More than two billion people are expected to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton next month and surely the spectacle won't disappoint. I've been told they're scrubbing every inch of Westminster Abbey for the occasion. They have also been hard at work at the Windsor garage polishing the Rolls that Kate has selected for her ride to the church. She eschewed the Glass Coach used by both Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson (who, by the way, is not invited) for their weddings. The 'official' royal wedding website is doing its best to spin every photo of the couple into the 'Wedding of the Century' narrative.
As a long time royal watcher and someone who is absolutely sick of the endless Z-list of nobodies who pass for celebrities on this side of the pond, I've been more than willing to buy into the fairy tale but for some reason, I've not completely sold on the couple's newly minted superstardom. While William and Kate are both attractive (although he looks alarmingly more like his uncle Edward every day), rich and well-dressed, they just aren't that interesting -- yet. As I have written in previous posts, I think the real fun will begin when the inevitable ground swell of support gains momentum for William to become the next King instead of Prince Charles. Just this week, two separate polls in the UK showed a majority of Britons are in favor of the idea. There's never been any question that the idea of Queen Camilla isn't exactly a popular one.
Once the wedding has occurred and the day comes when the happy couple announces they are expecting their own bundle of joy, I predict the succession story will be the central drama in the lives of the royal family.
For now, I think it's much more interesting to take a look at the supporting players in William and Kate's story, The Middleton family. It's a testament to how much good will is out there for the couple because Kate's family -- both immediate and extended -- is tabloid gold but has been largely left alone by most outlets who are content to focus on the 'fairy tale' aspect of the story.
The stories of Kate's uncle, Gary Goldsmith (Carole's brother) read like a Judith Krantz novel. If he lived here in the states, he's be fielding offers from MTV and Bravo to star in his own reality show. From his $10 million home in Ibiza, 'Maison de Bang Bang,' he was caught in a sting operation allegedly "dealing cocaine and fixing hookers" by undercover reporters from News of the World. (They're the same folks that got Fergie on tape selling access to Prince Andrew) Gary also bragged to reporters about the private time he had spent with William and Kate and at one time said he's have access to Buckingham Palace once the couple wed. He's still on the invite list -- for now.
Closer to home there's Kate's younger brother, James Middleton, who could prove to be the Roger Clinton of the mix given his fondness for alcohol and his predilection for being photographed in unfortunate situations. One can't help but wonder what the advisors at St. James' Palace think of the images of Kate's brother sporting one of her dresses and fuchsia lipstick as well as shots of him sitting stark naked in front of a fireplace with a beer close by that have been circulating on the Internet for ages. An enterprising fellow, he seems to be a bit of a publicity hound as evidenced by his willingness to give an interview to Hello! a few years back to promote his fledgling cake making company -- part of the the Middleton family business. The Queen was not amused when she learned one of James' cakes featured the likeness of Princess Diana. If he forms an alliance with Tom Parker Bowles, Camilla's onetime drug-addled, wayward son who now runs a 'high-end' concierge service, things could get really interesting around the holiday dinner table.
Frequently described as 'the pretty one,' it is widely believed that Pippa Middleton, Kate's younger sister, will become her lady in waiting without having to worry about the dreary royal duties that will consume her sister. Says one insider : "She's the fun one and a bit naughty. She's always had a magnetic effect on men. She's a Chelsea party girl." Before Kate officially landed Wills, she and her younger sister were known in certain circles as 'The Wisteria Sisters' because they were "highly decorative, fragrant and have a ferocious ability to climb." Pippa's newly minted title as 'the most eligible girl in England' is sure to make things a lot easier in that department. Already, plugged into the royal social set (she pals around with Prince Harry's longtime love Chelsy Davy and Fergie's girls, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie) he penchant for the good life once she steps into the reflected glare of her sister's spotlight could keep the British tabs very busy.
Without doubt, the most fascinating member of the Middleton clan is Kate's mother, Carole. Legend has it that it was the former British Airways air hostess turned self-made millionaire who convinced Kate to apply to St. Andrews after it was announced William would be attending the school. The Middletons have never commented on the story but there is little doubt that having come from a working class background (granddad was a coal miner) that Carole wanted the best for her daughters. Often spotted shopping in her favorite look -- skinny jeans and high boots -- she is her daughters' key fashion advisor and is reportedly working overtime to make sure she looks her best on Kate's big day. As for Kate's dad, Michael, he has wisely said little to the press and I've yet to see one photo of him out and about. By all accounts, the former aviation specialist responsible for checking planes before take-off (he met Carole when they were both working for British Airways) is an easy-going, sensible fellow who has an excellent relationship with William (who has been known to call him 'Dad')
Several royal insiders have told me there are some (Camilla?) that feel Carole is too much of a striver to fit ever really fit in. (I suspect Diana would have loved her) There have been plenty of swipes at Carole's perceived social gaffes over the years. Her gum chewing at Sandhurst during William's graduation from the Royal Military Academy was widely reported as a sign of her gauche behavior. Even more horrifying -- she greeted the Queen with "Pleased to meet you" instead of the proper "How do you do?"
The pressure Kate's parents must feel to stay out of the limelight and the worry they justifiably must have that a Middleton relative could become too big a story must be enormous. The good news for them is Williams is very fond of both Carole and Michael and that should go a long way in keep things civilized behind the palace walls. Still, these are 'regular' folks going up against a family that managed to marginalize the most famous woman in the world when she became too big a problem and wouldn't tow the party line. I'd be very, very careful.
Photo credits: Stefan Rousseau WPA Pool/Getty Images; Samir Hussein/WireImage.com