Kate’s mum: the rise and fall of Carole Middleton
The press have already cast Carole Middleton in the role of aggressive social climber
Now that Prince William has promised to make an honest woman of his long-standing – some would say long-suffering - girlfriend Kate Middleton, the rest of her clan will have to steel themselves for the media spotlight.
Kate has had trouble with the press herself, her lawyers threatening legal action when the coverage became too intrusive in 2007. Now that she is set to become a Windsor, the other Middletons, a middle-class family of northern origins based in Berkshire, will find themselves centre stage.
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Kate's siblings, James and Pippa, have been accused in the past of using their sister's fame to promote their business interests, but it is their mother Carole who arouses the most ire among royal watchers.
She found herself at the centre of a tabloid storm when Kate and William split up for several months in 2007. According to the press, it was largely Carole's fault. While the Queen was fond of her grandson's girlfriend she was less enamoured of Kate's mother, described by the press as a "ferocious social climber".
Carole's problem is that she doesn't have the right background. Not only is she a former air stewardess, but she and her husband, Michael, made their millions out of a business called Party Pieces that sells children's party supplies. The Wikipedia entry for Kate sniffily points out: "Carole Middleton's maternal family, the Harrisons, were working-class labourers and miners from County Durham."
The Daily Mail has given the Middletons a taste of what to expect with a piece earlier this month entitled: "From BA all the way to Balmoral, the awkward rise of the Middletons."
It bemoans poor Carole's suffering at the hands of "braying royal sycophants" who callously mocked her humble background.
It then, naturally, rehashes those slurs, from the accusation that Kate was only sent to St Andrews in the hope that she would seduce William, to the claim that true bluebloods in royal circles would whisper "Doors to manual" whenever she walked into a room, in reference to her original career.
Carole has also been accused of chewing gum (of the nicotine variety) at William's passing-out parade at Sandhurst in 2006 and then - the greatest sin of all - saying: "Pleased to meet you" instead of "Hello, ma'am" when she was first introduced to the Queen.
Some reports say the poor woman even said "toilet" rather than "lavatory" in the royal presence.
The papers have already cast Carole Middleton as a Hyacinth Bucket figure - the hopeless social climber from the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances. Now that her daughter is marrying the future king of England, she is unlikely to escape the role.
It has to be said the eager mother-in-law fell at the first hurdle. In a joint statement issued today, Carole and Michael Middleton said: "As you know, Catherine and Prince William have been going out together for quite a number of years, which has been great for us because we have got to know William very well."