01.11.12 9:45 AM ET
Middleton Business Raises Questions Ahead of Queen's Diamond Jubilee
The family of the Duchess of Cambridge is again facing accusations that they are cashing in on their royal connections by issuing readers of their Party Times magazine “money-saving party tips” for this year’s celebrations, including the queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Pippa Middleton, Kate’s sister, edits the online magazine companion to the website of Party Pieces, the party-supply company set up by Michael and Carole Middleton that they run from their family home in Berkshire.
Party Pieces has faced criticism for launching a Best of British line of goods before Kate's marriage to Prince William. Among other items, the range included a Britannia trivia scratch card (with rub-off crowns) and a cake topper of a crowned corgi bearing a “Let Them Eat Cake” logo. The site also features a “street party” set (which is still available) with Union Jack bunting and cake stands, paper plates printed with a regal head in profile, coat of arms, and faux commemorative design.
The “money-saving party tips” feature went up on the site on Tuesday, and its tone seemed conspicuously in step with Queen Elizabeth, who has expressed a desire for a “low-key” celebration of her 60 years on the throne this June. “Whether it’s an imminent family birthday or a gathering to celebrate the Olympics or the Jubilee later in 2012, we offer a few ideas to help keep costs down and still throw a memorable party.”
Those ideas included: “Invest in a few staples that you can use again and again, such as plastic serving trays, dishes and cake stands.
“Nothing says celebration quite like bunting,” the site went on to declare.
No doubt eyebrows will be raised at the idea that Party Pieces has chosen to suggest the jubilee celebrations as an opportunity to do business. Last year, U.K. analysts estimated the value of the Middletons’ empire at £30 million (or $46.4 million) after their daughter married into the royal family.
The gap between their commemorative-style paper cups and plates and the quality of, say, the official jubilee china (inspired by the Rockingham Service, first used in 1838) will also invite renewed comparisons on the difference in class between the two families.
The Middletons are about as middle-class as it is possible to be: they are well turned out, socially ambitious, business-savvy, they live in the Home Counties, and they drive a Range Rover. As much as they are admired, some traditionalists have viewed the family with suspicion, never failing to recall that Carole Middleton once worked as an air hostess for British Airways.
When she was pregnant with Kate and unable to work outside the home, Carole began to sell party bags. When the business grew, Michael gave up his own job at BA to help her run it.
Their business has been closely scrutinized since Kate’s marriage. James Middleton, Kate’s brother, registered three new companies at the family home shortly before the royal wedding—a move seen by some as naked commercial opportunism.
More recently, Pippa secured a book deal on party planning valued at a staggering £400,000. Given that her original ideas included “Why not collect and clean chicken wishbones in the run-up to Christmas, spray them silver, and use each to pinch together a white hem-stitch napkin?,” it’s hard to believe she could have done this if she were not the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister.