Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

    It’s been an annus horribilis for birthday girl Carole Middleton, writes CLAUDIA JOSEPH.  Her business collapsed and the family was abused.  But today all of her thoughts will be on the health of her daughter Kate as she recovers from surgery…

    All thoughts in the Middleton family will be on their daughter, Catherine, as she continues to recover from abdominal surgery.

    And that will apply even today, Carole Middleton’s birthday.

    In previous years, he has memorably celebrated his 60th birthday abroad, which he spent on the private Caribbean island of Mustique with pink champagne, grenadine cocktails, a jazz band and fireworks.

    Today’s 69th birthday will be a quieter event, and not just because the eldest of his three children, the Princess of Wales, is unwell.

    Carole Middleton at Her Late Majesty The Queen’s state funeral in September 2022

    Carole and Michael Middleton attend their daughter’s Together At Christmas Carol service at Westminster Abbey last December.

    Carole is pictured with her daughter, Kate, in easier times at Royal Ascot in 2017.

    A police officer stands outside the London Clinic, where Catherine, Princess of Wales, was hospitalized for abdominal surgery.

    The last 12 months have been something of an annus horribilis for the Middletons, and for Carole in particular.

    Kate’s mother has only been seen in public once since her business Party Pieces collapsed last June due to a £2.6million debt.

    That was at her daughter’s Together at Christmas Carol service at Westminster Abbey before Christmas.

    Carole avoided the Wimbledon and Royal Ascot tennis championships, both regular events on her schedule.

    In May, Prince William’s in-laws had a place of honor at the Coronation, seated in row seven of Westminster Abbey, immediately behind the Royal family and next to world leaders.

    But everything exploded the following month, when it was announced that his company had fallen into bankruptcy with debts of £2.6 million, a misery compounded by an apparently malicious campaign by embittered creditors, a cruel depiction in the Netflix series The Crown and her daughter’s surgery.

    Although businessman James Sinclair, who describes himself as the “millionaire clown”, bought Party Pieces for £180,000, there was no money to pay creditors.

    Not only did the company owe the taxman £613,000 in unpaid VAT and £219,000 to RBS for a Covid loan, but a number of family businesses were left out of pocket with around £456,000 owed.

    Disgruntled supplier Sultani Gas, who was owned by Party Pieces for more than £20,430 for balloon helium, accused Carole of “betrayal”.

    “What hurt me the most was that I trusted her as the mother-in-law of the future king,” a spokesman said, “and she simply betrayed me.” She is absolutely unacceptable.”

    The company’s owner, Lord Iliffe, on whose Yattendon estate the company was based, was also owed £57,480 in unpaid rent and faced “serious financial consequences”.

    Other creditors, the report said, included Portuguese gas cylinder manufacturer Amtrol Alfa, which was owed £82,872, and party decorations company Ginger Ray, which was owed £52,304.

    It must have been felt personally by Carole, who founded the company at her kitchen table in 1987, when she was pregnant with her son James.

    The Middletons subsequently became the target of a vicious campaign in the village of Bucklebury, where they have lived since 2012, with posters placed on trees and lampposts around their home.

    However, Carole has her supporters as well as her detractors, including the new owner of Party Pieces, who claimed that she was not the “captain of a ship in its doom,” but rather “a lifeboat trying to save it.”

    She retired from the mail order business in 2019 to spend more time with her grandchildren (Pippa has three children with her husband James Matthews, Arthur, Grace, Rose, while James and his wife Alizée have baby Inigo).

    Carole Middleton inspects the US release of Party Pieces. ShopRite stores in New Jersey became the first US distributor.

    The village of Bucklebury, Berkshire, where Carole and Michael live.

    Posters in the town of Bucklebury, including this one, attacked the Middletons over the collapse of the Party Pieces. The model in the image claimed that she had been made redundant as a result of the business failing and, as the note below explains, she had turned to the adult site Onlyfans in search of income. She denied that the posters were a publicity stunt.

    Michael and Carole Middleton arrive at Westminster Abbey ahead of King Charles III’s coronation ceremony in May last year. The following month, it would be announced that Carole’s business, Party Pieces, had collapsed into administration.

    It was at this stage that the company hired new directors and investors, including Steven Bentwood, a lingerie magnate, and financier and sports entrepreneur Darryl Eales, leaving day-to-day management to a new management team.

    The company was hit hard by the pandemic and international expansion in the United States, the Middle East and Europe further strained budgets.

    “When it handed Party Pieces over to investors and shareholders it was in textbook condition,” said Sinclair, “a really nice company that regularly made £1m profits a year on a turnover of £3-5m.”

    “Unfortunately, investors created the wrong team with the wrong strategy…Mistakes were made.”

    The latest (and final) series of Netflix blockbuster The Crown didn’t help matters much.

    Carole was lampooned and portrayed as an ambitious matchmaker who had engineered the marriage between William and Kate.

    Speaking on an episode of the Mail’s hit podcast The Crown: Fact or Fiction, his brother Gary Goldsmith attacked the show for misrepresenting his family.

    “Carole is not this evil, manipulative person who devises ways to force her way into the Royal Family,” he said.

    “Firstly, Kate did an excellent job getting into St Andrews. She is an amazing girl, but that didn’t show.

    “It was all about, ‘Kate, you have to do these things, you have to show your legs.’

    Prince George with his grandmother Carole (right, in shadow) as they attend the King’s Cup Regatta in Cowes in 2019.

    ‘It’s just not my family. Carole doesn’t act like that.

    It is not known whether Kate, 42, will be well enough to see her parents or her siblings Pippa Matthews, 40, and James Middleton, 36, today.

    While under other circumstances Mike and Carole would celebrate abroad or perhaps at their £4.7 million Grade II listed Berkshire home, for now they have they cleaned their diaries to help Prince William They look after their three grandchildren George, ten, Charlotte, eight and Louis, five.

    The princess is expected to recover at Adelaide Cottage in Windsor Great Park, a 40-minute drive from her parents.

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