January, 2011


31
Jan 11

Mother of the bride

Happy Birthday to Carole Middleton, who was born on January 31, 1955, and is now 56.

I can reveal that the mother of the world’s most famous bride has been celebrating her anniversary on holiday in Mustique with her family, a break she no doubt desperately needed.
It is probably the last chance she will have to enjoy some quiet, me-time before that big event on April 29.

kate-and-mum-z.jpgIt is often forgotten that Kate’s mum has had an unfair share of snide and bitchy comments since her daughter fell in love with a Prince.

There were the unkind ‘Doors to manual’ sneers, referring to her former career as an air stewardess, as if jetting around the globe was not an acceptable way of earning a living.

Then came the completely unfounded claims that Carole used terms like ‘toilet’, not lavatory, and said ‘Pleased to meet you’ on meeting the Queen at Sandhurst instead of the upper class ‘How do you do?’

Carole still hasn’t met the Queen so you can dump that newspaper report in the rubbish bin where it belongs.

For a few years it seemed certain, unnamed people were determined to prove that Carole, who had a few miners on her family tree way back, was a very common commoner, and therefore, her daughter was not good enough for Prince William. Some people, and I count myself one of them, think it’s fantastic news that the House of Windsor will get a sorely-needed injection of new, commoner blood when Kate marries into that family.

Wasn’t Sophie Rees-Jones a commoner? Isn’t she blissfully happy with her husband Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex?

Prince William is amazingly grounded and normal considering his background, so naturally he was attracted to a girl who will keep him in touch with reality, as his mother always tried to do, making him queue for the rides at Disney World and drop in at McDonalds for a burger.

The marriage of Kate and William is one more blow demolishing the rigid class system which has bedevilled Britain for centuries. So their wedding – Prince meets and marries businessman’s daughter – is a much greater fairytale than that of Diana and Charles – Prince weds aristocrat’s daughter next door.

On the other side of the Atlantic self-made millionaires like the Middletons are applauded not ridiculed.

The strangest aspect of the tough time a gang of snobs gave the Middletons is the Queen is the least snobby person I have ever met. She likes salt of the earth people from very ordinary backgrounds. Over the years I have noticed that she particulary loves working with Cockneys or Scots and Australians (she has had a large number from Down Under on her staff), the kind of people who don’t sound affected or pretend to be posh.

Let’s not forget that it was Carole Middleton who started a little business making goodie bags for children’s parties at her Berkshire home and it mushroomed into a very successful online company.

Didn’t Laura Ashley start out the same way, making tea towels and aprons on her kitchen table ?

Of course, the slit-eyed comments stopped once Carole’s elder daughter had an engagement ring on her finger.

So, who’s laughing now? When Carole walks into the Abbey on April 29 there will be a number of wealthy and well-connected mothers pea-green with envy.

But it’s Carole’s grandchild who will one day become the sovereign of the last major monarchy on earth.


24
Jan 11

William’s Way

My lasting memory of Princess Diana is that she showed us all a new way to be royal.

It now seems her elder son Prince William is taking that lesson a little further.

The way William Wales is planning his married life is distinctly different from the cosseted existence his relatives lead.

We’re told he and his wife would prefer donations to charity rather than wedding gifts. They will live in a modest farmhouse with no help to do the housework and continue to stock up with groceries at their local Tesco supermarket in Holyhead.

While Kate cooks and cleans, he will continue his day job as a helicopter pilot for RAF Valley’s Search and Rescue unit.

It all sounds reassuringly normal, proof that despite his position as second-in-line to the throne William is really grounded with a large helping of his mother’s common touch.

I remember how surprised we reporters were last January when William turned up in New Zealand and wore the same open-necked blue shirt and brown cords every day. He was still wearing them two days later in Sydney (unless he packed a few identical outfits). He didn’t seem bothered about smart clothes, which annoyed the photographers a bit because he looked the same in every picture.

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On other casual jobs I have seen him wearing rather boring jumpers and jeans. Or to put it more kindly, William is not flash. He may have a few millions in the bank inherited from his mother but you would never guess it when you see him off duty.

Most Princes are far more regal. Take the Prince of Wales, for instance. He is always immaculately turned out in expensive suits, shirts and jackets from Jermyn Street and Savile Row. He lives like a Renaissance prince with, some say, more personal staff than the Queen.

Of course, William does look like a proper prince on the rare occasions when he wears his Household Cavalry dress uniform or his RAF blues, especially with his Garter sash and star.

But it’s doubtful that he and Kate will be able to retain their low-key lifestyle once they take up royal duties full time. They will need a butler to answer the phone and the doorbell, a chef when they entertain, as well as housemaids to do the chores because they will be out all day on official engagements.

But I suspect William’s preference for a very ordinary life hints that he may wish to bring about a quiet revolution at court when he is king.

I don’t mean he and his wife will travel around by tube but he may send his children to state schools and sharply reduce the cost of the monarchy wherever he can.

One report published last weekend suggested he would like to move back into Apartments 8 and 9 at Kensington Palace, where he lived until 1997 with his mother. Her bright and airy old home surrounded by parkland would be a better place to bring up a family than the dark warren of rooms known as St.James’s Palace.

Diana’s greatest achievement was to bring the monarchy much closer to the people. Could it be that her son is taking up the work she left unfinished?


17
Jan 11

Harry the best man

This time a year ago I was whizzing around New Zealand and Australia with Prince William.

While I was out there someone told me they had encountered some of Chelsy Davy’s relatives who moved to Queensland from Zimbabwe a few years ago. While chatting my friend asked these new Aussies if they would go to London when Prince Harry married their relative.

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‘Oh no!’, came the reply. ‘Chelsy is not going to marry Harry. She has told us she definitely doesn’t want to. She doesn’t want that kind of life.’

At the time Chelsy and Harry’s on-again, off-again relationship was back on in a big way, but these words didn’t surprise me.

Chelsy Davy, now 25, has always tried to evade the spotlight, kept her head down and has given every indication that she doesn’t want the reflected glory that comes from dating a famous man.

She scowls whenever a photographer comes within long lens focussing distance and generally seems to seek a quiet life.

Despite this, on the many occasions I have seen her with Harry she has always appeared to be totally smitten. Last summer when Harry got his wings during a ceremony at the Army Air Museum in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, I walked through the door and bumped straight into the happy couple.

While I congratulated the beaming Prince on being selected to train as an elite Apache helicopter pilot, Chelsy stood by his side looking as if she would burst with pride. They had the sort of glowing happiness you could warm your hands over.

I wasn’t the only one crossing my fingers that this couple would be together forever. Various officials at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House have also told me they hoped Harry and his gorgeous girlfriend would one day follow William and Kate down the aisle.

Chelsy is one of those stunning blondes that puts every other girl in the shade. It’s not surprising Harry, not to mention the palace aides, fell for her. She is highly intelligent with degrees from Cape Town and Leeds universities too.

So, it is difficult to understand why she suddenly dropped her plans to work as a lawyer in London and dashed off back to Africa, abandoning her luxury apartment in Belgravia and leaving Harry all alone. This now makes him Britain’s most eligible bachelor.

wills-harry-z.jpg 

Their separate careers may be the cause of this split. Harry is concentrating on his training to become an Apache pilot so he can get back to the frontline in Afghanistan. It wouldn’t be surprising if Chelsy wasn’t happy about her boyfriend going back into this danger zone where he was a prime target.

At 26, Harry probably thinks he is too young to get married but he hasn’t been spotted with any other girl since Chelsy.

Having seen what happened to Kate M. when she tried working in London, Chelsy may believe she could not hold down a serious job in London while dating a Prince. Perhaps she doesn’t think cutting ribbons, cuddling babies and making small talk is a fulfilling way to spend the rest of her life.

The question also arises – Does Harry love flying for the Army more than he loves Chelsy? Maybe she thought so.

Whatever the reason it’s extremely sad, especially at a time when William and Kate look so blissfully loved up.

Let’s hope this is not the end of the Harry and Chelsy story.


10
Jan 11

Kate’s fascinating fashion

Kate Middleton’s classic style has often been unkindly called ‘unexciting’ by some fashion, editors, especially ones who have never actually seen her.

Well, not any more – Not since Kate rolled up at last weekend’s Yorkshire wedding in that eye-catching black silk chiffon dress with its plunging neckline.

Those fashion mavens didn’t seem to realise she had worn it before – beneath a pink jacket – at Peter Phillips’ wedding in 2008, when Kate met the Queen for the first time.

kate-wills.jpgRecycling outfits was a trick Princess Diana used repeatedly when she went to a wedding. If she had dressed up in some dazzling new number she would have upstaged the bride, so William’s mother always chose an outfit we had seen before.

It was a kind and thoughtful gesture, so typical of Diana, who knew that clothes could send a message we could all understand. She wore dull colours when she wanted the world to know she was unhappy and rosy shades or red when she felt wonderful.

So what does Kate’s wardrobe say about her?

I think it tells us that William’s stunning fiancée has always been a fire and ice kind of girl. Her cool exterior clearly conceals a sizzling core. Let’s not forget the see-through mini-dress she wore to dazzle William at a university fashion show all those years ago. Or, the sequinned hotpants and halter-neck top she sported at a charity roller disco.

She may look demure at first, but she can be daring too. So I can’t wait for the first big occasion when Kate rocks up at a big evening bash wearing a killer evening gown with that billion kilowatt smile.

While Kate says she never met Diana, I think she has already been inspired by the late Princess’s dazzling example.

As for wearing black when friends marry, it’s a sensible but also slinky choice for a winter wedding.

Last month on a snowy evening I went to a friend’s wedding at the crypt in the House of Commons. Actress Tamsin Outhwaite, one of the bride’s dearest friends, was the best-dressed woman there (apart from the bride, of course, who was wearing Viv Westwood).

The West End and TV star was wearing a black shift-shaped crepe dress,adorned only with black beading around the cuffs of the elbow length sleeves. As we left the Houses of Parliament Tamsin slipped on a black wool cape to ward against the freezing weather.

She looked very on trend in a classic way and every other woman in colourful ruffled and frilly outfits looked wildly overdressed by comparison. When the dancing started later at the reception Tamsin looked simply perfect.

Kate Middleton, I suspect, like Tamsin, will never stray on to the wilder shores of fashion and thank goodness for that. She is doing enough for the British fashion industry already by favouring High Street fashion chains like Reiss and Whistles.

But she may choose a hot designer to create her wedding gown, and who wouldn’t in her stiletto pumps? This frock has to be amazing, a drop dead gorgeous knockout of a dress.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Kate had already selected the fashion house to make her dream dress and is keeping the name under wraps. But I doubt if it will stay secret for very long.

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