AFTER a decade of merely smiling enigmatically at peskily inquisitive reporters, Carole Middleton is suddenly singing like a hyperactive canary.
At the weekend she gave chapter and verse to a newspaper supplement on what Christmas will be like in the Middleton household, and now there she is beaming from the pages of December’s Good Housekeeping magazine while surrounded by festive props.
“I’m not a celebrity and don’t want to be one,” she once said. So why the apparent change of heart?
The popular consensus seems to be it’s a charm offensive to counteract the negative coverage of an alleged rift between her daughter Kate and royal newbie Meghan Markle — a laying out of the “Team Catherine” stall, if you like.
But as the fallout rumours are fairly recent and most glossy mags are laid out six weeks in advance, may I humbly/cynically (take your pick) suggest that the stall she’s laying out might be more monetary than motherly?
In other words, building up traffic to her and husband Michael’s Party Pieces website for Christmas in preparation for potentially flogging it off to an overseas billionaire in the pre-Brexit New Year.
But I digress. On Christmas Day I will be enduring (“enjoying”, surely? — Ed) our annual family fallout over a game of Monopoly. But if I wasn’t, I’d be straight round to Middleton Towers in Bucklebury, Berks, for what sounds like an idyllically festive few days.
In a Christmas walnutshell, it goes something like this: Wake up whenever, pop in to the local church, go for a walk, open a few pressies, smoked salmon and champagne for lunch, more pressies, some games, then the main meal early evening.
Oh, and all the grandchildren will have a small tree in their bedrooms that they can decorate themselves. The rest of the year, she says, “is really normal most of the time”. Which, to Prince William, who has grown up amid the pomp and circumstance of stuffy royal traditions, must feel like a slice of sheer heaven.
Instead, poor love, he and Kate are expected to join the rest of the royals (including Harry and Meghan) at Sandringham, where the Queen et al stick to the German tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve before dressing for a “formal dinner” from which, oh dear, the women eventually retire to another room while the men enjoy a port or brandy.
Then it’s off to the highly publicised visit to St Mary’s Magdalene church on Christmas morning, followed by a turkey lunch and a communal viewing of “Granny’s” speech at 3pm.
It’s unclear when William and Kate will head off to see her family, but what’s the betting they get in the car with fixed grins before mumbling “thank God that’s over for another year” the second they hit Norfolk’s A148? And that’s why, whatever the truth behind the rumours that Kate and Meghan aren’t getting on, it won’t matter one jot to the admirably grounded Duchess of Cambridge who, thanks to her idyllic childhood, knows exactly who she is.
Meghan, on the other hand, has no such cosy alternative to retreat to. Her parents divorced when she was just six years old and it’s no secret that she’s now estranged from her father Thomas and his highly vocal, deliciously off-message side of the family.
So, however well meaning she is, all her charitable grandstanding and repeated declarations of being “an independent woman” suggest she finds validation from being regarded as a, yawn, groundbreaking feminist role model rather than, as Kate is dismissed by some, a dutiful wife and mother, who toes the royal line and doesn’t make waves.
But Kate has no need to virtue signal because she’s rooted in the love and respect of her tight-knit family — a set-up she’s replicating with William, who, after his own fractured childhood, clearly adores the normality of life Chez Middleton.
And of course, they’re both equally secure in the knowledge that, post-“King Charles”, the top job is theirs.
Harry, on the other hand, has chosen a bride who, despite her efforts at reinvention, has a chequered past (join the club, dear) and a burning desire to be seen as more than just a pretty appendage to the sixth-in-line to the throne.
That’s understandable. But just like Kate did, it’s far better to quietly earn respect not noisily demand it.
Birthday suit not for me
SUN writer Lynsey Clarke had the, er, pleasure of reporting on the opening night of Magic Mike Live at London’s Hippodrome casino.
Thankfully, I was washing my hair that evening.
For the show involves, horror of horrors, “audience participation”. Not me, no sir-ee.
Years ago, a friend booked a surprise stripper to turn up midway through my birthday dinner at a restaurant.
But I clocked him the second he walked in, legged it out through the kitchens and refused to return until he’d safely vacated the premises.
A fickle finger of fat…
SHORTLY after Brit John Drennan proposed to Daniella Anthony during their trip to New York, the ring fell off her finger and into a drain.
Their effort to retrieve the sparkler (which was later found by the NYPD) was picked up on CCTV and went viral. I sympathise.
Shortly after The Bloke proposed, I adjusted my sun lounger only for the ring to slip off my finger and into the sand.
One hour later (I kid you not) I’d enlisted an army of baffled children brandishing their plastic sand sifters on the promise of a free ice cream if they found it. Which they duly did, bless them.
Thankfully, I have since put on at least a stone so now it doesn’t budge.
There till the end
CHASE star Anne Hegarty has pleaded with viewers of I’m A Celebrity to vote her out because she’s had enough.
Someone should tell her that’s not how it works in the minds of the inherently mischievous Great British public.
The merest whiff of desperation to win will see you voted out early, while a genuine desire to leave ensures you’ll be stuck there to the end.
Man’s best friend
IF ever there was an ad for the unconditional love and loyalty that accompanies dog ownership, then surely the photo of former US president George Bush Sr’s service dog Sully lying disconsolately next to his coffin is it?
Caroline, he’s not the man for you
CAROLINE FLACK’s surname is proving rather appropriate under the reportedly argumentative circumstances of her relationship with on-off fiance Andrew Brady.
As I write, it’s apparently back on after he recently called the police during one of their seemingly regular spats.
Each to their own and all that, but let’s hope Caroline isn’t kidding herself that these fallouts are merely a sign of their high-octane passion rather than the blatant incompatibility it so obviously is.
University plans shelved
PLANS to down-grade certain universities where students get only five or six hours a week of tuition have been quietly shelved by the higher education regulator after a backlash from vice-chancellors.
In other words, the urge to fill empty places is greater than the desire to stop young people getting into crippling debt for certain degrees that prove virtually worthless in the jobs market.
Yvette’s refugee promise
IT has emerged that former Prime Minister Clement Attlee secretly gave shelter to a Jewish refugee, who fled the Nazis ahead of the Second World War.
Perhaps, in 80 years’ time, it will emerge that having promised in 2015 to take in a refugee or two, Labour’s Yvette Cooper has been secretly doing so ever since?
SEX And The City producer Michael Patrick King has revealed that the feud between Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall dates back to the first ever series.
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He says that because Sarah was considered the bigger name at the time, she was paid more than the others – a set-up Kim remained unhappy with right to the end.
He adds: “I guess for Kim it didn’t matter how much the raise became if there was never parity, but there was never going to be parity.”
Proof, if needed, that often the pay gap between actors on a movie isn’t necessarily because of their gender but their box-office clout.