name for her, the prince’s former girlfriend existed and caused more than one awkward moment for the future king. The Princess of Wales’ ex-boyfriend is now married to a friend of hers

Prince William as a university student, relaxing on the beach on May 28, 2003, in St Andrews, Scotland.
Prince William as a university student, relaxing on the beach on May 28, 2003, in St Andrews, Scotland.Anwar Hussein (Getty Images)

The last six episodes of The Crown have been available on Netflix since Thursday, and they bring the series to an end. Based on real events, for seven years and 60 episodes, Peter Morgan’s show has covered the main historical and political context in the United Kingdom, especially the family and its love affairs during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The sixth and final season has given a leading role to characters who have been the undisputed main players in the Windsor story in real life, such as the iconic Lady Di. But it has also brought back into the spotlight personalities who went unnoticed and were forgotten about for years, because they are relevant to telling the royal family’s story in some way. One such person was Kelly Fisher, the former model who was engaged to businessman Dodi Al-Fayed when he began dating Princess Diana; she learned about the affair in the press. Fisher now lives in South Carolina, far from the media spotlight; at one point, she did use that attention to sue Al-Fayed, as we’ve learned after the press began to wonder what had happened to her. The same happened in this latest episode with Carly Massy-Birch, Prince William’s ex-girlfriend, the young woman who previously but nearly simultaneously captivated him as Kate Middleton did, when they were all just 20 years old.

The seventh episode of The Crown’s final season portrays Prince William’s first girlfriend, whom he meets at the University of Saint Andrews, in Scotland. In the show, the young woman’s name is Lola Airdale-Cavendish-Kincaid (“She is so posh that she has three surnames,” a waitress —and Kate Middleton’s classmate at the same university— says in an Italian restaurant when they see them passing by other friends one night). The young woman existed, but her real name was Carly Massy-Birch. She was an English and creative writing student in the course before the prince and they had only been dating for a couple of months. “Carly will be very upset that this has come out. She dated William for six or seven weeks when they first arrived at St. Andrews,” Mimi Massy-Birch, the young woman’s mother, said in 2008, five years after William officially started dating Kate, as the Daily Mail reported at the time. “She has gone to great lengths to keep her friendship with him a secret, we all have, and so she will be upset about this,” Mimi continued, noting that William, Kate and her daughter were “the best of friends.”

But that is not what the show depicts. In the episode, we see that Lola (Carly, in real life) and William hook up at a party one night, after a phone call with Prince Harry in which he encourages his older brother to go wild: “Don’t be so uptight.” They begin dating that same night. However, from the very beginning, William is attracted to Kate Middleton, who also notices him (in fact, the plot of the episode is that Carole Middleton, Kate’s mother, does everything she can to set her daughter up with William to give Kate a chance with him romantically). While William is dating Lola, he approaches Kate Middleton in the library and starts chatting with her; Lola shows up and flies into a fit of jealousy. The young prince becomes very violent and uncomfortable, as does Middleton. Just then a fan approaches William to ask for an autograph (which occurs regularly on campus) and William responds very rudely to her.

Without delving into the ensuing awkward conversation that ends with both women walking away indignantly, the next thing the episode shows us is that William and Lola have broken up, and that Kate has a new boyfriend, Rupert Finch (who also existed in real life and whose name has been retained in the show). The Crown omits an awkward moment that is mentioned in Katie Nicholl’s 2011 book The Making of a Royal Romance. According to Nicholl, the three attended a college party at which they started playing the classic game Never Have I Ever, where someone says something they’ve never done and everyone who has done it drinks. “I’ve never dated two people from this place,” Carly must have said when it was her turn, knowing that William would have to drink. The writer gathered stories from several party guests, and Kate’s confirmation, about it. One of them claimed that, after Carly’s comment, everyone froze, while William gave her a withering look and commented something like “I can’t believe it.”

Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton and Ed McVey as Prince William in the final season of 'The Crown.'
Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton and Ed McVey as Prince William in the final season of 'The Crown.'©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection / Cordon Press

That revelation served for William to confirm his relationship with Kate once and for all, as members of the prince’s social circle told the author. The show traces the beginning of their relationship to Christmas 2002, when the current heir to the British throne talks to his family and even considers dropping out of college. At the same time, Kate takes Rupert home and argues with her mother: Kate knows that Carole wants William for her daughter and believes that her mother considers her boyfriend inferior. Carole tells her to go on with him if she wants to, but not to do it just to defy her mother. That’s when young Kate starts to reflect on the situation. At the end of the episode, she texts William (on a Nokia 3310!), writing: “Please don’t leave uni. Kate.” Fictional or not, it is certain that the couple sealed their union in 2011 with a memorable kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their massive wedding and are now the United Kingdom’s future monarchs.

Rupert Finch and Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs leave St. John the Baptist Church in Cirencester, England, after their wedding on June 8, 2013.
Rupert Finch and Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs leave St. John the Baptist Church in Cirencester, England, after their wedding on June 8, 2013. Max Mumby/Indigo (Getty Images)

Currently, Rupert Finch is a renowned lawyer and has been married to aristocrat Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, Kate’s friend, since 2013. In fact, the Prince and Princess of Wales were invited to the wedding, and Rupert and Natasha were invited to theirs. Carly’s life, however, is a mystery. In 2020, the Daily Mail reported that she is believed to be married and still living in London. We don’t know if she is still in contact with the Prince and Princess of Wales, as her mother said. New details are likely to come to light now that The Crown has brought her back into the public eye and people begin to wonder what has become of Carly Massy-Birch.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo

¿Quieres añadir otro usuario a tu suscripción?

Si continúas leyendo en este dispositivo, no se podrá leer en el otro.

¿Por qué estás viendo esto?


Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo y solo puedes acceder a EL PAÍS desde un dispositivo a la vez.

Si quieres compartir tu cuenta, cambia tu suscripción a la modalidad Premium, así podrás añadir otro usuario. Cada uno accederá con su propia cuenta de email, lo que os permitirá personalizar vuestra experiencia en EL PAÍS.

En el caso de no saber quién está usando tu cuenta, te recomendamos cambiar tu contraseña aquí.

Si decides continuar compartiendo tu cuenta, este mensaje se mostrará en tu dispositivo y en el de la otra persona que está usando tu cuenta de forma indefinida, afectando a tu experiencia de lectura. Puedes consultar aquí los términos y condiciones de la suscripción digital.

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS