Mathilde Giard - 2011-04-14
Only 80 kilometres west of London, Bucklebury nestles in the beauty of the English countryside. Soon-to-be princess Catherine Middleton grew up in this Berkshire village, which she frequently visits with her Prince Charming.
Hidden amidst trees, the luxurious home of the future King of England’s parents-in-law is not easily spotted by casual visitors. It is in this lovely corner of Berkshire that Crown Prince William’s betrothed spent much of her youth. Thanks to Party Pieces, their successful mail-order party supplies venture, Kate’s parents have settled in Chapel Row, a hamlet of Bucklebury. The region is graced with hedgerow-lined roads and rolling hills and dales where wildflowers grow freely.
Though young Kate was often away at some of the best public schools England has to offer, as soon as she completed her studies in art history the young woman began stopping over regularly again. Easy enough - the family home lies only 80 kilometres west of London. Katie Nicholl, the columnist who covers the royal family and whose book William in Love, published in March, is mandatory reading for fans of the royals, says that the Prince enjoys staying there and he gets along very well with Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael.
This is the sort of place with pretty brick houses framed by perfectly maintained gardens. On the roads - where one drives at a leisurely pace, thank you very much - there are cyclists, walkers and elegant ladies on horses. Townspeople are easily recognized thanks to their Barbour jackets and Range Rovers with English setters in the boots, moist noses pressed against the car windows. Everyone seems to be heading for the PeachesSpar near the petrol station, one of the town’s centres of activity.
The village grocers have been invited to the wedding; Chan Shingadia confides that Kate’s mother, who is very involved in village life, shops regularly at the Spar. Kate sometimes joins her, and the Shingadias got a chance to see her engagement ring, Princess Diana’s famous sapphire. Mrs. Shingadia says that Kate is very nice and simple; she often stays to chat a bit. William has also been in the shop several times to buy sweets and has asked after the Shingadias’ children. Of Indian origin, Chan intends to wear a traditional sari to the wedding. Her husband will be sporting a tux.
William and Kate sometimes have a drink at a Stanford Dingley pub called the Old Boot Inn. Pub landlord John Haley isn’t complaining - he’s been serving draught after draught ever since the royals stopped in. The evening of 29 April, he’s organising a Royal Wedding Party in his establishment. Also invited to attend the wedding, Haley will barely have time to return from Buckingham Palace where Queen Elizabeth II is holding a lunch after the ceremony in London’s Westminster Abbey. Other Bucklebury residents will be there as well: the postman, the butcher, the owner of a home decor shop… ‘The Middletons are such a nice family,’ say Joan and Lorraine, two villagers who were friends of Kate’s grandmother. Mother and daughter, they observe the constant stream of visitors with an amused eye. A county coach firm is now operating tours in ‘Kate Middleton Country’. Some customers leave disappointed; all they did was cross through a quiet country village in Berkshire.
Royal address book
Where to have a drink
At the Old Boot Inn, the pub in Stanford Dingley where Kate and William sometimes alight. Traditional Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding is served there on Sunday afternoons.
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