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When Pippa Married James…

As yesterday dawned – bright but with a hint of rain in the air, Bucklebury braced itself for an onslaught of media and celebrity as Pippa Middleton started to prepare herself for the wedding she has spent months organising. The run up to the special day had been picked over in newspapers until there was nothing left to pick at – with readers everywhere wondering how much hype exactly was needed for the wedding of a couple nobody would have heard of, if it hadn’t been for the sister of the bride having married a prince.

With the Beckham’s PR guru, the Queen’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson, Prince Charles’s ex valet and now consultant to all things, Michael Fawcett all enlisted to create the perfect spectacle with no expense spared, only time would tell whether the enormous glass marquee would cause the illustrious guests to be deafened by very English rainstorms or not.

As guests started to arrive, with smatterings of recognisable faces such as Roger Federer and Princess Eugenie, a small crowd waited to see if Meghan Markle would make an appearance. As time went on, it became clear that we wouldn’t get a glimpse of the eagerly-anticipated royal girlfriend, as Princes William and Harry strolled in to St Marks’ Church, Englefield alone.

Carole Middleton appeared in pale pink, escorted by son and marshmallow entrepreneur, James. She appeared to wave with glee to the onlookers, smiling with what can only be described as a recently-filled face. Certainly, puffier than I have ever seen her before. She must rub her hands in delight at the conclusion sending her children to the ‘right places to meet’ the ‘right people’ has brought.

Michael Middleton, as ever, seemed less keen on the media but very proud of his youngest daughter. I wonder at times what he makes of the media storm other members of his family have whipped up. I wonder if he has a man-shed and a secret bottle of whisky somewhere on the Middleton Manor estate?

The Duchess of Cambridge turned up escorting the tiny bridesmaids and unfortunately pantalooned pageboys. She seemed stressed by having to get small people from the car to the church door, and was completely oblivious to the pageboy who decided to make V signals at the massed crowds. Wearing a peachy beige matchy matchy outfit that had already creased and wasn’t fitted properly around the bodice, Kate’s matron of honour role looked more than slightly awkward. By the time the party was leaving the church, she had already had to scold a weeping Prince George, control a confused looking, but very cute, Princess Charlotte and ineffectively manage a bunch of primary school children with rose petal baskets. Doting husband, William, was nowhere in sight, preferring to hang around with his brother and reality star best man, Spencer Matthews.

For the bride however, we must reserve praise. Pippa’s Giles Deacon designed dress was elegant and beautifully made, with delicate attention to detail. Her gossamer veil held in place by a deceptively simple, sparkling diamond tiara from Robinson Pelham. Pippa has clearly planned her bridal outfit for a very long time and her dogged determination paid off. She looked delighted by everything, and as she took her father’s arm to enter the florally bedecked church, she must have known her choice was a massive success.

An hour or so later, as bells rang out to celebrate this much-hyped union, the two people involved left St Marks looking full of joy. The photographers clicked and the other guests stayed back to allow the couple their moment. Apart from Kate, of course, who milled about at the front trying to look like she knew what to do with the tiny attendants while nanny Maria stayed out of sight. In the end, she got in a car and left for the reception – leaving the newly weds to lead the rest of the party over to Englefield House on foot. A champagne reception awaited.

Later, Pippa and James left in a vintage car for Middleton Manor in Bucklebury, in a scene reminiscent of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge driving Prince Charles’ Aston Martin from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House following their own afternoon wedding reception.

And as the Duchess herself returned to her parents house, to prepare for the rest of the celebrations, William was again nowhere in sight. I wonder if he was in the man-shed with Mike, hiding from wedding planners and photographers everywhere?

Finally, after a day of waiting, Prince Harry drove up with Meghan Markle in tow (not Merkle, as the unfortunate BBC News Reporter called her) – one solitary blurry snap the only proof that she attended.

As the expected Spitfire swooped over the venue, in a celebratory fly-past (one must keep up with one’s sister) and lights twinkled in the glass marquee, so large it could be seen from the other side of the valley, I wonder if Pippa raised her glass to herself for pulling off the media extravaganza of the year, while Kate – avoiding the canapes – searched in vain for the elusive William.

And readers everywhere sighed in relief.

 

 

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The Middleton Marriage Media Meltdown

And so… the Pippa Middleton Wedding Wagon rumbles on, with flags flying and whistles tooting. Every day, certain newspapers treat their readers to breathless updates and speculation about the day in question – from who is invited or not invited, who might wear the same colour and cause social pandemonium and which fence is being repainted to ensure Bucklebury is in gleaming form for the Very Important People who are attending.

With only a few days to go, this self publicised hype is only likely to reach fever pitch with no scaling down in sight. It seems to me that people all over the country who have read anything related to the forthcoming nuptials are simply desperate for it all to be over so that we don’t have to read any further gushing about the bride’s latest walk down the street or gym exit.

Originally, we were told that this marriage was a private event, taking place on a private estate and that therefore, public scrutiny was not welcome. Fair enough, I thought.

Until events took over my original thinking.

The very close up, clear series of photographs of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews apparently canoodling behind a bush in front of a Chelsea church seemed planned. The constant pictures of a smiling Pippa wandering about her neighbourhood in various poses might well underline that thinking. Then, we are told by the very knowledgeable Sebastian Shakespeare of the Daily Mail, that Pippa has hired none other than the PR guru who has worked successfully for the Beckhams in helping to create their brand. You might well ask why would a ‘private’ event require the hype that tends to be rustled up by hiring a very expensive PR guru?

I can only assume that the Middletons, who protest themselves to be quiet, private people who are simply hounded by media interest, are actually involved in creating the cloud of ‘public interest’ in themselves. Certain journalists have certainly confessed to having Middleton sources for stories in the past.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, other families who ‘married in’ to the royal family managed to remain pretty low key. I am verging on certain that none of them ever needed PR guidance to ramp up interest or indeed, wanted it.

The rather ironic thing about the self-publicism of the wedding and the run up to it, is that no matter how much fanfare the media gives or on whose orders, there isn’t the public interest to back it up. Pippa is not a much-loved character, the nation is not overly interested in what she does (or doesn’t) do, her attempts at writing in the past have been ridiculed and her lack of direction is baffling to most.

For me, the only interest I have in the wedding is that we may possibly see George and Charlotte, those secret royal children whom we know exist but hardly see; along with a chance to see Prince Harry with Meghan – incidentally, whose wedding WOULD bring similar hype but on much more solid, public-interest level, ground.

And so… get your hard hats ready. I think we are in for a bumpy few days. Roll on Sunday.

 

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The Meaningful Marketing of Meghan

With a confident, easy smile on her face and some very well placed confidantes at her side, Meghan Markle looked every inch the official royal girlfriend last weekend, as she watched Prince Harry play polo at Coworth Park in Ascot.

The Audi Polo Challenge was attended by both Prince William and Prince Harry, so it was hardly a low key event. The very presence of Meghan Markle might be seen as a typically tactical royal nudge to observers and media alike that:

A. She and Prince Harry are definitely a ‘thing’.

B. They don’t really care who knows it.

And

C. Their partnership might well be heading for a more official status.

Despite Prince Harry releasing a statement last autumn describing Ms. Markle as his ‘girlfriend’, some royal watchers have taken it upon themselves to believe that the relationship was already over/never really began. If you don’t believe me, check Twitter! Personally, this seems an odd presumption, since the couple have been seen on various occasions since – a date in London, Meghan wandering around near Kensington Palace, the pair attending a wedding together etc. It seems pretty clear to me that there is something going on, and actually something pretty serious. Sorry, Harry fans – but there it is.

Having been a royal watcher since the heady days of Lady Diana Spencer in her pie crust collars, I think it is fair to say that this semi-official polo appearance has quite big implications. Not only was Harry’s brother, William, also in attendance, but Meghan was standing alongside Mark Dyer, the Prince’s trusted friend and mentor for many years.

Quite an endorsement.

And let’s face it, would Prince Harry – a man who grew up with frequent pictures of his mother in the media while sunbathing, sitting on car bonnets, playing with her sons at polo matches – not know that those moments when he decided to cuddle and kiss his girlfriend next to his car would be captured and shared by any photographer present?

The royal family like to send messages without saying a word. They like to micromanage our beliefs about them without actually saying anything. Who remembers a certain Sarah Ferguson being asked to accompany The Princess of Wales on a visit to HMS Brazen to see Prince Andrew in 1986 before any engagement had been announced? That was a big indication that Miss Ferguson was being accepted in to the family as an ‘official girlfriend’.

I see this polo match attendance as a similar move. The reports that Meghan will also attend the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews as Prince Harry’s partner is also a significant step.

Perhaps we are being prepared for a move from ‘official girlfriend’ to something more?

I, for one, very much hope so.

 

 

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A Fond Farewell to The Tig

Yesterday, I received an email. It was an email that has caused a certain ripple of excitement in some quarters and positive alarm in others. In simple terms, it was an email from Meghan Markle’s lifestyle blog website The Tig, announcing that it was closing the doors and exiting with grace.

The significance of this move – the sudden closure of Markle’s successful passion project – suggests new things may be ahead for the actress and philanthropist. And that these new things might just involve a certain red-headed prince.

The Tig in itself was successful because it combined enough of Markle’s personal anecdotes with an aspirational lifestyle theme; readers were addressed as friends and encouragement given which suggested that they too could live a charmed life if they embraced an ethos of positivity and strength.

While some have derided the website as a PR project for the actress (which of course, in some sense, it was), they miss the point that The Tig had good intentions at it’s heart. The tone of inclusion, diversity, personal motivation and self-belief stems from Markle’s own background as a mixed race woman trying to find her own voice. Her success in reaching a position of influence, and her belief that she can use this to help others to improve their own lot in life, underpins much of the content on The Tig.

It is to be hoped that she will continue to work towards this aim, whether it is as the consort to a prince or not.

I am sorry there will be no more chatty, cheery emails regularly popping in to my mailbox with a bright ‘Hello Sweetie!’ – but I understand the reasons why there can’t be. It saddens me a little that this woman must shut down her blog and silence her twitter, but since she stepped on to a much bigger stage, her words have taken on unintended significance and caused much negative comment. That her original intentions as an actress building a positive online presence could be so misconstrued in her new position speaks volumes about the kind of society we are, and our still cynical attitudes towards women who push themselves forward.

So – a thank you to The Tig for all the words of wisdom, and a cheeky wink of good luck towards it’s founder. Knock ’em dead.

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The Markle Question

Nobody can have escaped the last few months of media fascination and sensationalist reporting of Prince Harry’s relationship with new girlfriend, Meghan Markle. The flurry of stories has ranged from the sublime (“She spoke to the UN!”) to the ridiculous (“She’s on Pornhub!”). Onlookers appear to fall in to two opposing camps – those who see Ms Markle as a potentially refreshing addition to the royal family, with an already existing track record of philanthropy and people skills; and those who see Ms Markle as a social climbing, media manipulating, naive prince accosting harridan. The fact that Meghan Markle is slightly older than Prince Harry and has been married previously AND has mixed race parentage AND a possibly dysfunctional family has caused some royal traditionalists to have apoplexy on a scale akin to the days of Princess Margaret daring to wish to marry the debonair, divorced Peter Townsend.

However, times have changed. We now have several members of the royal family who are themselves divorced – The Prince of Wales is famously married to his ex-mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, following his disastrous union with the luminous Diana Spencer; The Duke of York is also divorced, as is the Princess Royal. The royal family is in no position to take the higher ground on divorce issues these days.

For a modern royal family, the emphasis has to be on how this centuries-old institution can adapt to stay meaningful in an ever-increasing world of diversity and relaxed rules on gender, sexuality and identity. In the internet age, the world has shrunk, so that everything that happens globally is transmitted to screens around us within  hours, if not minutes. The institution of monarchy must be able to move alongside this generation of information, while still maintaining mystique and majesty.

It seems to me that the addition of a clearly intelligent, charismatic woman who happens to be mixed race, who happens to have experience of a wider world, who happens to have already shown a capacity for humanitarianism and can give a decent speech might just be one of the best things to happen to the royal family for a very long time. In fact, possibly since a very young Diana Spencer tripped nervously down the palace steps wearing her huge sapphire engagement ring and an ill-fitting bright blue suit while clinging on to the arm of her “Whatever love means” prince.

Let’s not give up on Ms. Markle yet.