Kate Middleton has asked her wedding guests and well-wishers to donate money to Beatbullying, a British anti-bullying charity.
This announcement has led to some stories in the Press about how badly she was bullied when she was a pupil at Downe House, a girls’ boarding school in Berkshire.
She was tormented, it’s said, because she was ‘too perfect’, so she left after two terms for Marlborough College, where girls mind perfection less.
Too perfect? Kate Middleton decided to choose an anti-bullying charity after she was a victim. Taffeta Gray, right, tells what really happened at the school
I was a couple of years above Kate, or Catherine as she was known at Downe House. I don’t particularly remember her, but a friend of mine in her year recalls her being ‘quiet and square, with brown hair’.
In fact, none of my old school pals can remember much about her, which suggests she wasn’t excessively singled out.
What does sound like nonsense is the idea that Kate was picked on for being ‘too pretty’, as my old headmistress claimed in an interview. What rubbish.
Kate doesn’t appear to have been egregiously attractive at 13, and anyway it is never the pretty ones who get a hard time. Being pretty gives you a head start, even among girls.
So, what’s the truth about Downe House? Well, it was a strange place, but not because of any unbearable boarding school bitchiness.
Yes, there were duvets and mattresses thrown out of the window in the middle of the night, but this was done more in a spirit of excitement than malice.
I remember volunteering to climb inside a suitcase to be dragged down the stairs. To an onlooker, it might have looked like bullying, but it wasn’t.
Unlike Kate, I was neither sporty nor tall, but I was for the most part left alone.
Sometimes, after games practice, the taller girls would hoist me on top of the changing room lockers so that I could not climb down. It wasn’t that bad, though. It was fun - sort of.
The worst thing that happened to me was when I was coming out of the shower one evening.
Some of the seniors rugby-tackled me, pinned me down, took my towel and sprayed my groin with blue hairspray. Then they threw me out into the corridor naked.
My housemistress, Mrs Howard, and her vegetarian dogs discovered me curled up on the floor, but they weren’t too interested.
‘Lights out in ten minutes, girls, this is no time for tomfoolery,’ she said in her shrill little voice.
Was it an outrage, an appalling humiliation, or just a rite of passage? I thought of it as a joke, really. Not many of my peers experienced anything as extreme, but we all laughed about it at the time - and we still do.
This doesn’t mean that Kate didn’t find her experience at Downe distressing. I’m sure she did. She was a day girl, which is always difficult.
In the cliquey atmosphere of a girls’ boarding school, to be a day girl makes you an oddity. The day girls tended to keep to themselves, and we boarders looked on them with suspicion. But it’s a mistake to make too much of it.
According to some reports, our future queen had excrement smeared on her bedsheets. But as a day girl, she wouldn’t have had bedsheets. So you can take that with a pinch of salt.
The real problem at Downe House in the mid-Nineties - and I believe this is true of most other private girls’ schools - was not bullying, but eating disorders.
Many of the girls were so addicted to starving themselves that they didn’t have the energy to bully anyone. Anorexia and bulimia were endemic.
I’d say well over a quarter of the girls in my year suffered from them in some way. Two girls starved themselves so badly they ended up in hospital.
In the school bathrooms and loos, the smell of sick could be overwhelming. We would smoke to cover up the smell - and further suppress our appetites.
Girls were meant to sign in to the dining room to make sure they were not skipping meals, but there was nothing to stop us walking straight out again.
My peers could be intensely competitive about how little they had eaten or how thin they were. We all convinced ourselves we were fat, even though many of us were worryingly skinny.
Swimming lessons were a nightmare: a parade of self-loathing stick insects in ugly pea-green swimsuits.
We took laxatives as well. I remember someone discovering chocolate laxatives, to much delight. We spent happy weekends baking brownies, and the next week in agony in the bathrooms.
By the time I had left Downe House, self-harming with knives and compasses had become another, more popular hobby.
Apparently it’s still prevalent today. There is no easy way for teachers to spot the scars under the school uniforms - long shirts and thick woolly tights.
So, yes, adolescent girls can be bitches, especially when they gather together in packs.
But their viciousness towards themselves and their own bodies is far more troubling than the way they torment each other.
Instead of tackling bullying, perhaps Kate (who is herself starting to look a little gaunt as the big day approaches) should use her high profile to raise awareness about eating disorders and self-harm.