Pippa Middleton, the younger sister of Kate Middleton, who stole the show at the Royal Wedding in 2012 with an unforgettable figure-hugging McQueen bridesmaid’s gown, has got engaged to her boyfriend of less than a year, financier James Matthews, 40.
The news will be greeted with sighs of relief at the palace which has, for several years now, become increasingly worried about ‘the Pippa problem’.
Indeed, Pippa herself, now 32, will no doubt be happy to have some clarity on her future life—she was said to be at a loss with what to do professionally after her ambitions of becoming a world famous writer and journalist were laughed out of court due to her poor writing style (she once advised that turkey was perfect for feeding ‘larger gatherings’).
Pippa has spent the last few years telling her advisers and friends (and anyone else who will listen) that her main priority in life is not to ‘end up like Fergie’ according to one source.
And her engagement to Matthews—a hugely successful City whizzkid, who has amassed a personal fortune of tens of millions of pounds—will allow her to do just that, and concentrate on a life of non-controversial philanthropy rather than the tawdry business of making a living.
The ‘Pippa Problem’ boiled down to the tricky question of what Pippa should or could actually do without being accused rightly or wrongly of ‘cashing in’ on her royal connections.
Writing seemed one possible route, but sadly the quality of Pippa’s prose wasn’t up to much and she refused, in principled fashion, the services of a ghost writer for her book Celebrate!.
TV presenting was always going to be a trickier sell as the one thing viewers would have always wanted her to talk about—her sister—was the one thing she couldn’t discuss. But she gave it a go anyway, trying out as a special reporter for a US network, but the idea didn’t float to the top.
Over the past year Pippa has been retraining as a nutritionist, with a focus on sports nutrition, sources say, appropriate given her love of extreme fitness challenges. But rather than launching the Pippa Diet, as had once been mooted, free from financial pressure it is more likely she will now put that energy into a big charitable patronage.
Pippa, friends say, has learnt the hard way that the high profile life of a royal-by-association is no life at all.
“She had all the drawbacks and none of the perks of being a royal,” says one. “She was completely hamstrung professionally. She couldn’t give interviews or even promote her own book. Everything she did publicly had to be run past Kate’s team. And she had no formal police protection.”
Marriage to Matthews—the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay reports that the proposal took place on a windswept Lake District hillside—and access to his private fortune solves many, many problems.
Like many a wealthy society bride before her, Pippa will now be free to focus on worthy causes (with, we bet, a little interior decoration and art collecting thrown in on the side). She is said to be particularly interested in taking on a healthy eating and fitness cause.
The relationship with Matthews has developed fast and the proposal is said to have taken Pippa by surprise. Although they have known each other for close on a decade, having first met through mutual friends, they have been dating for less than a year.
They spent New Year together on St Barth’s, the Caribbean island where James’s parents own the delightful Eden Rock hotel.
James will now likely become as well-known as his younger brother Spencer, a reality TV star thanks to his part in the British show Made in Chelsea.
In a memoir, Spencer claimed to have slept with 1,000 women, and he has admitted to an addiction to steroids.
Another brother, Michael, died tragically just hours after becoming the youngest Briton to scale Everest. His body has never been found.
James has made phenomenal money in the City. He paid £17 million for his stucco-fronted Chelsea home, which he recently extended to create his and hers dressing rooms.
James and Pippa did in fact date briefly in 2012, but Pippa then started going out with Nico Jackson, another City boy, and that relationship only ended late last year, after Nico moved to Geneva.
After her split with Nico, Pippa was spotted going into James’s house on several occasions, and walking his dog.
Prior to Nico, her most serious relationship was with former England cricketer Alex Loudon, whom Pippa dated after leaving university. They broke up after the Royal wedding, amidst reports that he found Pippa’s pursuit of stardom irritating.
Matthews, it appears, is prepared to take it all on board.
Richard Kay (and he should know) suggests that we should start preparing now for the society wedding of 2017.
Hats at the ready, folks.