Pippa Middleton, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, is due to marry James Matthews, financial whizz-kid and billionaire, in Berkshire on 20th May 2017. In typical fashion, the details of the upcoming wedding have been breathtakingly revealed bit by bit – until last week, we were treated to an actual statement from Kensington Palace about which royal family members would be actually attending the nuptials. Considering that neither Pippa nor her family are actually part of the royal family, this seemed a step too far to many royal observers.
The Middleton family have an unfortunate habit of making themselves seem publicity hungry. Their apparent desire to be front and centre, rather than taking a side seat like other royal in-laws, has caused them to be called social climbers, showy people who want a slice of the lifestyle their daughter and sister has access to, being the wife of Prince William. They have gone from being a quiet, affluent family living an a typical middle class village home to living in the local manor house and wearing crest-engraved signet rings. The British have never been fond of those who try to be something they are not. The whole concept of the popular sitcom, ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ was that the audience could laugh at the character of Hyacinth Bucket (“Bouquet”), a working class woman who created an upper middle class fantasy life through her immaculate home and expensive china tea-sets. We all know people like Hyacinth, to greater or lesser degrees. However, it feels more than slightly incongruous that the family of the Duchess of Cambridge should be perceived as behaving like this – we somehow expect the royals to marry into families who are equally illustrious, like the Spencers for example who had been aristocracy for hundreds of years. Those families without such background should have the class to stay low-key and maintain a quiet dignity. Sophie Rhys-Jones, who married Prince Edward, was from a less grand background but her family have stayed private figures, rewarded for their decorum by several invitations to spend time with the Queen and her family.
The Middletons have apparently chosen not to take this path. The fact that Pippa’s upcoming wedding is being sold as the ‘wedding of the year’ and every snippet of organisation for it apparently leaked, might suggest that there is a certain enjoyment of the celebrity this endows to a couple who would never have been heard of had the bride’s sister never met Prince William.
It remains to be seen how much of the wedding will be photographed, since Prince George and Princess Charlotte are to be pageboy and flower girl. This strange hybrid of private family wedding and quasi-royal event seems to sum up the problem of the Middleton family themselves. Neither private nor royal, their half way house style of managing things is unprecedented and raises quizzical eyebrows amongst traditionalists. In a media-hungry culture, when people may become stars from reality shows or merely drawing attention to themselves, is it so unlikely that this family have allowed themselves to become the sort of celebrities who apparently have no claim to fame, other than close proximity to someone who married a famous man?