On July 10th, the Daily Mail published yet another story criticizing Pippa and James Middleton, calling them “nearly royals” and questioning their usefulness to society.
What started Richard Kay‘s rant was the family christening photo taken by Mario Testino inside Sandringham, the Queen’s Norfolk estate. Kay pointed out that the Cambridges have, for a second time, foregone the tradition of a photo with godparents only in favor of including the Duchess of Cambridge‘s family. It’s a move that shouldn’t come as surprise to anyone, given how close William is to the Middletons.
And yet, Kay expresses his disappointment at seeing Carole, Michael, Pippa and James Middleton posing alongside the Duchess of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales and the Mountbatten-Windsor patriarch, the Duke of Edinburgh.
“Noting the family’s ‘expensively tailored clothes’ worn for Charlotte’s christening is an obvious example of Mr. Kay’s low blows,” What Kate Wore‘s Susan Kelley told me via email. “It’s irrelevant whether he approves of the Middletons inclusion in the group photo; that wasn’t his call to make. And as they were included, would he prefer the family don tattered remnants for the photo? Of course not. It’s a mean-spirited aside intended to illustrate his distaste for commoners being part of the picture.”
“As Mr. Kay makes clear,” Kelley continued, “the decision to include Kate’s family members on varying occasions is very much the result of Prince William’s determination to have them involved in many Cambridge family functions. Prince William is not the only member of the Royal Family issuing invitations to the Middletons; The Queen has invited them to several family functions over the years. If HM had concerns about Kate’s family tarnishing the Crown, be it at private or public functions, the invitations would cease. Immediately.”
Kay, who was close to the late Princess of Wales, was also miffed that Pippa and James watched a Wimbledon match from the Royal Box, an area reserved for actors, athletes and others who have made a positive impact on society.
“Why should these two young people, who have made no significant contribution to public life, be granted such a royal honour?” Kay asks.
“Seemingly as ubiquitous as showbiz family the Kardashians, they have floated up the social stream to be at the top of every society guest list and on every PR’s wish-list to promote their product,” he wrote.
“For their invitations seemed to owe nothing to their personal achievements and everything to their position as brother and sister-in-law to the future king — which is a very different thing from being a genuine royal.”
It’s rare that you’ll find me harping on the life and times of the Middleton family, but to go so far as to rant about their allegedly uselessness is a bit much. For starters, both Pippa and James work with the British Heart Foundation (of which Pippa is an ambassador); they’ve cycled across America, and completed the London-to-Brighton tour to raise awareness and funds for the cause.
It’s also worth nothing that the siblings both have jobs, and in doing so can’t really avoid the public association with royalty, given their big sister’s position. Were they not related to Her Royal Highness, Pippa’s writing would be taken at face value (because it’s not all that great), and James would most likely have a harder time promoting his businesses. Although, both could easily call on their parents’ business, Party Pieces, for a PR boost.
It’s worth mentioning that Party Pieces partnered with baker Fiona Cairns, who made William and Catherine’s royal wedding cake. She also contributes to the company’s online magazine, The Party Times, giving tips on baking, decorating, as well as sharing recipes she hopes will “be an inspiration” for entertaining, according to an April 2015 piece in the Daily Mail.
The family’s position – which, by the way, the have little control over – is a tough one. They’re not royalty, which doesn’t afford them the kind of protection (figuratively and otherwise) that Catherine enjoys.
“Friends say Mr and Mrs Middleton do worry about the public perceptions of James and Pippa, neither of whom shows any sign of settling down,” Kay wrote. “They are independent young people but in danger of being seen to milk the spotlight. And that risks reflecting badly not just on the Middletons but also on the Royal Family.”
It would be much easier to criticize Pippa and James if they were seen stumbling out of clubs and jet-setting to far off lands for holiday after holiday , but it seems like the British media is looking for a reason to shame the Middletons for their success, despite it being a mix of hard work and brilliant luck on Catherine’s part (right place, right time combined with good looks and charm). Carole and Michael are self-made millionaires, which allowed to send all three children to private school, therefore opening doors that would otherwise be sealed shut.
It was only 7 or so years ago that the media had a field day with Pippa and Catherine; in 2007, one source called them the “Wisteria” sisters, who were seen as “decorative, terribly fragrant, and have a ferocious ability to climb.” Even Carole, who worked as a flight attendant for British Airways before starting Party Pieces, was mocked for her common roots (“Doors to Manual,” William’s friends would allegedly say behind Catherine’s back).
Kay is not the first reporter to claim to get their intel from anonymous palace courtiers, who seem to have a bigger problem with William’s commoner in-laws than their royal bosses. In fact, these types of stories began running as soon as William started dating Catherine, and went into overdrive after they left the private world of St. Andrews University and moved to London.
Pippa and James are upwardly-mobile middle-class young adults who have family money, but aren’t aristocratic. And it appears that having the future King as one’s nephew only hurts their case even more.
“The column could be quite a jolt for some readers, especially those not familiar with Mr. Kay’s work,” Kelley explained. “Americans, who do not live with the sort of class divisions that still exist in England, are likely to be taken aback by the snarky references made about the Middleton family.”