• Royal photographer Arthur Edwards recalled the first time he took a photo of Kate Middleton
  • The 2005 snap showed Middleton with a group of friends who had been invited by Prince William to spend a weekend at Sandringham
  • The photographer admitted he didn't know who Middleton was at the time and never expected she would become the future queen

A royal photographer has unveiled a never-before-seen photo of Prince William's wife Kate Middleton ahead of the Duchess of Cambridge's milestone birthday.

Arthur Edwards recently opened up about the first photo he ever captured of the future queen consort, who will turn 40 Sunday, in a piece he wrote for The Sun.

"I didn’t know who on Earth she was," The Sun's royal photographer admitted.

The snap was taken in 2005 and showed Middleton with a group of friends who had been invited by Prince William to spend a weekend at Sandringham in Norfolk, England. In the photo, she was dressed casually in jeans, a green jacket and a scarf, with her hair tied back into a low ponytail.

"Back then you would never have credited that the young woman who walked through those gates would turn out to be our future queen," Edwards said.

Middleton and Prince William, 39, met in 2001 as college freshmen at St. Andrews University in Scotland. The pair started as friends and only began dating in 2003. When they graduated in 2005, they posed for a photo together in matching button-down white shirts.

"When I first met Kate, I knew there was something very special about her. I knew there was possibly something that I wanted to explore there," Prince William said during their engagement interview. "We ended up being friends for a while, and that just sort of was a good foundation. Because I do generally believe now that being friends with one another is a massive advantage. And it just went from there."

The couple briefly split in 2007. After their separation made headlines, Edwards recalled his wife Ann spotting Middleton at a Wembley Stadium concert honoring Princess Diana and telling him, "Looks like it's on again."

It didn't take long before Prince William and Middleton got back together, and they have been together since.

Edwards said he was first introduced to Middleton ahead of her engagement to Prince William in 2010, and he recalled asking the duke at the time about the couple's previous breakup.

Prince William reportedly told him, "Well, Arthur, I had to be sure this was the right woman for me because I want this marriage to last forever."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tied the knot in 2011 and went on to welcome three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. During that time, Edwards witnessed how Middleton found her footing as a future queen consort.

"As the years go by she is changing, overcoming her natural shyness and becoming more confident," he said. "She is intelligent, pays great attention to detail and never gets it wrong."

A royal insider also recently told People that Middleton is "flourishing" and "has really come into her own."

Middleton has been taking on more royal duties alongside her husband after Queen Elizabeth II canceled engagements due to recent health issues and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back as senior working royals.

Kate Middleton
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 24: Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks with Dr Elizabeth Rapa Senior Researcher from the University of Oxford, during a visit to Nower Hill High School on November 24, 2021 in London, England. During the visit the Duchess joined a science lesson studying neuroscience and the importance of early childhood development. Kirsty Wigglesworth-WPA Pool/Getty Images