The family business that turned the parents of the Princess of Wales into millionaires went bankrupt last May leaving debts of 2.6 million pounds (around 3.3 million euros at the current exchange rate), according to a report by insolvency specialists. The unpaid bills of Party Pieces, a children's party supply company founded by Carole and Michael Middleton, during the effects of the pandemic, include more than 612,000 pounds (713,244 euros) in taxes.
Carole Middleton started in the business in 1987, when she was 32 and just gave birth to James, the youngest of her three children — Kate, the eldest, was born in 1982, and Pippa, in 1983. As Carole Middleton said a few years ago in an interview in the Sunday magazine of The Telegraph: "I felt like I had achieved nothing in life, I married 25 and had Kate at 26." He came from a family of humble origins, descendants of coal miners. In his childhood, he was educated in public schools and did not continue with his higher studies because his parents could not afford it. That's how she began working as a secretary until she joined the airline British Airways, where she ended up being a stewardess, and where she met her husband, Michael Middleton, who was a flight dispatcher. Michael did come from a family of aristocratic origins based in Leeds, England, and had completed his university studies at the University of Surrey.
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Carole Middleton had the business idea after looking for ideas for the fifth birthday of her daughter Kate, destined today to be Queen of the United Kingdom: she thought of a place where you could buy everything you needed for a children's party, and began to develop it in her kitchen. In the pre-internet era, he decided to boost a mail-order business.
Party Pieces grew rapidly, generating significant profits. In 1989, Michael Middleton quit his job at British Airways to work full-time at his wife's company. By this point, they had stopped sending party packages from their kitchen and had moved into farm buildings on Ashampstead Common in Berkshire. The enormous success of the company, together with the trust funds inherited by Michael from his aristocratic grandmother, Olive Christiana Middleton, allowed the family to send their three children to prestigious schools, such as the boarding school Marlborough College, in Wiltshire, whose annual cost per student is 42,930 pounds (50,020 euros). Kate Middleton later studied art history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where tuition costs 27,770 pounds (32,380 euros). It was at that university that Kate Middleton and Prince William crossed paths in 2001.
During that splendid period, the Middletons also bought several properties, such as Oak Acre, a Tudor-style mansion in Bucklebury (Berkshire) or an apartment in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, for their children.
Carole Middleton with her daughter, Kate Middleton, at the 2017 Ascot races.Max Mumby/Indigo (Getty Images)
The free publicity generated by his eldest daughter's relationship with the current heir to the throne of the British crown, and especially since the royal wedding held in 2012, helped to trigger the already thriving family business. The same year of the marriage of the current princes of Wales, the Middletons bought a Georgian mansion in Bucklebury Manor, near the royal estate of Windsor, and acquired for 4.7 million pounds (5.4 million euros).
The whole family became involved in some way in the family business at some stage of their lives. Pippa Middleton helped her mother run the company's blog, and Kate worked for Party Pieces helping design the website and taking photographs — a hobby she continues to portray her three children today — before her 2011 marriage to William of England, eldest son of King Charles III.
However, during the pandemic, the company suffered dire economic consequences and, earlier this year, suppliers threatened to take legal action against Party Pieces for non-payment. In May, a bankruptcy proceeding was launched and the company was sold to British businessman James Sinclair, who calls himself "the millionaire clown" since he started as a children's party entertainer at age 15. Now, it has a number of child-related businesses, such as an ice cream company, nurseries, toy libraries and other attractions. The sale price of the Middleton company has not been revealed, but various British media suggest that it could be around 180,000 pounds (about 209,000 euros).
Party Pieces was "deeply affected by the effects of the pandemic and subsequent restrictions on social gatherings," said Will Wright of the management group Interparty Advisory. His report said that the company lacked 2.59 million pounds (about three million euros) to settle all its debts.