The tantalizing prospect of the Middletons’ “double duchess” situation moved a step closer to reality on Friday after it emerged that Pippa Middleton is dating her long-term admirer and former roommate, George Percy, “Prince of the North” and heir to the Dukedom of Northumberland.
Percy, Britain’s most eligible bachelor, is heir to a vast inherited fortune estimated at $500 million. He has known Pippa since they were in college together and is one of the group of Pippa admirers whom Pippa’s former boyfriend, England cricketer Alex Loudon, is known to have had a problem with.
Pippa and George met at Edinburgh University, a short hop from Northumberland and not far from St. Andrew’s, where William and Kate studied. They shared an apartment and hung out with a group of aristocratic undergraduates known as the "Castle Crew,” a privately educated set of privileged students who spent their weekends at country houses around Britain rather than remaining on campus. “They liked shooting, drinking, games, and outdoorsy life,” an Edinburgh contemporary told the Daily Mail this summer. Some of the girls were known as “brown-sign hunters,” referring to the brown signs that point from highways to Britain’s stately homes.
In the years since they left university, Pippa and Percy have remained close friends, not least because Percy is a good friend of Prince William (the two went to Eton together) and is therefore inside the young royals’ “circle of trust.”
Last summer, Percy, 27, and Pippa, 28, spent a weekend together in Madrid when Pippa had broken up with Loudon for the first time. They were spotted out and about together in London frequently over the summer, including at the Aegon tennis championships. The night before the tennis match, Pippa and George enjoyed a three-hour dinner together at a London restaurant before returning to his flat (which George shares with another of Pippa’s exes, J.J. Jardine-Paterson), eventually leaving at 2 a.m.
Immediately after her final split with Loudon, following a blazing row at a friend’s wedding, it was to Percy’s ancestral home, Alnwick Castle, the exterior of which was used as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, that Pippa fled for a weekend of grouse shooting.
Alnwick Castle is, after Windsor Castle, the second-largest inhabited castle in Britain.
At the time, the couple let it be known that they were “just good friends” but now, according to The Sun newspaper, after a New Year’s Eve party at the Middleton household, the two are “out in the open” and Percy is “completely smitten with her.”