Doubt over claim that Pippa Middleton is in a 'serious relationship' with heir to the Harry Potter castle
Cold water was poured on claims today that Pippa Middleton is in a serious romance with a wealthy earl who is heir to one Britain's richest and grandest dukedoms.
It was reported in today's Sun newspaper that the royal bridesmaid, 28, had followed in her sister's noble footsteps and is dating George Percy, heir to the ancient Duchy of Northumberland.
The pile he will inherit, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, which featured as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, has perched on the Border in some form for more than 1,000 years.
Spokesmen for both families declined to comment publicly on the report, but a Royal source said this afternoon that the claims were 'unfounded'.
'Romance': Pippa Middleton and George Percy share a joke at the Queens Club championships last summer
Such is the popularity of Pippa, the report was swiftly picked up by more than 30 news organisations around the world, including USA Today, CBS News, the New York Post, the Telegraph and the Times of India.
A source told the Sun Earl Percy, 27, whose trust fund guarantees him an income of 250,000 each year, is completely besotted with Pippa and completely in love with her.
'It looks likely the Middleton sisters will be completing the double before too long,' the source added.
What is not in doubt is that Earl Percy and Pippa have been close friends since meeting at Edinburgh University. They are even reported to have had a fling in the final year of their studies in 2008.
Eye-catching: Pippa Middleton captured the nation's attention after her sister's wedding last April
And the speculation about their relationship has persisted since. After he was seen helping her get over her break up from banker Alex Loudon last year the pair were forced to deny they were an item, insisting they were 'just friends'.
Nevertheless, the Sun reported, their relationship blossomed into love at a New Year's Eve celebration thrown by the Middleton family.
Pippa is said to have sat herself next to Earl Percy at supper and made sure she was by his side throughout the evening before finally making her move.
'Windsor of the North': The family's grand pile, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, which featured as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter film franchise
Royal sources told the Daily Mail last year that Pippa's ex-boyfriend had never been entirely comfortable with her close friendship with Earl Percy.
The pair have been confidantes since they shared a flat at Edinburgh University along with Ted Innes Ker, son of the Duke of Roxburghe.
Over the summer the couple were seen at endless social events, including the Queen’s Club championships.
Pippa broke up with banker Alex Loudon last year
Alnwick Castle is known as the ‘Windsor of the North’ and the Percys are regarded locally in Border country as royalty.
The family’s wealth is conservatively put at around 300million and includes more than 100,000 acres of land as well as an estate in Surrey and Syon Park in London.
His parents, Ralph, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, and gardening-obsessive mother Jane are sensible sorts and withheld much of his inheritance to stop him going off the rails.
But Earl Percy is no dilettante. After studying geography at university, with a specialism in renewable energy, the energetic earl recently set up in business and is poised to drill the first commercial geothermal well in Country Durham.
Royal wedding: The Sun claimed Pippa's new love is said to have blossomed this New Year's Eve and her family, including Kate are thought to approve