Girls, girls, girls… and James, the latest upwardly mobile Middleton: How Kate's little brother is stepping into the spotlight
23:17 GMT, 30 June 2012
He is the least known of the Middleton siblings and the most misunderstood, but after spending so long in the shadows of the Duchess of Cambridge and Pippa, their little brother James is now stepping into the spotlight and showing the same entrepreneurial flair that made his family’s fortune.
At the age of 25, James has four companies to his name – and he hopes his growing portfolio will ultimately be as lucrative as his parents’ online business Party Pieces.
Last year, he launched three ventures – Nice Cakes, Nice Wine and Nice Group London – to add to Cake Kit, which he founded in 2007 after dropping out of Edinburgh University one year into his four-year degree.
James Middleton, pictured with his elder sister Pippa at Wimbledon last week, has an ambitious new business and is stepping into the spotlight
Sweet success: One of James's signature saucy cake designs
Cake Kit delivers home-baking kits, costing 16, to your front door with ingredients, step-by-step instructions, and a disposable baking tray.
‘My parents were always entrepreneurial,’ says James. ‘I just thought there were a lot of people out there who simply wanted to have their cake and eat it too. And I could help them do exactly that.’
Circle of trust: PR girl Katie Readman
Nice Cakes, which allows customers to create their own tailor-made cake designs, caused a stir earlier this year when it launched a range of ‘naughty’ cakes with saucy slogans.
James explains that he set it up in response to the ever-increasing popularity of personalised cards. ‘We thought we would add to the excitement of a celebration and bring you personalised cakes.’
He got his break from his uncle and godfather – and the black sheep of the family – Gary Goldsmith, who lent him 11,000 to set up Cake Kit.
‘James wasn’t too proud to ask for financial help,’ says a family friend. ‘Gary adores James and, although he wasn’t convinced there was much money to be made in baking, he agreed to the loan.’
Goldsmith made millions of pounds setting up and selling successful IT recruitment companies.
Three years ago, he was filmed in Ibiza boasting to undercover reporters about his Royal connections and chopping up cocaine at his 5 million home ‘La Maison de Bang Bang’, which James regularly visits.
James, who like the rest of the family loyally stuck by his uncle, worked 14-hour days to get Cake Kit up and running and within a year had paid back every penny.
It is not known exactly how much the business turns over because, like Party Pieces, it is a private company and does not have to make its accounts public. However, James says it is doing so well that it financed Nice Cakes.
He oversees the tasting of every cake that leaves Nice Cakes’ smart headquarters, a 2,000 sq ft warehouse in Childs Court Farm in Ashampstead Common, Berkshire.
James is up at 6.30am and, after a jog with his black cocker spaniel Ella, he leaves the 1 million Chelsea flat he shares with Pippa and drives an hour-and-a-half down the M4 to Nice Group London’s HQ.
To date, his impressive list of clientele includes Mario Testino, fashion house Ralph Lauren, Jigsaw, T-Mobile and ITV.
Chelsea set: Chatty Dobson and Francesca del Balzo are part of Jame's close circle of friends
This model of industry is a far cry from the James Middleton who got into trouble when his 21st birthday party at Raffles nightclub in Chelsea descended into debauchery.
He was pictured, in an Australian magazine, urinating against a railing after one too many cocktails and has had to work hard to reinvent himself, which has not been easy under the glare of the media. Yet over the past two years he has wrought a dramatic personal metamorphosis.
James at his sister's wedding to Prince William
At the Royal Wedding in April last year, he overcame his dyslexia to give a word-perfect rendition of his reading, an extract from Romans 12.
And his performance did not go unnoticed. ‘Now all we want to know is, who is James Middleton’ enthused gossip website thefrisky.com.
‘Is he single Does he have a great ass like Pippa’
So, just who is James Middleton
He was born in Reading on April 15, 1987, at the Royal Berkshire Hospital shortly after Kate’s fifth birthday.
James attended St Andrew’s, a private prep school in Pangbourne with his sisters. In retrospect, the school motto ‘Altiora Petimus’ – ‘We seek higher things’ – seems prescient. Doted on by his parents, James recalls an idyllic childhood. While Pippa and Kate were members of the Brownies, James was enrolled in the Beavers when he turned six and loved camping and exploring.
‘He loved playing outside,’ recalls a family friend. ‘He was forever looking for adventures. Most of his childhood was spent climbing trees.’
Fittingly, given the family’s association with the hospitality industry, the young James enjoyed baking and birthday parties.
His favourite was a pirate party at home. ‘We blew up loads of water bombs and had a huge water fight,’ he remembers.
He also recalls one of his sisters ‘trying to make the cake and forgetting to add the self-raising flour. She ended up using the flat sponge to make a trifle cake instead. Boys don’t like trifle when they should have had a pirate cake!’
Although James was homesick when he started at Marlborough College, the 30,000-a-year boarding school, his sisters looked out for him and he soon found his own feet.
He was never top of the class but James was popular and sporty. He was made head of house at Barton Hill, one of Marlborough’s four boarding houses, and was put in charge of 62 boys.
With the same competitive streak as his sisters, he played rugby and was in the first tennis team.
‘The whole family are mad about tennis and they hate losing,’ says one family friend. ‘Gary lost to James once, and didn’t play for years afterwards.’
Like the rest of the family, James is also a keen and competent sailor. It once got him into a spot of bother with the police when he tried to board a flight to Dublin while accidentally carrying a legal sailing knife in his bag.
After school, James took a gap year and backpacked across Australia. He also spent part of the year travelling from London to Ibiza in Uncle Gary’s white Lamborghini with his best friend Nicholas Gardner, now his company secretary, who was his plus-one at the Royal Wedding.
‘James asked if he could borrow the car and Gary said yes,’ reveals a family friend. ‘He told him not to crash it and that was it. The boys loved every minute of it. It was a great adventure.’
The Middleton family are very close knit and James is often seen out with his elder sister Pippa. The two share a flat in Chelsea
James is said to have kept cut out pictures from magazines of his sister, the Duchess of Cambridge when she was dating Prince William, on his wall while at Edinburgh University
James then enrolled at Edinburgh University to study environmental resources management.
He and Pippa – who was reading English literature at the university – played hockey with their team the Star Fishes and spent as much time drinking as they did playing hockey, according to one former member.
James apparently kept pictures of Kate cut out from Hello! magazine on his wall.
His chat-up line at the time is said to have been: ‘My sister’s going to be Queen. Fancy a date’
But he decided university life was not for him and left to launch what he has jokingly referred to as his ‘cake empire’. While he has spoken publicly about his business interests, James is reticent about his private life.
His hobbies include keeping honey bees and reassembling old cars. He is also a keen adventurer and recently climbed Mont Blanc for charity.
He relaxes at private members’ clubs such as The Scotch in Mayfair, where he can be confident he won’t be spied on.
His small coterie of well-heeled, discreet, Chelsea-based friends are mostly female, glamorous and attached. His best friends are girl-about-town Francesca del Balzo, PR Katie Readman and Chatty Dobson, a one-time ‘girl in pearls’ Country Life pin-up.
Although Chatty is dating Patrick Mavros Junior, son of the London jeweller, she and James often holiday together in Mustique.
‘They have never dated,’ says a mutual friend. ‘Chatty comes from a good family and she’s part of the Mustique set, which James has settled in with very nicely.
‘The Middletons take a house there every August and James loves it, the whole family do. They can play tennis, eat out and relax without the worry of being photographed.’
James, pictured with his sister Pippa, arrives at Wimbledon last week. He is also a keen tennis player and the family are extremely competitive with on another on the courts
James’s male friends include Old Etonian and professional magician Drummond Money-Coutts and Francesca’s brother, Antonio del Balzo, an Old Harrovian.
Those who know James best say he is a red-blooded heterosexual male who revels in a slightly camp sense of humour and has a penchant for schoolboy pranks.
He has had girlfriends, and even claims to have fallen in love and had his heart broken.
Most recently, he was linked with Fernanda Coelho, a stunning Brazilian who was introduced to James through mutual friends. While James claims they dated over the summer, Fernanda, who works as a creative art designer for a London-based digital publishing house, insists they only ever enjoyed a single dinner date.
With her brown hair and exotic looks, she was a departure from his previous blonde girlfriends. ‘James is quite a ladies’ man,’ reveals a friend. ‘He’s very good-looking and is forever getting hit on.’
James’s first love was a pretty Australian called Amy Bradshaw. The relationship fizzled out when she returned home. ‘James was very keen on her, but they knew they wouldn’t be able to make a long-distance relationship work. They do keep in touch,’ says a friend.
He also had a long-term relationship with an older woman who apparently broke his heart. ‘He was dating her for quite some time a few years ago, which was a bit of a scandal because she was older than him. She was a pretty, blonde American interior designer,’ says the source.
There is no one on the scene at the moment and James insists his focus is his career rather than women.
He wants to introduce a charity component into his business and is working with young offenders who want to get back on their feet.
This is certainly a Middleton determined to break the mould.
Read the full article in the August issue of GQ magazine, which is available from Thursday.