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The Princess of Wales stepped back in time this afternoon as she visited a Leeds textile mill that was once owned by her ancestors.
Rolling back the centuries on her lineage, the royal learned more about how she’s a direct descendant – on her father Michael Middleton’s side – of one of the great dynasties of the Yorkshire textile industry.
In 1773, Arthur Lupton set up a small textile firm that would transform the later Middleton family’s fortunes. The Luptons became respected wool barons who enjoyed all the trappings of high society.
However, cast a glance over to the maternal side of Kate’s family and the path to Kensington Palace is a more chequered one; with the Goldsmiths anything but assured of financial security.
Indeed, just 80 years ago Kate’s great-grandmother Edith Goldsmith was struggling to make ends meet in a condemned flat on the outskirts of London. That she’d have a great-granddaughter who might one day be destined for the throne, as King William’s queen, would have seemed the stuff of idle daydreams.
Here, FEMAIL reveals how the Princess of Wales’ family tree shows ancestry that has experienced both sides of the coin of fortune. While the Middletons grew their family textile business into a booming trade – and even mixed with royalty – decades before Kate met William, the resilient Goldsmith family endured a trickier path…
Perhaps it should come as no surprise given her reputation as one of the most stylish women in the world, but the Princess of Wales can trace back her roots to one of the great dynasties of Yorkshire textile manufacturing – but Kate Middleton’s family tree isn’t completely gilded, with stories of poverty and hardship on her maternal side
The Princess of Wales visited AW Hainsworth textiles manufacturer in Leeds on Tuesday to learn more about the heritage, history and innovation of the industry
Kate’s paternal ancestors, who owned William Lupton and Co wool mill, sold their business to AW Hainsworth in 1958
THE GOLDSMITHS: RESOURCEFUL MATRIARCHS WITH AMBITION
On the Princess of Wales’ maternal side, poverty and hardship in the Durham coalfields, as well as in the working-class suburbs of London, feature in Kate’s family history in a way that royal fans might not have expected.
It’s well documented that Kate’s mother Carole made sure her three children had the best possible start in life, setting up her own party business while pregnant with her third child James.
She got her drive and ambition from her own mother, Dorothy Goldsmith, who set her family on the road from poverty to prosperity – earning the affectionate nickname ‘Lady Dorothy’ along the way.
Heritage: Carole Middleton, Catherine’s mother, gave birth to her eldest daughter in January 1982; she came from a long line of matriarchs
Upwardly mobile: Carole and husband Michael Middleton, pictured arriving at St Mary’s Hospital in 2013 to visit their daughter after the birth of her first child, Prince George
Dorothy Goldsmith, Carole Middleton’s mother, is pictured here at the christening of her granddaughter. Aspiring women feature on both sides of Kate’s family
Kate’s indomitable great-grandmother Edith Goldsmith was another who held her family together in difficult times, struggling to make ends meet as a widowed mother of six. But she instilled in her children a resourcefulness and drive for self-improvement.
Edith was a tough woman, who smoked 20 Woodbines a day and brought up six children in Southall, then a working-class suburb for railway depot workers in west London.
Widowed in 1938, Edith was left to bring up her two youngest children – Joyce, then 13, and Kate’s grandfather Ronald, then six – in a condemned flat. During the day, the youngsters were looked after by their elder sisters, Alice and Ede, while Edith went to work at a nearby Ticklers jam factory.
Alice, who passed away on the Isle of Wight in 2019, lived to be 107.
She left home in 1929 to marry Bill, a haulage driver, but when I spoke to her, still remembers how tough life was for her mother.
‘She had to work hard to bring us all up,’ Alice said. ‘She didn’t like leaving her children but she had no choice. She wasn’t a bad lady but she had a temper. You only had to say one word and she would take her shoes off and throw them at you.
Kate’s maternal grandfather, Ron, pictured here (left ) with family and friends, left school aged 14, like his siblings. Later, he started his own building firm
Kate’s maternal great-grandmother Edith Goldsmith, pictured with dog Bonnie, had struggled to make ends meet as a widowed mother of six, but held the family together
‘She would take the odd swipe at us but woe betide anyone else who said or did anything to hurt us. She liked a drink and smoked but who could blame her with what she had to put up with?’
Alice’s daughter Pat still remembers visiting the flat in Dudley Road, Southall, where Edith and her younger children lived.
‘In the corner of the kitchenette, there was one of those old-fashioned boilers which had a fire underneath to warm the water,’ she recalls.
‘Granny Edith used to put coal in the boiler. All the washing went in there and she used to do the Christmas puddings there as well. She was the star for making Christmas puddings in the whole family. They were beautiful.’
The Middleton family tree: lines of indomitable women run through both sides of Kate’s family
While Edith never escaped her impoverished roots, she instilled in her children a resourcefulness and refusal to be beaten. Like his brothers and sisters, Kate’s grandfather Ron left school aged 14, and later started his own building firm.
He was 22 when he married 18-year-old shop assistant Dorothy Harrison on August 8, 1953, at the Parish Church of Holy Trinity, Southall. They held their modest reception at the local pub, The Hamborough Tavern.
Dorothy always took great of pride in her appearance, but she and Ron were so poor that she had to borrow her going-away outfit from Ron’s sister Joyce. They returned after their honeymoon to Edith’s flat, where Kate’s mother Carole was born in 1955.
However, Dorothy was ambitious. The daughter of a carpenter who had moved his family to London from the Durham coalfields during the Thirties, she became known within the family for her aspirations.
Catherine, Princess of Wales, arrives at the Coronation with daughter, Princess Charlotte, looking every inch the future queen
‘After she and Ronald got married, they lived with Edith until my dad helped them get a deposit for their first home,’ recalls Pat. ‘Dorothy had the biggest Silver Cross pram you’ve ever seen after Carole was born.
‘My grandmother used to grumble about Dorothy because she thought she henpecked her Ronald. She thought Dorothy always wanted more and more money. She wanted to be the top brick in the chimney. You got the feeling that she thought she was too good for the rest of us.’
Ron’s niece Ann Terry got to know Dorothy when they worked together in a jewellery shop. Ann, now 60, says: ‘Dorothy’s father was a dapper little man with a small moustache, who had a smallholding where he kept chickens. His wife Elizabeth was all right, too. They were just ordinary people.
‘But we all thought Dorothy was a bit of a snob. She always wanted to better herself and the whole family used to call her Lady Dorothy.
Pippa Middleton and James Matthews smile as they are joined by Kate after their wedding at St Mark’s Church on May 20, 2017 in Englefield, England
‘Ronald was a very quiet man, but he worshipped her. He would do anything she wanted. I’ve seen her walk into a newly decorated room and say she didn’t like it and he would strip off the wallpaper and start again. She was never satisfied. She always wanted better.’
Over the next decade, Ron and Dorothy moved up the social ladder, as they took advantage of the property boom. In 1966, they moved into their first house, in Kingsbridge Road, Norwood Green, in the smarter end of Southall.
And when Carole married Michael Middleton at St James the Less in Dorney, Buckinghamshire in 1980, it was a very different affair from her mother’s wedding in the local pub. Carole had a beautiful dress, four bridesmaids and a horse and carriage. The reception was held in a local manor house.
It was a grand affair but even ‘Lady Dorothy’ could not have foreseen that her granddaughter would one day go on to marry a Prince and be by his side for a coronation.
Kate: The Making Of A Princess, by Claudia Joseph, is published by Mainstream Books
MONEY IN CLOTH: HOW THE MIDDLETON FAMILY’S EARLY FORTUNE WAS MADE
The Princess of Wales’ visit to the AW Hainsworth textiles manufacturer in Leeds offered her a chance to see how the paternal side of her family made significant money – and a chance to mix in society’s highest circles.
Yorkshire-based William Lupton & Co was founded in 1773 by Arthur Lupton, the youngest son of yeoman farmer William Lupton, who combined cloth-making with farming. By the turn of the century, the family was classified in the Leeds Register as ‘cloth merchants’.
It was then greatly expanded by the Princess’ great-great-great-grandfather, Frank Lupton, a magistrate and philanthropist.
Born in 1813, a century before the war, Frank was a keen businessman, with an eye for a bargain.
It was he who expanded the family firm, William Lupton and Co, buying an old cloth mill and letting it out to weavers who bought their cloth to his warehouse every Friday for him to inspect.
Gradually, he began making fancy tweeds, livery tweeds and police uniform fabrics and bought a finishing plant, which meant he was involved in every stage of the manufacturing process.
Frank and his wife Fanny had five children (their eldest son Francis was Kate’s great-great grandfather) and lived in Beechwood, a sprawling Victorian mansion in the village of Roundhay, seven miles north of Leeds.
Leeds-based William Lupton & Co was founded in 1773 by Arthur Lupton, the youngest son of yeoman farmer William Lupton, who combined cloth-making with farming
The business was then greatly expanded by the Princess’ great-great-great-grandfather, Frank Lupton, a magistrate and philanthropist
Their family seat, Beechwood, a sprawling mansion down a winding carriage lane in the village of Roundhay on the outskirts of Leeds, was only a few miles from the Royal couple’s home on the Harewood estate, where the Middletons were regular guests at musical soirees.
Theirs was an affluent household with six servants. They socialised with the great and good of Leeds and involved themselves in the politics of the day – their son Charles was the first Lupton to go to public school, setting a tradition which would carry right down through the family to Kate, Pippa and James.
As Kate herself, her predecessors were privately educated, married into the aristocracy, attended Coronations and were presented at Court.
The Middletons and Luptons had their portraits painted by society artist Sir Oswald Birley, who also painted the Royal Family, and were among the prominent Leeds families who rode with the Bramham Moor Hunt alongside the Princess and Lord Harewood.
Michael Reed, an Australian historian, said: ‘The parallels between Kate and the earlier Middletons are extraordinary.
Kate’s great-great grandfather Francis, was a Cambridge graduate when he inherited his share – the equivalent of nearly £1.5 million – and devoted himself to work
‘The Middletons lived in an aristocratic world, were privately educated – some even went to Kate’s alma mater, Marlborough College – had cousins who were members of the peerage, lived in grand houses and worked with Royalty on philanthropic causes, much as Kate does today.’
When Frank died of heart disease at the age of 70, in 1884, he left his four sons a staggering £64,650 in his will, the equivalent of £5.7 million today.
His son, Kate’s great-great grandfather Francis, was a Cambridge graduate when he inherited his share – the equivalent of nearly £1.5 million.
Francis became an alderman of the city of Leeds (his three surviving brothers also reached the upper echelons of local society, with one, Hugh, becoming the city’s Lord Mayor).
His wife Harriet, a vicar’s daughter, died of influenza two weeks after the birth of their fifth child, leaving him heartbroken, according to his nephew Charles Athelstane Lupton, who wrote a family history, The Lupton Family in Leeds.
Kate’s great-grandmother Olive grew up to become a renowned society beauty and married one Noel Middleton, a successful solicitor descended from a long legal dynasty, in 1914. He went on to become a director of the textiles mill
‘For many years he never talked about her to the children. He rarely took holidays. It was some 30 years before he would go abroad again.
‘And we remember what a joy such holidays were to him in his young days. He devoted himself to the business and to civic work.’
By 1914 and the start of the Great War, Francis was 65 and his five children were Fran, Maurice, Anne, Lionel and Kate’s great-grandmother Olive, who was 32.
Tragically, his three sons – Fran, Maurice and Lionel – were also all killed during the First World War, leaving their father a broken man, dying of kidney failure at the age of 72.
The three boys were survived by two siblings, Kate’s great-grandmother Olive and her spinster sister Anne. They shared a £70,538 inheritance, the equivalent of £2.65 million today, making them very wealthy women.
Of his surviving daughters, the youngest, Anne, never married, although was awarded a MBE for her work improving housing conditions for the disadvantaged.
His eldest, Olive, grew up to become a renowned society beauty and married one Noel Middleton, a successful solicitor descended from a long legal dynasty, in 1914. He went on to become a director of the textiles mill.
William Lupton and Co wool mill was sold by the family to AW Hainsworth in 1958 – and in a charming touch have supplied the Royal Family for many decades
With her Lupton relatives, they were an integral part of a Royal ‘Yorkshire set’ centred on Princess Mary – sister of both Edward VIII and the Queen’s father George VI – and her husband Henry Lascelles, later the 6th Earl of Harewood.
Later, during the First World War, her house was converted into a Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital run by the Red Cross and the newly married Olive worked there as a nurse with her second cousin Doris, a fellow old Roedeanian.
Meanwhile Olive and her husband Noel had their own social links to Princess Mary. Solicitor Noel co-founded the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, with both the Princess and her son George Lascelles as patrons.
Lascelles married concert pianist Marion Stein, who later married Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe.
Kate’s great-grandmother, Olive, was also on Princess Mary’s fundraising committee for Leeds Infirmary.
Noel gave up his partnership in the legal firm of WH Clarke, Middleton & Co to join his wife’s family business. The couple had four children – Christopher, Anthony, Peter and Margaret.
Kate’s great-grandmother Olive was related by marriage to authors Beatrix Potter, pictured outside her Lakeland farm, Hill Top, and Arthur Ransome, author of the children’s classic Swallows and Amazons
Sadly, Olive died nine years at the age of 55, after she developed peritonitis, an inflammation of abdominal tissue, following a burst appendix. Her son Peter – Kate’s grandfather – was just 16 years old at the time.
But she set up a trust fund of £52,031, the equivalent of £2.9 million for her four children.
Noel died of a heart attack at the age of 72 on July 2, 1951, leaving £19,560, or £1.3million in today’s money. It was split between his four children, who included Kate’s grandfather Peter.
He went on to marry the princess’s grandmother, banker’s daughter Valerie, and they had Kate’s father, Michael.
He became an RAF pilot during the Second World War, and later a commercial pilot, instilling a love of aviation in his son, Michael – Kate’s father. He was born in Leeds in 1949.
William Lupton and Co wool mill was sold by the family to AW Hainsworth in 1958 – and in a charming touch have supplied the Royal Family for many decades.
They even provided Prince William’s uniform cloth for his wedding in 2011 – neatly bringing the remarkable story of his bride’s family full circle.