Family Value: Why Britain can't get too much of brand Middleton
A month ago they were outsiders, mistrusted and mocked. Now they're hotter than royalty. Tim Walker on the nation's favourite in-laws
Saturday 07 May 2011
Well, that didn't last long, did it? If the Middleton family expected the polite deference of the Royal wedding day to continue indefinitely, then they were in for a shock.
In the week since Carole and Mike's eldest daughter walked up the aisle at Westminster Abbey, watched by billions, the internet has already yielded a brace of titillating minor scoops about their other children.
First, semi-nude images of their son James surfaced on US websites. (To make matters worse, James allegedly called the sites in question, pretending to be a lawyer, and demanding the photos be removed.)
Then, the motherlode: a leaked photograph of a presumed-tipsy Pippa Middleton, dancing provocatively in her lavender push-up bra. The hordes of young men who spent the last few days Googling the maid of honour's bottom have finally been rewarded for their efforts.
This may seem like a pincer attack on the Royal family's new in-laws, but it's really just symptomatic of Brand Middleton's fingertip-singeing hotness. Prince Harry aside, Pippa and James are suddenly the most eligible pair in the land.
The Middletons have been a picture of discretion when it comes to Catherine, their most famous member. But after being so prominent on her big day, they will have to be ever more careful about what appears on their own friends' Facebook pages – because everyone is gagging for more.
Their mother is accustomed to the scrutiny. When her daughter first dated Prince William, Carole Middleton was painted as pushy and grasping, determined to marry her middle-class daughter to royalty. There were the cheap jokes about her former career as an air stewardess, and the tabloid sting on Gary Goldsmith, her entertaining black sheep of a brother. Even as late as the engagement announcement, sneering documentaries were commissioned about her (very) extended family.
Yet by the day of the wedding, the tone had changed. Carole's forebears were hailed as a long line of grafters, who pulled themselves up by their coal-soiled bootstraps. Her outfit was deemed faultless, Michael's visible pride adorable, James's reading of Romans 12 impeccable.
Chelsy Davy was forgotten in a flurry of speculation about Harry and the presumptive Princess Pippa.
As outwardly relaxed as if Catherine and William's wedding really were some small country church affair, the Middletons segued seamlessly from pushy parvenus to naturalised pillars of the establishment.
But as the Windsors will doubtless have warned them, the pleasures of pricey dresses and Christmas at Balmoral bring with them the nuisance of petty scandal.
For Philippa Middleton, or "her Royal Hotness" as she has been crowned, global fame beckons after stealing the show from her elder sister.
Since prompting a collective "phwoar" from the Twitterverse with her figure-hugging bridesmaid's dress, Pippa, 27, has seen every carefree party picture and Facebook post raked over for more clues about "the most eligible woman in the world".
JoJo Browner, her boss at Table Talk, the events catering and party managing company where Pippa works as a PR, admits she is "struggling to cope" with the media attention. Pippa, who also helps run her parents' party managing business, is now in need of her own PR.
Pictures of her in a bra dancing with a semi-naked man at a party have emerged and her relationship with Alex Loudon, an Etonian City banker, has prompted speculation about a second Middleton wedding.
Unlike her sister, Pippa has the freedom to exploit her sudden celebrity – and nomination for the Rear of the Year award – without being weighed down by Royal protocol.
But her wings could be clipped if she courts the media too much. Clarence House said Pippa could be offered an official position as the Duchess of Cambridge's Lady-In-Waiting.
Mark Borkowski, PR consultant, said: "Pippa needs to get herself a legal and publicity team because she is now a target for people she can't trust. There's nothing she can't do, from modelling, endorsements, to charitable activity. She could give a real lift to the right charity."
Carole and Michael Middleton
Carole and Michael Middleton's balcony appearance for their daughter's public kiss won't be their last foray into the public gaze. Unlike generations of Royal in-laws, the couple will not be "airbrushed" out of Palace life.
The spotlight has delivered invaluable exposure for the couple's Party Pieces events management business, valued at £8m. Any vestige of snobbery over Carole, a former British Airways hostess and her ex-airline flight dispatcher husband, has been banished by the Duke of Cambridge, who developed a close relationship with his bride-to-be's parents after numerous visits to their Berkshire home.
In-laws have often been made to feel outsiders by the Palace hierarchy. The parents of Captain Mark Phillips complained after his wedding to the Princess Royal, that they "never got invited to anything" and it was "as though we don't exist". Ronald Ferguson, father of Sarah, was kept at arm's length after the "Galloping Major" admitted attending a London massage parlour.
The Middletons appear more than at home in their new surroundings. They had already ensured that their children mixed with minor members of the aristocracy, through education at the elite Marlborough College in Wiltshire. And courtiers clucked approval when Carole and Michael passed their first in-law test, a potentially tricky trip to Balmoral last year, where they were taught how to shoot. Unlike Tony Blair, they declined to describe the "surreal and freaky" Balmoral experience and have shown complete discretion.
Kate Middleton's three-times-married uncle has been the subject of tabloid indignation from as far back as 2009, when an undercover reporter secretly filmed him offering to sell cocaine at his £5m home in Ibiza.
Described as an "oik" by one British newspaper, millionaire businessman Gary Goldsmith covered his tattoos for the royal wedding, but his turbulent relationship with the British press and paparazzi looks set to continue.
His attempt at keeping a low profile has not had the intended result. There is money to be made in selling photographs of him performing such mundane tasks as topping up his tan at a salon or meeting friends for coffee near his home in Marylebone.
Glenn Gratton, founder of the London-based paparazzi agency Matrix Pictures, says it is Mr Goldsmith's character and his £25m fortune made in the IT recruitment business that make him the subject of attention.
"During different times of the year when Kate is more high-profile, certain papers like to go back and see what he is up to because he is a colourful character," he said. "They are really highlighting the black sheep aspect of it."
Paparazzi photographers can expect to make up to £4,000 for photographs of Mr Goldsmith with a good story, and so are unlikely to leave him to his privacy in the immediate future.
Following a gaffe-free appearance at the wedding, one newspaper proffered that Mr Goldsmith, now operating as a property developer, might be turning over a new leaf. But this speculation was short-lived, when the same publication declared after the nuptials that "respectability is still a distant prospect" for Mr Goldsmith.
His sister's engagement was accompanied by a marked increase in the business activity of the so-called "wild child" of the Middleton family. In addition to founding the upmarket Cake Kit Company in 2007, providing bakery goods, he has three new companies, Nice Cakes, Nice Wine and Nice Group London. But publicity has a price. US-based adult-theme site Fleshbot published a photos of him without trousers or shirt. The site claimed to have had emails from Mr Middleton demanding their removal. Mr Middleton's entrepreneurial zeal has been noted and praised by friends and industry peers. Last year, his Cake Kit Company won a Smarta 100 business award and the Haines Watts Young Entrepreneur Award.
"We identified the company as having a good idea," said Matt Thomas, editor of business advice site Smarta. "It stood out as a company that was doing something in the fairly traditional market with a new twist. Like a lot of the companies we gave awards to, it is relatively small, meaning they still have a good deal to prove."
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