How typical of Carole Middleton to elbow her way into her 32-year-old daughter Pippa’s first official public date with her new boyfriend, James Matthews.
On Thursday night, Carole was to be found bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘gooseberry’, sitting in on a romantic dinner with Pippa and James at the expensive Chelsea curry house Rasoi, an established favorite with local Sloanes and the young royal set, such as Eugenie and Beatrice who have been known to dine here with their mother Sarah Ferguson, conveniently located just off their prime stomping ground, the King’s Road.
It was a pivotal moment in Pippa and James’ burgeoning relationship; after dumping Nico Jackson in October, Pippa hooked up with James, whom she briefly dated in 2012, again. Exactly when remains open to question, but they have always remained friends, even after Pippa met Nico.
They were certainly comfortable and close enough to spend New Year together. Indeed, some reports have them getting together as early as November last year.
They are reportedly now living together, as the relationship rapidly becomes more serious.
Pippa was spotted walking James’s dog earlier this year, but this Indian dinner was the first time the couple had allowed themselves to be seen out in public, together.
And so it might seem rather odd that, like a Victorian chaperone, Pippa’s mum came along too.
To Carole and Pippa, it probably seemed entirely normal. As James is no doubt finding out, you may think you are just dating one of the Middleton girls—actually, you are dating the whole damn clan.
“The Middletons like to do things together; this is not a family to marry into if you don’t like party games,” says one acquaintance of the family, “Carole’s seal of approval is an important part of any relationship her children might be involved in.”
There would certainly be little for Carole to object to when it comes to her daughter pairing off with James Matthews; the tall and charming Old Etonian is the scion of an enormously wealthy British family whose parents own the Eden Rock hotel on St Barth’s.
His brother, Spencer, has become an unlikely reality TV star on the British show, Made in Chelsea, which follows London’s young rich set as they buzz around the SW3 postal district, but James prefers a more dignified, low-profile existence.
James, a City of London fund manager, is staggeringly wealthy, and lives in a five-storey, $20m townhouse, just a stone’s throw from Rasoi.
Pippa and Kate have spoken over the years about the closeness of the Middleton clan, and the middle-class normality of the family is known to have been something that attracted William to Kate.
William’s understanding of the concept of family was fatally warped not just by the deep hatred that developed between his father and mother, but by the way that loathing was played out in a very public grudge match on TV and in newspapers.
It is not hard to see how the easy, comfortable closeness of the Middleton clan, dominated by Carole, must have seemed a far more attractive paradigm to the young Prince than the brutal game of he-said she-said undertaken by Charles and Diana. William is said to jokingly call Kate and Pippa’s father Michael ‘dad’.
Acquaintances say that growing up, Carole ruled the family with, if not a rod of iron, a clear sense of what was and was not acceptable.
“They were always thought of as being incredibly boring,” says one acquaintance who knew the family when the children attended Marlborough school, who also suggests that Carole’s long had a reputation as something of a ‘helicopter mom’: “Carole always made sure they had the right books, and that their pencils were sharpened.”
In a sign that the relationship may be moving on, Matthews, 40, has submitted plans for a first-floor extension to his London property, seeking to build a bathroom above the kitchen, with the blueprints showing a ‘vanity basin’ complete with his and hers sinks.
Maybe he should think about adding a granny flat too.