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Prince William was given chance to hit Mardi Gras Dundee dancefloor during ‘happy’ St Andrews student days

A young Prince William
Mardi Gras DJ Pat Mulligan asked the Prince of Wales to come to the Dundee club. Image: DC Thomson.

Prince William spent four happy years at St Andrews from 2001 and for the most part was able to enjoy university like every other student.

University had provided a blissful life for William and he enjoyed letting his hair down from the pressure of studying history alongside his college buddies.

Pat Mulligan, DJ and head marketing manager for the Mardi Gras, thought his Dundee nightclub would be the perfect place for William to party with his college buddies.

With their popular VIP area, Pat was sure the city’s busiest nightclub would appeal to the future king who was determined to have a normal student experience.

Inside Mardi Gras Dundee
The Mardi Gras was one of Scotland’s most popular nightclubs. Image: Pat Mulligan.

As part of his role as marketing manager, Pat had already helped secure a couple of star names for the popular Dundee nightclub, including pop-bands Steps and Blue.

The icing on the cake would be if royalty could make an appearance.

£500 bounty for the future king

Pat recalled the time he managed to find William when he was studying at St Andrews after hatching a plan to get the-then 19-year-old on his dancefloor.

Pat said: “I was determined to get Prince William to come to the Mardi Gras.

“As part of my role as marketing manager, I set up a campaign called Good Will Hunting.

“We were going to send a private car and put him up in the VIP lounge.

“But we couldn’t find him.

“Three weeks went by, and nothing.

“So I put a bounty on his head – if one of my team could find him and get him to come, they’d get 500 quid and a paid weekend off.

The Mardi Gras dance floor.
Pat wanted William to show off his moves on the Mardi dancefloor. Image: DC Thomson.

“At that time, I’d split up with my girlfriend and I was living on my own.

“I couldn’t really cook so I’d gone to a little Tesco’s in the centre of St Andrews on a search for some peanut butter.

“As I’m walking down the aisle, there coming towards me was the future King of England.

“And I’m the marketing manager so I’m like, ‘I have to do something about this.’

“So I went over and invited him.”

William had actually heard of the Mardi Gras nightclub. Image: DC Thomson.

Pat said William had actually heard of the Mardi Gras!

Sadly – despite thanking Pat for the VIP offer – he never did make it across the water to party in Dundee but the DJ retains happy memories of the meeting.

He said: “I definitely froze for a bit at first.

“But he was so lovely.

“It was a nice end to Operation Good Will Hunting.”

Prince William might never have made it to the Mardi Gras but he loved his four years in Courier Country after arriving in September 2001.

Mardi Gras Dundee.
Prince William never made it to the Mardi Gras before it closed. Image: DC Thomson.

Enrolling onto the four-year History of Art course, the Prince of Wales stated in several interviews before his freshers’ week that he just wanted to be like every other student.

It was some feat, but he managed with the help of the locals – proven by Pat’s difficulties in trying to locate the prince.

Pat added: “It wasn’t a big place – but he still managed to disappear!”

It was perhaps this privacy that gave Prince William the opportunity to meet Kate.

The future king hit the books but he never did hit the Mardi Gras. Image: PA.

They soon discovered they were studying the same course and would often swap notes on lectures.

They spent their first term at the university as good friends, and it was Kate’s useful advice that encouraged the prince to transfer onto the geography course when he started to struggle in his arts classes.

Their friendship was a strong foundation for the romance that would follow in 2002.

Prince William at St Andrews University in 2004.
Prince William sits on a stone bench on November 15 2004, in front of a notice board in St Salvator’s Quad at St Andrews University where he was a student. Image: PA.

At the start of their second year, the two students moved into a flat together with two other friends, Fergus Boyd and Olivia Bleasdale.

After a few months of living at their new apartment on Bell Street, Prince William and Kate Middleton finally became a couple.

The couple spent their weekends at the Gin House (which later became Rule), and took walks on the beach.

It was a chance for the couple to experience normal life, and a chance that they weren’t likely to get again once they graduated.

Prince William waves as he leaves the St Salvator's Quadrangle with the-then Duke and Duchess of Rothesay beside him at St Andrews University
Prince William waves as he leaves the St Salvator’s Quadrangle with the-then Duke and Duchess of Rothesay beside him at St Andrews University. Image: PA.

In June 2005, the Prince of Wales was awarded an honours degree in Geography.

His graduation ceremony was held in Younger Hall.

The venue on North Street had capacity for over 900 people – all of whom watched as the University chancellor, Sir Kenneth Dover, tapped the Prince on the head with a cloth cap.

Lifting the black and cherry silk-lined hood over his head, the Prince was now officially the proud owner of a Master of Arts.

He was joined at the ceremony by Kate, who also achieved a Master of Arts with honours in art history.

Royal Memories of Scotland

In a speech to the General Assembly in 2021, the Prince of Wales named his time in St Andrews as one of the reasons Scotland was so important to him.

He said: “I was in Balmoral when I was told that my mother had died.

“Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning and in the dark days of grief that followed I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors.

“Alongside this painful memory is one of great joy because it was here in Scotland 20 years ago this year that I first met Catherine.

“Needless to say the town where you meet your future wife holds a very special place in your heart.

Prince William later returned to St Andrews University. Image: DC Thomson.

“George, Charlotte and Louis already know how dear Scotland is to both of us and they are starting to build their own happy memories here too.

“I spent four very happy and formative years studying in St Andrews, the town and the students left me alone to get on with student life, allowing me to share their freedoms – and their pubs.

“Scotland is incredibly important to me and will always have a special place in my heart.”