It is somehow perfect that Kate Middleton made her Snapchat debut at Wimbledon on Thursday in an extremely cute clip captured by tennis champ Serena Williams, in which Sophie, Countess of Wessex (wife of Prince Edward), is also enjoined into the frame. “OK, so I’m with the in-crowd now. I’m with royalty,” Williams says, all three women smiling broadly.
When Kate visited the All England Club in a gorgeous yellow Roksanda Ilincic dress, the photographers inevitably went wild, and monitored her every expression as she watched the action on Centre Court.
But, besides the actual royals in the Royal Box, the championships also attract an impressive, and telling, daily celebrity cast-list. Alongside Kate on Thursday, for example, were Downton Abbey’s Dame Maggie Smith, Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones).
It’s become something of a truism among British PR and image consultants that if one’s career is in need of a relaunch, the very kindest reception imaginable is usually to be found by accepting an invitation to the Centre Court at Wimbledon.
The tournament—which stretches over the last week of June and the first week of July—marks the beginning of the official British “silly season” when news was traditionally in short supply (Brexit, like a political El Niño, is messing up established news patterns this year) and anything, especially vaguely attractive celebrities doing not very much, made the papers.
It’s always interesting to note who shows up in the Royal Box or on the bleachers, and attempt to divine their motivations.
Whilst many of the VIP attendees are no doubt primarily there because they enjoy watching tennis (e.g., Anna Wintour, who goes to cheer on her style protégé and pal Roger Federer whom she reputedly advises on his clothing choices) for others, the tennis comes second.
Instead, attending Wimbledon conveniently telegraphs a specific message to the watching public about any or all of the following in reference to the celeb in question: their connection or admiration of traditional British values and style, their ease at the prospect of mingling with the middle-class masses, and their willingness to have their every emotion and gesticulation captured while watching a highly charged game of tennis.
The Beckhams, for example, are obviously a sport-mad family, but watching David tickling Romeo, posing for selfies with crowd members and glad handing Anna Wintour and Stefan Edberg courtside this week was to also witness impressive celebrity multitasking.
The goal at Wimbledon is not to sign a big deal or grab headlines. You just have to come across as nice. It’s basically a nice-off.
Pippa Middleton is another interesting Wimbledon case study. Pippa has had a turbulent ride through the sea of celebrity since becoming ridiculously famous for nothing more than a shapely derrière exhibited during her star turn as bridesmaid at her sister Kate Middleton’s wedding.
But since then public affection for Pippa has waned—her book was mocked (turkey, she noted, was ideal for feeding “larger gatherings”) and her TV career failed to get off the ground. Pippa has more or less gone to ground for the past year—so stepping back into public view at Wimbledon was a canny move.
She has made three appearances so far, the most recent of which, on Wednesday, was in the company of her new boyfriend James Matthews. Wearing a pink peacock-feather motif dress, Pippa was at the same time inviting us to speculate on the probability of a forthcoming engagement—but could also have been mistaken for any other posh 32-year old with expensive sunglasses enjoying the British summer.
And, that’s exactly the point.
“Everyone looks good at Wimbledon,” says a senior PR consultant. “It is so safe. Even when celebs were there in RBS’s hospitality box just after the massive bank bailout, no-one questioned the use of tax-payers money.”
That, after all, wouldn’t be the done thing.
Bradley Cooper has become an unlikely Wimbledon stalwart. When he first visited the championship, in 2013, his gorgeous blue suit jacket was the talk of the tabloids the day after the final, but this year he has so far gone for a more low-key look, wearing a T-shirt and jeans and sneakers with no socks.
There is a strict dress code on court, and Wimbledon is notorious for the stringency of its dress code in the Royal Box (Lewis Hamilton was turned away last year for not having a jacket), but away from the Royal Box, anything goes.
The majority of celebrities at Wimbledon are VIP guests of corporate hosts, although the Lawn Tennis Association itself dishes out a few tickets for royals and important tennis stars.
“It’s a very easy sell to the celebs,” says one expert who labors in the field of corporate hospitality.
Wimbledon welcomes the superstars, of course, but it is also a fine place for wounded and unsure celebs to venture out into the sunlight of celebrity again. Sir Cliff Richard—falsely accused of child abuse—emerged for several days of the tournament this year.
Sir Cliff may not be ready quite yet to perform a few numbers to entertain the crowd during the moments when rain stops play, as he did at Wimbledon 1996, but it’s hard to think of a more appropriate or productive place for him and so many other famous Brits (and Bradley Cooper) to while away the dog days of an English summer.