True, Kate did not immediately get pregnant. But they did get a puppy, a black cocker spaniel they named Lupo, or "wolf" in Italian.
Newlyweds Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton, who is now known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, have had a smashing first year, according to those who closely follow their every move (no small number) in the U.K., America and abroad.
"She has grown in stature and confidence - her behavior has been incredibly impressive over the last year," says Claudia Joseph, a British royals reporter and author of a biography, Kate Middleton: The Making of a Princess. "It's a tough time to be a royal in the middle of a recession, and they get the balance just right."
It's been a "hands-down great first year," says Nancy Jeffrey, an American senior editor in charge of royals coverage for People. "They've become the face of a new generation of British royals - fresh, down-to-earth, social-media savvy, in touch with the concerns of ordinary people."
The pictures appear to affirm they have not lost their bliss. "If you look at them, they're genuinely in love," says Joseph, correspondent for the Mail on Sunday. "William is very proud of her, he wants her to be popular, he's not jealous of her, and he doesn't mind if she gets the limelight. They are very much a team."
Even better, Duchess Kate, 30, has turned out to be everything the royals, the public and the news media had hoped: Beautiful, graceful and warm, the first middle-class commoner to marry a future king in three centuries "seems to have been born to the role," Joseph says.
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, William's uncle and Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, was born to the role. He told British reporters recently that Kate is a natural. "She has taken to royal life like a duck to water," he said, as reported in the Daily Mirror. "She's very gracious, and the family is very proud of her."
She has helped invigorate an ancient, creaking monarchy: Since the engagement in 2010, the royal family's image has been burnished by the gushy all-Kate-all-the-time media coverage.
"They've done wonders for the monarchy as the queen prepares to celebrate (60 years on the throne)," Jeffrey says.
"Everyone thought she'd be a breath of fresh air, but no one could have predicted how seamlessly and naturally she has taken on her new role."
Welcomed into family
Jonathan Hayden, who wrote text for the photographic book William & Kate: Celebrating a Royal Engagement and who is covering Kate as part of the queen's Diamond Jubilee year, said he watched her at a recent engagement where she met with young mothers and their children.
"I was within 2 feet of her, and these mums - well, they're from a social class a long way from where she is, and the connection was extraordinary. She's completely natural. There's not a hint of artificiality or patronizing about her. And these mums went completely gooey - you could see them falling in love with her."
Clearly, the royal family has learned lessons from the mournful past: William's mother, the late Princess Diana, did not have an easy first year thanks to traditional royal reserve; her own youth (she had just turned 20); and her emotional fragility did not help. But now the queen, Prince Charles and the royal family are protective of Kate and eager to help her ease into royal life, Prince Edward says.
"We were all thrilled to welcome Catherine into the family because she's absolutely lovely - very charming indeed and a perfect companion for William," he said in the Daily Mirror.
The couple will not be celebrating their anniversary in public, according to the palace, and are expected to remain behind closed doors in the U.K.
Not a lot of alone time
Their first year has been crowded with events. Eleven days after their wedding in Westminster Abbey, which was watched by an estimated 3 billion people around the world, the couple slipped away to a honeymoon on a luxury island in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Then, they returned to their farmhouse in Wales near his RAF base (he's a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot) and settled in, while preparing to move into a new apartment next year in Kensington Palace for their London home.
They appeared, glamorous and glittering, at charity and social events in London. Her fashion sensibility, mixing high-gloss couture with High Street affordability, is widely applauded and imitated. They went on their first overseas tour, an 11-day twirl through Canada and Southern California that was a success.
And later this year, they will serve as Olympic ambassadors to the Summer Games in London and will travel to Commonwealth countries in the South Pacific to represent the queen at Diamond Jubilee celebrations marking her 60 years on the throne.
When Flight Lt. Wales, 29, left for six weeks of RAF duty in the Falkland Islands in February and March, Kate told people she missed him terribly, but she did not come undone. Instead, she took on her first solo charity engagements. It was not easy, not with the whole world watching, Prince Edward said.
"She's dealt with it very well, though, and I think Catherine can only grow in confidence."
Anyway, Joseph says, it's not in Kate's personality to fall apart. "She's a military wife, she knows what's expected of her, and William has been away for periods before," she says.
'She still has this mystique'
On top of everything else, the duke and duchess have fully entered the pop-culture pantheon: Mattel is selling Barbie-doll versions of them on their wedding day. Madame Tussauds has unveiled their wax effigies in London and New York. And you can buy a version of the see-through dress that Kate wore at a fashion show in college to make her platonic pal William sit up and notice her.
"She's a beacon of hope for women - she shows that you can get a prince of a fellow," says media psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets.
Lieberman, who bid on the original dress at auction but lost (it sold for more than $125,000), says the couple's marriage is strong, not because of a dress, but because they have built it on trust and the support of her close family.
"She still has this mystique. She keeps herself looking attractive. There is still flirtation and a sense of intrigue in their relationship. And he seems more in love with her than ever."
It's helpful that the press and paparazzi coverage of the couple has been positive. The only thing even remotely characterized as a "misstep" was the shortness of Kate's hem at a recent engagement with the queen, Hayden says.
"Apparently it was rather too much for (the queen's) courtiers, so some of the tabloids started running commentary on her short skirts," he says. "It indicates that no matter what she does, she is going to be observed very closely, so some (in the press) will look for a negative angle to write about."
Still, because they have full-time security and live much of the time in far-away Wales, they are not subjected to the 24/7 stalking that Kate's sexy younger sister, Pippa Middleton, gets. That attention led last week to a photo of Pippa, 28, in a convertible in Paris with three French men, one of whom brandished a fake gun at pursuing paparazzi.
"But it has not impugned on Kate's standing with the public; they will draw a line and a distinction between the future queen and her sister," even as they gobble up every tidbit about Pippa, says Hayden.
Is the public eager for a royal baby? Of course. By contrast, William's mother and grandmother were pregnant within six months of their weddings 30 and 64 years ago, respectively. But is the public holding the empty cradle against the couple? Not yet. (The baby, even if it's a girl, will be a future sovereign thanks to a change in the ancient rules of succession aimed at Will and Kate's children.)
"Baby fever is sweeping the U.K.," Jeffrey says. "People are hoping there will be happy news announced soon, but they also understand they are a modern couple, and if they want to take time before settling in to married life, that will not diminish them or her in any way in the public's eyes."
"They want to enjoy life," says Joseph. "They don't have a great deal of time together, so they want to enjoy it before moving on to the role of parent."
(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)