Another day, another ‘cashing-in’ scandal for the Middletons, and once again it is Pippa who is the lightening rod for a new chorus of criticism.
The row this time concerns allegations that Pippa and her family have benefited from dramatically reduced prices for leasing brand new, top-of-the-range vehicles which can cost up to £140,000 (about $220,000).
Last year, it emerged that the Royal family – usually immune to the lure of the celebrity freebie – had been scoring a 60% discount on their previous favoured brand, Audi. The deal came to light when Audi’s head of PR Jon Zamett, was invited to William and Kate’s wedding.
Now it seems that the Middletons are following suit, and getting into the discounted vehicle game.
James Middleton – Pippa’s brother - was pictured arriving in a brand new £140,000 Range to the christening of Prince George earlier this month, driving his family, and a few hours later Pippa was seen driving away from the event in a Range Rover as well.
The Mail on Sunday quoted an unnanmed source as saying, “The Middletons’ Range Rovers have been leased to them as part of the VIP scheme… you pay a small percentage of the usual fee in return for certain services – which can be as little as being seen driving around in the vehicle. Being associated with royalty does wonders for the brand.”
There is no doubt that Tata – the Indian company that owns the quintessentially British Range Rover and Jaguar marques - does offer reduced price vehicles to celebrities who then agree to act as ‘ambassadors’ for the brand. Fashion designer Henry Holland and model Daisy Lowe have both benefitted from the scheme.
But to land the Middletons is certainly a major catch for the brand, especially after William was seen very publicly belting baby George into the back of his shiny black Range Rover after Kate gave birth. It’s hard to imagine a more British endorsement than the Monarchy and the Middletons.
The company are remaining tight-lipped about the story, and refusing to comment on their ‘relationship’ with their customers.
But the new allegations will once again remind the British public of the unpleasant suggestions that the Middletons – especially Pippa – have been quietly ‘cashing-in’ on their royal connection.
Pippa was paid a hefty $500,000 advance for her poorly received book on party planning, and has now extended her writing activities with a column in Vanity Fair, a column in a supermarket magazine in the UK and an execrable fortnightly appearance in the Daily Telegraph in which she undertakes some daft activity - usually accompanied by pictures of her dressed up in unusual clothing. Her bio states she is the 'sister of the Duchess of Cambridge," just in case we forgot.
The columns are frequently laced with oblique references to her family.
William and Kate are said by insiders to have been extremely concerned about Pippa’s writing career, and she is banned from engaging in any interviews to promote her work by the palace.
Of course, there’s a reason people are hiring Pippa – whether to drive their cars or front their magazines – and it is that despite all the derision heaped upon her, Pippa sells well.
The supermarket magazine she writes for in England enjoyed a 17.4 percent rise in circulation in the six months after she was hired, a bigger jump than any other publication in the U.K. in that period of sales figures. Pippa’s arrival transformed Waitrose Kitchen from a dowdy has-been into a dynamic force to be reckoned with that is now the U.K.’s 15th-biggest magazine title with sales of 412,000.
And while her party-planning book Celebrate was widely mocked (“a good book for people who need instructions to make ice,” “a cultural tea bag for the American market”) it was far from the commercial failure some implied. While there was some rather unpleasant rubbing of hands in the reporting of sales, with journalists claiming that they were “as flat as last night’s champers,” based on Amazon rankings, they actually weren’t bad at all. The Amazon book charts are not reflective of longer-term trends, and almost all journalists (except me) ignored the fact that Celebrate reached No. 7 on the New York Times sought-after “hardback advice and miscellaneous” chart.
Just one question remains - why are we still interested in her?
It can’t still be that butt, can it?