As we quickly approach Pippa Middleton’s wedding this coming Saturday, let’s take a moment to appreciate yet another royal-adjacent union, one which actually celebrates its nine-year anniversary today. Back in 2008, the Queen’s eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, married a Canadian Roman Catholic named Autumn Kelly who most people had never heard about until the couple announced their engagement.
Today, we rarely hear about the Phillips family unless they turn up to events at which Peter’s mother, the Princess Royal, is or his more famous sister, Zara Tindall. However, by all accounts, Peter enjoys a close relationship with his family. And in 2008, with an engagement for William and Kate Middleton still a question mark, this particular wedding served as a precursor for a “royal wedding” and the first of the Queen’s grandchildren.
On the day-of, in addition to the attention the bride and groom received, most of the media coverage was focused on the fact that Kate was attending alone, which was seen as a significant sign that William felt comfortable leaving her solo with his family and as a representative for him. There was also quite a bit of speculation as to whether the event was the first time Kate would meet the Queen. Prince Harry attended with his then-girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, with whom he had been dating for years and they were beginning to garner as much engagement speculation as William and Kate.
However, shortly thereafter there was a bit of a gasp when Hello magazine published a several-page spread of wedding photos, to which they had worked out an exclusive deal with the couple for the fee of £500,000. Apparently guests hadn’t been given a head’s up, including royal guests, and while family members were posing for photographs they had thought it was for a privately-hired photographer. As such, the subsequent photos provided some of the most candid shots of the young royals that the public had ever seen, particularly of Kate and Chelsy, who were figures of paparazzi fascination but were generally only caught walking about in London, watching polo or dashing in and out of parties and clubs. To see the two women posing, smiling and laughing with one another – not to mention their ease within the RF – painted an altogether more vibrant and nuanced picture of them both.
Peter and Autumn were harshly criticized for what was branded a self-serving move and the unofficial party line was that the RF was none too pleased by what had gone down, including the Queen. It was an odd move, particularly given the pains that the Princess Royal seems to have taken to keep her children as independent and grounded from their royal heritage as possible. It indicates the motivation was financial, but it also seems like a strange sum to jeopardize your entire reputation and familial standing over.
At the time, Ian Gibson, a Labour MP told reporters: “The British public would expect the Queen to rise above being pictured in the pages of Hello! She is the Queen, not a footballer’s wife.”
So, there’s that.
In any event, hard feelings seem to have dissipated since, though now that I think about it, I can’t think of a photo since that showcases Peter and William together outside of broader family events. Not to mention, last year Peter gave an interview in which he discussed his status as a member of the RF, sounding off on his childhood playing with William and Harry and other cousins. I obviously can’t say with certainty, but it’s difficult to imagine William being chill about that – when William chooses to make personal disclosures to the press, he does so on his own terms.
Let’s just say, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the whole incident had cooled the relationship between the men, and I’ve certainly seen little indication of Kate and Autumn having any relationship beyond civil. The word at the time was that William and Harry were livid over the violation of privacy, particularly given the situation it put their girlfriends in, who had gone out of their way to enter and leave the church discreetly so as not to upstage the bride.
All told, it was a small blip on the House of Windsor scandal-meter and one that has been nearly forgotten, particularly once William and Kate announced their own engagement two and a half years later and then staged a quaint, simple affair at Westminster Abbey. So, on that note, Happy Anniversary…