The Bourne ultimatum: was it all a PR stunt?

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The Independent Online

The mother-in-law-from-hell saga which tickled Britain last week may be no more than an elaborate publicity stunt, it was suggested yesterday.

The scathing remarks of Devon flower breeder Carolyn Bourne about the behaviour of her future daughter-in-law, Heidi Withers, were posted on the internet and went around the world.

Her stinging strictures about Heidi's table manners (oh!), alleged lack of grace (ah!) and wish to be married in a castle (hmm!) led to Mrs Bourne being dubbed "Momzilla" in the US media, and to a riposte with a delicious hint of class war from Ms Withers's father Alan, who branded La Bourne "Miss Fancy Pants", and much more.

But the forthcoming wedding of Mrs Bourne's stepson Freddie, Heidi's intended, is not the only wedding in which the young man is interested, it has emerged.

Mr Bourne, 29, who lives with 28-year-old Ms Withers in Fulham, London, is involved in a new wedding-planning business venture – and yesterday it was suggested that the row was a stunt concocted to bring publicity to his company, Mise-en-Bouche Ltd.

The catering and events company, which Mr Bourne joined last month, offers "a long list of different venues suitable for all styles of party" including cocktail parties, barbecues – and weddings.

The company's site was offline yesterday after the allegations emerged, but before it was taken down it read: "Your wedding will be one of the most important days of your life, and for that reason everything has to be perfect... very few companies can offer the quality service that we do."

Yesterday Mr Bourne denied that the feud was fake, and added that it had been "a difficult week" for the family. "I categorically deny that this is a PR stunt for Mise-en-Bouche. It has been running for two years and I only became involved one month ago," he said.

The controversy began when Mrs Bourne wrote to Ms Withers to take her to task for the way she had behaved during a trip to the Bourne family home.

"When you are a guest in another's house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat," she thundered, despite Ms Withers' diabetes problem.

Elsewhere yesterday, Mrs Bourne's grande dame image suffered a blow when pictures emerged of seven young men with their trousers down in her kitchen, and another of her wearing large underpants over her trousers.