HE WOOED HER WITH LOVING LETTERS AND CHOCOLATES; Wills & Zara: A Royal Romance.
They began dating when she was 14 and he was 12.
William wooed Zara with love letters and French chocolates.
They even went on a holiday abroad together as guests of mutual friends.
And their secret romance deepened as Prince Charles and Princess Diana headed for divorce.
But the young couple split up when Zara, now 17, decided she did not like the age gap. William, now 15, was deeply upset. And he has told friends he will never forget her. Zara, granddaughter of the Earl of Ranfurly, is believed to have met William through one of his friends whose sister was at her school Heathfield, a few miles from Eton.
Wills, now at Eton, was then still at his prep school, Ludgrove.
The relationship lasted a year.
William's first letters to Zara caused a stir at Heathfield, Berks.
One friend said: "When the letters first came it was the gossip of the dining room at Heathfield.
"People were saying Zara has got a letter from Prince William. She used to read them in class.
"She didn't talk about it much, but people just knew it on the grapevine.
"The girls of Heathfield began to believe the future Queen might be at their school."
Another friend said: "Zara is quite a cool customer and difficult to know. She's quite intimidating to younger girls because she looks so cool.
"She has got quite a snooty manner, but she's not like that really when you get to know her.
"I can see why William would be attracted to her. Anyone would be proud to have her as his first love."
Zara has an impeccable family pedigree which no doubt met with royal approval.
The Simmonds family live in a mansion in Buckinghamshire but also own a property in the South of France. Zara's father John is an industrialist.
Her mother, Lady Caroline, is the daughter of Countess Hermione Ranfurly, a writer who was given an award for her help in third-world countries.
A friend said of Zara's parting from Wills: "In the end the age gap started to show.
"William was very upset and didn't see it quite as clearly as Zara that it should end.
"She was his first love, it was very important for him." Zara is now studying for A-levels in French, ceramics and business studies. Friends have urged her to speak about the romance, but she has kept a dignified silence.
William, as a future monarch, is lectured constantly by his father Prince Charles about the need for discretion.
It was a measure of his feelings for Zara that he took the enormous risk of going on a summer holiday with her away from both sets of parents.
William had to ask Diana's permission and had to take a bodyguard.
Friends say he was invited by the son of an English family to stay in their house in Greece. Zara was invited separately, and it meant the young couple could share time together, which would be virtually impossible in Britain.
After months of covert meetings, they were able to lounge on the beach and even go on a Mediterranean boat trip.
It was an opportunity William had only dreamt of while composing his yearning letters.
But within weeks of their return home, the romance began to fail.
And now Wills is left with only the memory.
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|Author:||Brough, Graham; Bain, Charlie|
|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Aug 16, 1997|
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