You might think a Canadian marrying into the Royal Family would want the world to know. Not Autumn Kelly.
When we contacted Buckingham Palace asking whether Kelly would be available for an interview before her marriage to Peter Phillips, the Queen's eldest grandson, we got a flat "no." When we phoned family and friends in Quebec and Ontario, they said, "No comment. The Palace has told us not to say anything to the media."
The secretary at the high school Kelly attended said, "I know what you want, and you're not getting it," when we requested a copy of the 1995 yearbook in which Kelly's photograph appeared. Even a glossy spread in Hello magazine did not reveal much about the newest addition to Britain's Royal Family.
In an "intimate, first-ever" interview — for which the couple was reportedly paid close to $1 million — we learned Autumn Kelly met Peter Phillips at the Montreal Grand Prix in 2003. She was working in the BMW hospitality suite, and he was working for Formula One racing team BMW Williams. He invited her to a post-race Formula One party, and the rest is history. She told the magazine that she didn't realize she was dating Princess Anne's son until six weeks after they met. She and her mother were watching a television documentary about Prince William, and there he was: Peter Phillips, William's first cousin.
"Oh, Autumn," her mother exclaimed. "What have you gotten yourself into?" Kelly also told Hello that the only time her name appeared in the papers until now was when she was hit in the face by a hockey puck. She'd been watching the Canadiens play and ended up with 17 stitches over one eye and a concussion.
What we do know
In spite of the media blackout, we have managed to find that Patricia Autumn Kelly was born on May 3, 1978, and grew up in Pointe Claire. She went to St. John Fisher Primary School, St. Thomas High School and McGill University, where she got a BA majoring in East Asian studies. She has a twin brother, Chris, a bricklayer, and an older brother Kevin, who works as a chef. Her parents, Kathleen and Brian, divorced when Kelly was eight. Both have since remarried. Kathleen Kelly stayed in Pointe Claire, and Brian Kelly now lives in Peterborough, Ont.
When she was at McGill, Kelly worked as a bartender and a model, and had a minor role in the children's movie Rainbow. She also played hockey. One of the few people who agreed to speak to us, Gordon Razza, who owns Marlowe's Bar in Pointe Claire, said, "She played on our hockey team. She grew up playing ringette, but she's a pretty good hockey player, too. She can stand her own in the crease. She's not only intelligent and very pretty, but she's one of the boys. She can stand her ground."
Being able to stand her ground in the House of Windsor could prove difficult. Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York, both complained of callous treatment from members of the Royal Family and their advisers, but Peter Phillips is said to be a firm favourite of his grandparents, the Queen and Prince Philip.
Head boy at Gordonstoun
Phillips's mother decided that her children, Peter and Zara, would not have titles, so they are plain Mr. and Miss. She tried hard to give them as normal an upbringing as possible. Phillips was head boy of the Scottish boarding school Gordonstoun. He was a talented rugby player and now works for the Royal Bank of Scotland on its motor racing sponsorship. Andrew Pierce, assistant editor of the Daily Telegraph, says Phillips does not seek attention like some of the younger royals.
"Peter Phillips likes it out of the spotlight, and people who know him say he is a nice guy, but a bit dull, so out of the spotlight is probably best for him."
When she met Phillips, Kelly was a Roman Catholic. She has since become an Anglican. Peter Phillips is 11th in line to the throne, and under the 1701 Act of Settlement, he would have had to give up his place in the succession if he married a Catholic.
Phillips's grandmother, the Queen, is titular head of the Church of England. Kelly told Hello magazine that if she has children, they will be brought up as Anglicans. Kelly also said that she plans to continue working as a personal assistant to well-known British personality Michael Parkinson "because we need both incomes."
After they become newlyweds, the Phillipses hope to continue a life out of the spotlight. Given the huge tabloid interest in Princes William and Harry, and the vow of silence taken by those close to Autumn Kelly, it looks as if they will get their wish.