A Royally Loyal Sister
One word is used to describe her - 'loyal', and Pippa Matthews has proved that for her sister, The Duchess of Cambridge, she is an integral pillar of strength.
SEPTEMBER 6th, 2020
hen you ask friends of Pippa Middleton how best to describe the younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, there is only one universal word they use – loyal. On the day of the biggest wedding of the decade, Pippa Middleton proved that analogy. Dutiful, committed and supportive, as Maid of Honour she expertly navigated the complex role of ensuring her sister’s big day went without a single glitch, and whilst doing so, managed to steal some of the spotlight herself.
In the days after the spectacular wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, there were some commentators questioning whether Pippa had crossed a sacred wedding line due to the many headlines focusing on her show-stealing bridesmaid dress. Some even suggested that the newly crowned Duchess was jealous of her younger sister’s star turn. Yet, for those who know the Middleton sisters best, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“There isn’t an ounce of jealousy between them,” says one friend. “If anything, they found the entire commentary on Pippa’s dress quite funny. They are fiercely protective over one another and incredibly close, so any assumption of jealousy is simply ridiculous.”
Whilst envy isn’t present in their relationship, the need to protect one another is. Stemming from Catherine’s schooldays at Downe House, where she was viscously bullied, Pippa was nicknamed “The Bodyguard” due to her tough and unwavering support for her sister.
“Pippa was slightly tough and, back then, the one with the charisma. No one would ever think of bullying her,” recalled one contemporary from their schooldays. “We used to share a joke with her by singing “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard movie. I’d swear she’d happily take a bullet for her family.”
Although younger and smaller, Pippa has always been seen as the ‘alpha’ to Catherine’s more subtle and ‘home-loving’ personality. Take the time when both girls arrived at Marlborough College. Due to Catherine starting later in the year, after transferring from Downe House, the boys at the school – who used to mark girls on arrival – initially gave her a low score. Noting her natural beauty, they stated she lacked confidence and was too quiet.
Pippa, on the other hand, ranked higher on the (questionable) list. Confident, outgoing and unafraid to answer back, when the boys commented on her ‘Panface’ – a reference to her pretty but ‘flat’ features – the younger Middleton allegedly retorted: “Let them say it again, then we’ll see whose face will be left looking like a pan.” Pippa’s fearless personality eventually transformed her from ‘Panface’ to ‘Perfect Pippa’.
As history now notes, whilst many believed it was Pippa destined for world domination – with an offer to play hockey for England when she was younger – it would be Catherine who would bag a prince and become one of the most photographed and recognisable women in the world. And although Catherine has expertly and quietly forged her own royal path, stepping confidently from her husband’s shadow and successfully shedding the unjust title of ‘Waity Katy’, Pippa has been integral to her older sister’s renewed confidence.
“Not many people really know how Kate feels over certain situations which happen in her life, except for Pippa,” quoted a friend earlier this year. “She’s been there through it all, every success and slip-up, every rumour – she’s been a sounding board for Kate to unload onto.”
This year, there has likely been a lot for the Duchess to get off of her chest. With the royal biography Finding Freedom exposing the fallout between the Sussexes and the Royal Family, Catherine is said to have been devastated by the many accusations laid at her feet.
“She’d never say it out loud, and she’d certainly never comment on it, but it’s fair to say the book hasn’t been warmly received by the Duchess,” describes one source. “Pippa’s been a comforting voice throughout though and allows Kate to vent without fear of judgement, her whole family have been integral in keeping her and William away from the constant headlines.”
Though whilst some allege Pippa is “perplexed” by the allegations in Finding Freedom, seeing first-hand how far her sister and brother-in-law went to welcome Meghan into the fold, when asked whether she would be as tactile with her own opinions on the fallout, a friend stated: “Pippa would never say anything publicly. She respects her sister and brother-in-law too much. I think the feeling is to now draw a line underneath the whole saga and finally move on.”.
For Catherine and Pippa, their relationship and commitment to one another is unwavering, and has grown from strength to strength as they grow older. One aspect which cemented the sister’s formidable partnership has been their children. Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are said to have an extremely close relationship with Pippa’s son Arthur, especially Louis, with Pippa and Kate both noting how similar the two toddler’s personalities are. One example was at Christmas in 2018.
Spending Christmas Eve and Day with the royals, William and Kate took their brood to the Middleton family home in the days afterwards. Every year the Duchess’ father Michael Middleton dresses up in a fancy costume and entertains the family. “My father has developed a tradition of surprising us at some point by appearing in fancy dress,” wrote Pippa recently. “He buys a new costume each year and typically gets carried away. A couple of Christmases ago he appeared in an inflatable sumo outfit and wore it again recently. It's endearing, really, and only quite embarrassing.”
For Louis and Arthur, both new-borns at the time, their reaction was one of hysterically laughing, whereas Charlotte wasn’t as impressed. “I think my niece, Charlotte, thought ‘who on earth is this strange man dancing around the living room.’ Though it’s quite touching that he has continued the tradition for his grandchildren. I’m sure he’s already planning for next year,” admitted Pippa.
These traditions have maintained a sense of normality for Kate, and Pippa ensures that her sister is consistently treated the same as anyone else. They lunch together (pre-covid), have purchased clothes for one another, and in their younger days, partied together. And although Pippa is fully aware of her sister’s future role within the Monarchy, she has always maintained that, to her, the future Queen Consort will always, at heart, be ‘Squeak’ – a nickname Kate was given after a pair of school Guinea Pigs, Pippa was subsequently nicknamed ‘Pip’.
“It’s a surreal experience to know your sibling will effectively sit on a throne and become one of the most powerful entities in the world. But Pippa will always see the Duchess through the lens of a big sister, it’s what keeps them so close,” admits a friend close to Pippa.
For Catherine, Pippa has always been her confidant and support network. She has rarely, if ever, let her down or abandoned her side. Through her quiet words of encouragement, Pippa has been integral in ensuring that Catherine’s voice is forever present if and when she chooses to use it. There’s never any judgement or jealousies and her loyalty is unquestionable.
“I’m profoundly proud of my sister and everything she has achieved. I’m not sure I would have the confidence to do it, if I’m honest. To face that undiluted attention and forensic character dissection would sink me. But she never falters or complains, she just does it, whatever is expected of her,” Pippa said in an interview with Tatler magazine in 2013.
Yet Pippa has faced her own attention, and in typical fashion made light of the recognition: “It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition before the age of 30 on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom. One day I might be able to make sense of this. In the meantime, I think it's fair to say that it has its upside and its downside.”
As the future grows ever closer for the Duchess of Cambridge, her support network will become more vital than ever. Whether it be friends or family, the pressure cooker of Monarchy will bear heavy down upon her shoulders. Yet, she can take comfort in the fact that her sister Pippa will unquestionably and diligently be by her side, more than willing to bear some of the weight. After all, that’s what being ‘loyal’ is all about.
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