Kate Middleton’s Family Background. If you are like us, you would be wondering about the background of Prince William’s squeeze, Kate Middleton. Where did she come from? Is she rich? Is she liked by Royal hangers-on? And many other questions. Kate and his prince are reportedly planning their wedding so we expect public interest in the future princess and future queen to go sky high.
Thankfully, Claudia Joseph has an upcoming book, Kate: Kate Middleton – Princess In Waiting, which should provide some answers to the curious like us. An excerpt from the book after the jump.
Revealed: Secrets of the Middletons’ money and how Kate’s ancestors made a fortune
by Claudia Joseph via Daily Mail
From the moment she first emerged five years ago as the student girlfriend of Prince William, there has been an unspoken snobbery in certain Royal circles about the social status of Kate Middleton.
Behind the sniggering of some Palace hangers-on lies the prejudice that the well educated, beautiful brunette is not just a commoner, but somehow ‘common’.
Half-whispered references to trollies and ‘doors to manual’ betray the belief among a self-serving group of courtiers that it would be inherently unsatisfactory for the daughter of an air stewardess – Kate’s mother Carole once worked for British Airways – to become Queen of England.
The fact that Kate’s parents run a mail-order business selling cheap and cheerful accessories for children’s parties only adds to their feeling that the Middletons are arrivistes – social climbers with ideas way above their station.
But the truth is that whatever the Palace flunkies say about the Middletons, the family lives an enviably comfortable and privileged upper-middle-class lifestyle that far predates Prince William’s courtship of their daughter.
Michael and Carole Middleton live in a £1million detached house in rolling countryside in the Home Counties, where they play tennis, ride horses and walk their dog. According to some neighbours, they even own a stake in a successful racehorse.
The couple are affluent enough to have sent all three of their children – Kate, 27, Pippa, 25, and James, 21 – to the elite £27,000-a-year public school Marlborough College. They have also financed gap years abroad and family holidays in the Caribbean. They have even bought Kate a £780,000 flat in the heart of Chelsea.
However, despite the countless words written about the family, there has remained a mystery. How on earth can a business selling paper plates and party trinkets for a few pounds apiece finance a lifestyle that propelled Kate from her modest childhood home outside Reading to the gilded apartments of the House of Windsor?
Although Michael and Carole Middleton are widely regarded as self-made millionaires, their business, Party Pieces, while successful, is unlikely to generate enough income to put three children through public school. The finances of the business are shrouded in secrecy – because it trades as a partnership there are no published accounts. There is little evidence of any other source of income.
I scrutinised the Middleton family fortunes for my new book Kate: Kate Middleton – Princess In Waiting, and uncovered a tale of hard work, canny investments, setbacks and success that dates back nearly 250 years and demolishes at a stroke the charge that Kate is in any way ‘common’. I also discovered intriguing new information that casts light on where the Middletons got their money – a lot of money.
It is certainly true that when Kate was born at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, on January 9, 1982, the Middletons could only dream of the lifestyle they now enjoy.
Michael’s salary as a flight dispatcher for British Airways at Heathrow – responsible for co-ordinating the airline’s fleet while on the ground – was enough for them to afford a modest semi-detached house in the village of Bradfield Southend, bought for £34,700 in 1979.
Pippa was born 19 months later. The two sisters – snootily nicknamed the ‘wisteria sisters’ in society circles because they are ‘highly decorative and terribly fragrant with a ferocious ability to climb’ – had arrived in the world.
At this stage, the family was still surviving on Michael Middleton’s salary. It was only after the birth of James on April 15, 1987, that Carole came up with the idea for Party Pieces, which aimed ‘to inspire other mothers to create magical parties at home’ and to ‘make party organising a little easier’. She rented a small commercial unit in Yattendon, four miles from the family home.
Yvonne Cowdrey, who did the family’s housework at the time, recalled: ‘Carole was fed up making up bags full of little gifts for the kids to take away from parties, and she realised other mums must feel the same. So she thought it would be a good idea to start a business that sold ready-made party bags.
‘She used to send out little catalogues with her children modelling some of the things they sold. I remember Pippa and Kate being in them, wearing T-shirts with their ages on them and holding cupcakes.’
Initially relying on catalogues, the business took off after Carole created a website. By 1995 the business moved into larger premises – converted farm buildings a mile down the road.
Eight staff now work in a 200-year-old barn, answering calls from customers and taking orders, while packers work in the ‘picking room’ – a converted cow shed – and ‘the warehouse’, a converted barn stacked to the roof with themed tableware, decorations and party bags.
By now, all three children were at a £10,000-a-year prep school, yet the family could still afford to sell their semi for £158,000 and trade up to their current home in a quintessential English village, with a village green, tea shop and pub. The red-brick house, adorned with vines and wisteria and surrounded by oak trees and mixed woodland, was bought for £250,000 and is now believed to be worth more than £1million.
Their neighbours include John Madejski, the multi-millionaire owner of Reading Football Club, TV presenter Chris Tarrant, singer Kate Bush and TV personality Melinda Messenger. The Middletons are also believed to own a stake in the racehorse Blue Java with their close friends Tim Billington, a farmer and horse breeder, and his artist wife Gemma. The horse has won five races and earned £26,348 – successful, but hardly enough to cover its upkeep.
Lesley Scutter, who lived opposite the Middletons in Bradfield Southend and works as a racecourse steward, spotted Carole in the owners’ paddock at Windsor on July 7 last year. Blue Java’s jockey Travis Block came fifth out of 14 in a six-furlong race.
‘Carole was wearing an owner’s badge and I was surprised to see her there, but I knew she was friendly with the Billingtons,’ recalled Lesley. ‘I didn’t know until then that she had an interest in a horse.’
Party Pieces’ accounts remain secret. But my months of genealogical research have revealed evidence that the family wealth is based not only on party hats and streamers, but almost certainly on the more substantial achievements of a Victorian mill owner who left the equivalent of £33million in his will.
While Kate’s mother is descended from a line of impoverished Durham miners and builders, her father is the scion of an illustrious Yorkshire family, who rose to prominence as wool merchants in the 18th Century. His great-great grandmother Fanny Greenhow was directly descended from Sir Thomas Fairfax, a leading Parliamentarian general in the English Civil War.
But it was her husband Frank Lupton, Michael’s great-great grandfather, who created the bulk of the family fortune.
His family firm, William Lupton & Co, had been founded in 1773 by Arthur Lupton, the youngest son of yeoman farmer William Lupton, who combined cloth-making with farming. By the turn of the century, the family was classified in the Leeds Register as ‘cloth merchants’.
It was Frank who expanded the firm, buying an old cloth mill against his wife’s wishes. Gradually, he began making a range of woollen fabrics and bought a finishing plant, which meant he was involved in every stage of cloth manufacturing. It was a decision that reaped benefits for the entire family, including, it seems, his great-great-great granddaughter Kate.
Frank and Fanny lived in Beechwood, a sprawling Victorian mansion in the village of Roundhay, seven miles north of Leeds, which they bought from Sir George Goodman, who had served as the city’s mayor.
They were wealthy enough to employ six servants, socialised with the great and good of Leeds, and involved themselves in the politics of the day. Their son Charles was the first Lupton to go to public school, setting a tradition that would carry right through the family to Kate.
When Frank died of heart disease at the age of 70 on May 20, 1884, he left his four sons – a fifth died in childhood – a staggering £64,650, the equivalent of £33million in today’s money. All four brothers became prominent figures in Leeds public life.
One of them was Michael’s great-grandfather Francis, a Cambridge graduate, who returned to Yorkshire to work in the family firm. Within eight years of marrying, his wife Harriet, a vicar’s daughter, had died of influenza, leaving him to care for five children.
It was Francis’s eldest daughter Olive – Michael’s grandmother – who would create the union between the Lupton and Middleton families. She married Noel Middleton, who came from a long line of successful Leeds solicitors, on January 6, 1914, at the Mill Hill Unitarian Chapel in Leeds.
Tragically Olive’s three brothers Fran, Maurice and Lionel were all killed during the First World War, leaving her and her sister Anne to care for their father. They inherited the lion’s share of his fortune when he died of chronic kidney failure on February 5, 1921, at the age of 72.
Francis left £70,538 in his will, the equivalent of some £10million today, in trust to his two daughters and their descendants, making Olive a very wealthy woman.
Noel gave up his partnership in the legal firm of WH Clarke, Middleton & Co to join his wife’s family business. The couple had four children – Christopher, Anthony, Peter and Margaret.
But while the family was in the Lake District during the summer of 1936, Olive was taken to hospital with peritonitis after suffering a burst appendix. She died at the age of 55 and left £52,031 in trust for her four children – the equivalent of £9million today.
However, Noel also had his own inheritance. His father John cemented the Middleton family fortune. He handled all the legal work for the Leeds Permanent Benefit Building Society, was president of Leeds Law Society and founder of the Leeds and County Conservative Club.
John and his wife Mary owned a four-storey, bow-fronted townhouse in Hyde Terrace, Leeds, and a country home, Fairfield, in the village of Far Headingley. Both houses were crammed full of antiques, oil paintings, silver and crystal.
John Middleton died from angina on July 16, 1887, leaving £4,749 in his will – the equivalent of £2.5million today.
Mary died of typhoid fever two years later on September 22, 1889. Michael’s paternal grandfather Noel Middleton, the seventh of eight children, was only ten years old when he became an orphan. But he was far from penniless. His mother left £13,627 in her will – the equivalent of about £7million in today’s money.
At the age of 13, Noel was sent to board at Clifton College, the boys’ public school in Bristol. He then went to Leeds University before becoming an articled clerk, like his father and grandfather before him, qualifying in 1903 when he was 25.
Noel lived with his four older spinster sisters Olive, Ellen and twins Caroline and Gertrude in the family home inherited from their parents.
After spending some time in London, he moved back to Leeds just before the start of the First World War, buying a house in Roundhay. It was there that his path crossed with the beautiful Olive Lupton, uniting two of Leeds’s wealthiest and most illustrious families.
Noel died of a heart attack at the age of 72 on July 2, 1951, leaving £19,560, or £1.3million in today’s money. It was split between his four children, who included Kate’s grandfather Peter Middleton, who is still alive. He became an RAF pilot during the Second World War, and later a commercial pilot, instilling a love of aviation in his son, Michael.
So it seems that inherited wealth – rather than Party Pieces – helped finance the ascent of his grand-daughter Kate to the gates of Buckingham Palace.
It is a family history that incorporates the timeless virtues of initiative, industry, responsibility and patriotic service in time of war.
It is also, the sneering courtiers should note, very far from ‘common’.
Kate Middleton’s Family Background Revealed: Excerpt of Book by Claudia Joseph