When Kate Middleton's brother, James, gave a reading at her 2011 wedding to Prince William, the 25-year-old was especially nervous — and not just because he was speaking in front of a worldwide audience.
In an interview with The U.K.'s Daily Mail, James opens up for the first time about how he refused to let his dyslexia interfere with delivering the perfect speech. "I had to retype the whole of the reading phonetically, and that's how I learned it. In that way I became confident in it, and then I felt I was perfectly capable of doing it," James recalls. "At the end of the day, whether it was in a little church or Westminster Abbey didn't matter, it was me, as a brother, doing a reading for my sister and her husband at their wedding and I wanted to do it right."
Once it was over, "There was definitely a big sort of sigh afterwards."
James was formally diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 11 after years of struggling to read and write in school. "I was fine with numbers, but it took me a longer time to grasp simple things like spellings," he says. "I used to spell everything phonetically, or I would have little tricks for words I could not figure out."
The youngest Middleton (his other sister is Pippa, 29) was often teased by his peers when asked to read aloud in class. "It was a joy for everyone else because I would mispronounce things so badly," he recalls. "I used to try to count how many people were in front of me and then work out which paragraph I would have to read out and start trying to learn it. And I would sit there thinking,
'Please let the bell go so that it doesn't get round to me.'"
"There was a certain amount of teasing but I built up a bit of resilience and I was competent in other areas," James explains. "There were other boys in the same boat, too."
James later enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, but his academic pursuits were short-lived. "I knew I was going down the wrong path. I stayed for a year, but then I made the decision to leave," he tells the Daily Mail. "But I never feel I dropped out — I was just ready to move on and do something different."
Within a few months, James started his own business, the Cake Kit Company, and he now runs a parallel business, Nice Group, which specializes in personalized cakes. "I didn't look back, really," James says. "University is great but it wasn't right for me."
Though he still struggles with dyslexia, James is no longer worried about how it will affect his everyday life. "I do make lots of spelling mistakes still — for a time the word 'corporate' on my website was spelled 'corprate.' But I'm not embarrassed. The way I see it, it is part of me. The key is to become completely confident about it."
"There is a talent in dyslexia — it can help you see things creatively," James adds. "So I wouldn't change a thing."
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