As James Middleton settles down with the Sunday papers this weekend, he will doubtless be checking for bruises. Just a week ago he was lauded for his impressive reading at the wedding of the newly-minted Duchess of Cambridge aka Catherine at Westminster Abbey.
Internet search engines went into overdrive as his new fan club of women (and men) sought to find out more about him. Within days they could see more, much more, than they ever anticipated as pictures of James exposing his bottom, dressed in a French maid's outfit and with a male friend performing a simulated sex act with a French stick were posted on a saucy website.
There were pictures of Pippa dirty dancing in just a bra and skirt which made the rounds too. However it was James' subsequent behaviour that caught the attention. Posing as a lawyer, he contacted the site and tried to get the pics taken off the web. All this did was give the story a new lease on life. Rather like the failed burglary at the Watergate, it was the attempted cover up that brought down President Nixon, not the original crime.
But this, I suspect, is not the last we will hear of young James. Let's put aside for a moment his bungling attempt to gag the media. Judging by his photos and his penchant for garnering publicity for his cake-making companies and other ventures, Catherine's handsome younger brother seems destined to be the Achilles heel in the Middleton family.
Handsome and well turned out, he clearly likes the look of himself and quietly enjoys backing into the limelight. He could though, turn out to be Catherine's worst nightmare, his head turned by ersatz fame and publicity. I watched it happen to Major Ronald Ferguson the father of the Duchess of York. When Fergie first came into public view, Major Ron was a rather aloof, crusty and terse character, very much Prince Charles' polo manager and part of the charmed 'royal circle.'
By degree he
became seduced by fame, intoxicated by the siren song of the media, eagerly giving
interviews when he accompanied the Duke and Duchess of York on a tour of
Australia. Then he appeared on stage with Dame Edna Everage dressed as a punk
rocker. Though it was for charity - a figleaf if ever there was one - the
palace were not amused. They were stony faced too when he was pictured by a tabloid leaving a massage parlour
of dubious repute and his reputation further nose dived when socialite Lesley Player published a
memoir that revealed that not only had he been involved in an extramarital
affair with her, but that it had been with the connivance of the Duchess of
The Establishment cold-shouldered him, neighbours would not entertain him and, after publishing a vainglorious memoir attacking the royal family, he died a lonely rather pathetic figure. Perhaps the truest thing he said was towards the end of his life, telling a journalist: "I am nobody, nobody at all. I just happen to be the father of the Duchess of York. I mean, that doesn't make me terribly important, does it?"
The galloping major's salutary tale is one that is rarely heeded by those family moths who flutter around the flame of fame, a flame that illuminates their lives only through the importance of another family member.
Sibling rivalry is a powerful engine. Take Madonna's sister Paula Ciccone. Always resentful of her sister's success, at her sister's wedding to Sean Penn, Paula burst into the powder room and told the shocked throng: 'This should be my wedding day not hers. I should be the famous one. This should be my career. All the attention should have been mine.' Even Andy Warhol was shocked. 'I can't believe this, ' he said. Years later another Ciccone sibling, Christopher, who had worked with his famous sister on numerous tours, wrote a catty memoir of his relationship with Madonna.
Who knows what undercurrents of jealousy and resentment, which might have remained dormant, have now been aroused by Catherine's meteoric rise to public prominence? How will James and Pippa handle their own proximity to fame, always knowing that it is by default? Always competitive as youngsters how will that manifest itself in the years to come? While Pippa will be seduced with the title of lady in waiting -- and some day a prince of her own, what of James? He seems the most vulnerable to the siren song of fame.
In Britain there is a tabloid reporter known as the Fake Sheik who lures celebrity victims into his net by appealing to their greed, offering lucrative but bogus business deals to those whom he targets. I would wager that even now the Fake Sheik, who has famously exposed, among others, the Duchess of York and Countess of Wessex, is dusting off his robes and dreaming up a scheme to lure in James Middleton.Like other notable historical figures before her, Catherine might eventually find that the enemy is within, not without.