Carole Middleton

Mothers at Marlborough College, the school attended by Carole Middleton's daughters, remember that every item of clothing would have a "beautifully sewn-in name tape". Meanwhile, her girls would have the newest tennis rackets and biggest picnics on sports day.

Who seeing Kate Middleton as Prince William's radiantly beautiful bride with Pippa as her maid of honour can doubt that their poise and ability to rise to the occasion was inherited from their mother?

The mother of the most famous sisters in the land was born Carole Elizabeth Goldsmith on 31 January 1955. She was the daughter of a builder named Ronald and his wife Dorothy and also had a brother named Gary, ten years her junior.

The family initially lived in a council flat in Southall, London, before buying their own home in nearby Norwood Green, a more prosperous area.

Fresh-faced, hardworking and pleasant, Carole was taken on as an air hostess by British airways. Here she met Michael Middleton, a steward who was later promoted to be a flight dispatcher.

They became man and wife in 1980 at St James Church in Dorney, Buckinghamshire, followed by a reception in Dorney Court, a sumptuous Tudor mansion.

According to the Telegraph her cousin Ann said: "She had everything it was possible to have… they even had a horse and carriage."

Carole and Michael had their first child Catherine Elizabeth in 1982. "I remember when she phoned to say she was expecting a baby. The whole house just erupted," said her little brother Gary.

Kate was followed by Philippa Charlotte in 1983 and James in 1987.

The Middleton matriarch, who gave the children a very traditional upbringing with little telly, lots of walks and outdoor activities, has never given an interview.

It might have been tempting to speak up in Kate's defence when she was accused of being workshy or when the press reported on Gary's chequered past. Instead Carole maintained a dignified silence.

Those who know her describe a warm, motherly figure – fun-loving enough to be the last one on the dancefloor at a wedding, but also a tireless worker, who built up a multi-million pound firm started from her kitchen table.

Party Pieces, the family firm that helped fund public school educations for the children and buy their £4.7 million home in the picturesque village of Bucklebury was Carole's brainchild.

Juggling school runs and ferrying the girls to Brownies, she realised many a harassed mum would welcome pre-filled party bags for children's celebrations.

By 1995, the firm was being run by both parents and was moved into a range of farm buildings. The couple did so well they could afford a £800,000 flat in Chelsea, holidays in Mustique and a share in a racehorse.

Nearly two decades, later the self-made businesswoman was poised to take a new role – that of grandma to the world's most famous baby.
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