(dailymail.co.uk) - Kate Middleton has left her job in the fashion industry amid speculation that a royal engagement is on the horizon.
Prince William's 25-year-old girlfriend quit as an accessories buyer for High Street store Jigsaw after less than a year, telling friends she wants "some time to herself".
The friends suggest she wishes to travel or pursue a career in photography. However, staff at the company's headquarters in Kew, South-West London, have been told her job is being kept open for her should she wish to return.
Her decision to walk out on the role specially created for her by Jigsaw's owners, John and Belle Robinson, has raised eyebrows among staff given that she was required to work only four days a week to accommodate her royal boyfriend's schedule.
Kate started the job - her first since graduating from St Andrews University in June 2005 - last November after pressure from William.
It is understood he feared she was beginning to look like a footballer's wives-style figure, who did nothing all day but shop.
A fellow staff member said: "Kate is a nice enough girl but she was never what you might call committed to the job.
"She never worked full-time and appeared to take an inordinate amount of time off to go jetting round the world with her boyfriend.
"It certainly rubbed a few people here up the wrong way. To be told she would be resting for a while 'looking at other things' didn't exactly come as a surprise. She has always been treated as a special case."
Kate, who studied history of art at St Andrews University, where she met the prince, told fellow workers she was leaving on Thursday.
Bosses laid on a finger buffet featuring smoked salmon and bruschetta in the canteen before she left at 4pm to drink with friends from her department in the nearby Kew Gardens Hotel.
The leaving party was fairly low key and Kate was given an envelope of Jigsaw vouchers as a farewell present. She had the day off as usual on Friday before flying out of the country for a holiday.
One workmate said Kate had spoken at length about her interest in photography, adding: "When she was asked what she was off to do she said she was a photographer and she may open a gallery."
Several other royal girlfriends have developed an interest in the art, including Prince Andrew's exwife, the Duchess of York, and former girlfriend Koo Stark. Kate is more interested in artistic and still-life pictures rather than traditional portrait-style photography, however.
It is believed she has been offered a job selling luxury yachts from an office next to Clarence House, Prince William's London base.
But whatever career path she plumps for, the move provides Kate with some "breathing space" until an engagement is announced.
Friends suggest that may well take place at the beginning of 2009, once William, also 25, has completed his period of military service next year.
Sources close to the prince have expressed their irritation, however, that Kate appears to be so obviously preparing herself to become a princess.
One said: "She just seems to be killing time until William finally pops the question, which seems a little desperate in this day and age."
All in all, it appears things are looking up for the middle-class girl from Berkshire, who has had something of a rocky 12 months in the romance stakes. Earlier this year, the couple's relationship lay in tatters after the second-in-linetothe-throne got cold feet about their four-year romance.
But six weeks of watching his exgirlfriend flaunt herself in a series of revealing outfits was enough to prompt a change of heart.
Last month, the couple allowed themselves to be photographed for the first time since their reunion on a night out at London nightclub Boujis.
Kate was also pictured with Prince Charles on the Royal estate at Balmoral before spending the day deer stalking with her boyfriend.