Panicking about the table plan, fretting over the final dress fitting, obsessively checking the weather… with just three weeks to go, Pippa Middleton will be getting the same pre-wedding jitters as any bride-to-be.
But with two future Kings, her Duchess sister and a smattering of Lords, Earls and A-listers on the guest list, it’s fair to assume Pippa, 33 – who marries boyfriend James Matthews, 41, on May 20 – will be most concerned about how everyone’s going to get on.
While the Middletons have their own black sheep in Gary Goldsmith – he of Ibiza party house La Maison de Bang Bang fame – the Matthews family has a few colourful characters of its own. Pippa, meet your in-laws…
The groom’s glamorous mother, 69-year-old Jane Matthews, grew up in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, where she enjoyed a privileged childhood. Her father, Robert ‘Spenny’ Parker, was a sports-mad architect and something of a wild child who passed on his bohemian attitude to Jane and her siblings, Pamela and Paul.
Sporty and popular, Jane was voted carnival queen by fellow undergrads at South Africa’s prestigious Rhodes University and rode through the streets on a gold throne atop a motorised float.
Aged 21, she graduated in Fine Art and won a scholarship to the Rijks Academy in Amsterdam. When her ferry stopped in England, she hopped off on a whim – and ended up staying for good.
Jane settled in London and worked as a receptionist at Christian Dior while pursuing a course at the Slade School of Fine Art.
It was then she met Dave, James’s father, recently divorced, who had spotted an old photograph of her in a yearbook belonging to his sister-in-law, Lu, another Rhodes graduate. He got her number, turned up to meet her in a Ferrari Daytona – and that was that.
They married in the early Seventies, a low-key register office affair to which Jane wore an old brown sweater and a skirt. A celebration in Zimbabwe followed, where her father turned up two hours late, riding a donkey.
Their first child, James, was born in 1975, followed by Michael in 1977 and Spencer in 1988. As her husband’s business ventures flourished, they upgraded from their bungalow in his home town of Rotherham to a 30-acre, 18th-century estate in rural Lincolnshire, before moving to Paris, then Monaco. In 1995, they decided to buy a dilapidated hotel on the idyllic island of St Barths.
Today, Jane splits her time between London and the Caribbean, while Eden Rock – where the priciest suite costs £25,000 a night – is now a celebrity haunt, with guests including Beyoncé, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Super-stylish, impeccably groomed and with a penchant for pricey designers, Jane is well used to mingling with the rich and famous. So she’d have felt quite at home when she and Dave were introduced to Prince William and Kate over dinner at James and Pippa’s £17 million London home.
Son of a coal miner, Dave Matthews’s origins are less illustrious than his wife’s sun-kissed upbringing. He and brother Bob had a modest, happy childhood in a village near Rotherham and, on leaving school, he started work as an apprentice mechanic at his father Wallace’s garage.
Aged 19, Dave started selling cars door-to-door and, in his spare time, indulged his love of motor racing at the local track. A skilled petrol head, he became division champion in the British Touring Car Championships in 1971.
But his dream ended in August 1973 in a catastrophic accident during a race at Silverstone. His car flipped at 130mph, killing one driver, critically injuring another and temporarily stopping Dave’s heart. A bystander said: “It was horrific. His car was airborne. How Matthews escaped is beyond me.”
The damage to Dave’s left eye was so severe he never raced again. Instead, he devoted himself to business, transforming his small used-car operation into one of the region’s biggest dealerships and overseeing two lucrative mergers which put him at the helm of one of the UK’s top 500 companies.
In 1991, as the recession began to hit, level-headed Dave cashed in his chips and left the industry to work in property development.
As they explain on Eden Rock’s slick website, Dave and Jane moved their family to St Barths “in pursuit of a more adventurous life”. Over 20 years, Dave, now 73, restored the run-down property – once a haven for Thirties stars Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes – to its former glory, building a blissful retreat.
In a recent interview, he gushingly describes it as not just a hotel “but a way of life”.
He also owns the 10,000-acre Glen Affric Estate in the Scottish Highlands, which opened in 2012 as a luxury hunting lodge, offering guests deer stalking, whisky tasting and helicopter rides. Transfer of the title deeds made Dave a Scottish laird.
THE BLACK SHEEP
Playboy Spencer’s status as the Matthews family’s bete noire has been well-documented – ever since he boasted of having slept with more than 1,000 women in his lurid 2013 autobiography, and confessed to a £300,000 steroid addiction which led him to quit reality series I’m A Celebrity . . . in 2015.
Eton-educated Spencer found fame on E4 reality show Made In Chelsea in 2011, before which he worked as a PR manager for London clubs Movida, Amika and royal favourite Boujis. He quit his job as a stockbroker to focus on his TV career – and earlier this year won Channel 4’s The Jump.
Lothario Spencer – who has admitted a liaison with a South African prostitute and being involved in a six-person orgy – is a mummy’s boy at heart and is often spotted around London with Jane. Of late, he’s formed a firm friendship with James Middleton, Pippa’s younger brother.
Spencer’s current squeeze, Irish model Vogue Williams, 31 – whom he has likened to ‘a younger, better-looking Cindy Crawford’ – is rumoured to have been banned from the wedding over fears she may upstage the bride.
In May 1999, 22-year-old Michael Matthews became the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest, but tragically disappeared on his descent through fierce snowstorms in the mountain’s notorious ‘Death Zone’ at 8,000 metres.
He became the 162nd person to die on Everest – and his body has never been found. For years his family, who received £70,000 in damages from the company which ran his expedition, fought for answers about Michael’s death and allegations – staunchly denied – that his equipment was faulty.
A model student at Uppingham, the £11,700-a-term elite boys’ boarding school, Michael was an experienced mountaineer and had spent his gap year travelling around Africa before embarking on the £22,000 trek.
As younger brother Spencer explains in his autobiography, Confessions Of A Chelsea Boy, James took the news of Michael’s death particularly badly. “With just a year-and-a-half between them, he and Mike were the closest of friends. His loss was devastating for the family, and over time this became worse because the circumstances surrounding Michael’s death have never been fully explained.”
The family set up the Michael Matthews Foundation, raising funds to build schools in developing countries, and every year compete in gruelling sporting challenges in his name. On their brother’s birthday, James and Spencer have a touching tradition of giving their parents 22 red roses, one for every year of Michael’s life.
THE SUPER SIS
The attractive brunette, rarely mentioned but always featured in portraits of the Matthews clan, is Nina – James’s half-sister, born during his father’s first marriage to racing driver Anita Taylor.
Nina, 48, spent some of her childhood at Caunton Manor, the Lincolnshire estate where Dave and Jane brought up their boys.
“Nina is absolutely lovely,” says Spencer. “There was never any problem about us having different mothers. She looks like Sharon Stone at her best.”
Nina lived in Italy and Switzerland before moving to Jersey, where she and her husband, Adam Mackie, settled with their four children. Thanks to Adam’s success as an entrepreneur, in 2014 they bought the most expensive house on the island, a £12.3 million Art Deco mansion complete with cinema, spa, a garage with room for 20 cars and a clifftop pool with spectacular views of the beach. Though the property has been praised by architects, locals branded it ‘a monument to greed’.
Until recently, Nina was director of a young people’s charity, and is still believed to work in the sector. A regular fixture at Matthews family gatherings, she has a villa named after her at Eden Rock.
Described as “the ultimate definition of chic beachside luxury”, Villa Nina allows guests to peruse a private art gallery or click their fingers for round-the-clock butler service – all for £13,500 a night.
Nina’s husband, Adam Mackie, is a suave businessman born in Warwickshire. His electrical wholesale company, City Electrical Factors, was founded by his grandfather, and is worth £440 million.
Adam, 44, has two companies of his own. He’s director of MC AAA Holding, a real estate business, and co-founded electrical wholesalers YESSS Electrical in 2012. In 2014, the company announced a £150 million turnover – and its sponsorship of the Invictus Games, the sports event for injured servicemen and women backed by Prince Harry.
Self-assured Tristan, 21, is Nina and Adam’s eldest child – and James’s party-loving nephew. He was a pupil at St Edward’s, Oxford, and has recently returned from an extended gap year abroad.
Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tristan enjoys outdoorsy pursuits such as ice hockey, paintballing and surfing. He’s currently learning to fly a helicopter.
Tristan held his 21st birthday party at the Lanesborough, dubbed ‘London’s most expensive hotel’, and his Instagram profile gives an insight into his hedonistic lifestyle: bottles of £145 Dom Perignon champagne, family dinners at swanky London restaurant Nobu and ski holidays in Verbier.
He manages to find time for a bit of hard graft, too: Tristan juggles his love of the high life with a job at his father’s electricals firm.
THE GLAM NIECES
Competing to ensure all eyes aren’t on Pippa’s famous bottom on the big day will be James’s selfie-loving nieces, Lily, 17, and Rosa Mackie, 15.
Together with their little sister, Yasmina, 12, they go to school on Jersey, but Lily has already set her sights on higher things.
Her social media page describes her as living between London, Jersey and St Barths. “Life is short. Timing is everything. Love liberates,” she has written.
The internet abounds with photographs of her in loved-up poses with Swiss boyfriend Shane, while Rosa appears to spend lots of time with her Uncle Spencer.
A recent photograph shows the pair pouting for the camera at the luxury Oyster Box Hotel in South Africa.
The girls spend their school holidays jet-setting with their family to destinations including the Maldives, Venice and the £1,400-a-night Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.