Inside William’s special bond with ‘second mum’ Carole Middleton, built on ‘tennis, TV and cheese on toast’ at her Bucklebury safe haven – and the loving family normality he and brother Harry so craved

When Carole Middleton’s heel got stuck in the grass at Royal Ascot yesterday, it was fitting that it was her beloved son-in-law who came to the rescue.

Prince William offered a helping hand to ‘second mum’ Carole as she steadied herself before the pair chatted jovially among other guests.

The natural moment, caught in a charming set of photographs, was a touching reminder of the close bond that the Prince has forged with the Middletons – and in particular, matriarch Carole.

She has fondly watched him blossom from the young, occasionally hot-headed Prince to the loyal husband, father and King-in-waiting he is today. 

In what was her first public appearance since her daughter Kate’s cancer diagnosis, Carole was at Ascot yesterday with her husband Michael.

With the Princess of Wales absent as she continues treatment, William’s closeness to his in-laws was on full display.

The Prince of Wales is said to have ‘adopted’ the Middleton family soon after he started dating Kate in the early 2000s – and Carole is now an indispensable part of the Wales’ close-knit family unit. 

She enjoys making Prince William his favourite snack of cheese on toast and stocks up on the sea salt chocolates that he likes. 

Carole Middleton grabs hold of son-in-law Prince William’s hand as she gets her heel stuck in the grass at Royal Ascot yesterday

Carole holds onto Prince William for support as she chats to him and husband Michael at Royal Ascot yesterday

Carole holds onto Prince William for support as she chats to him and husband Michael at Royal Ascot yesterday

This is evidenced by how she made herself constantly available to the family when Kate was expecting Princess Charlotte.  

She spent many days living with them at Anmer Hall – their home on the Sandringham estate that they swapped for Adelaide Cottage in Windssor in 2022. 

Carole sourced the fabrics and wallpapers for the family’s nursery and would make William his favourite snack of cheese on toast, which he would eat in front of the television.

She also stocked up on the Prince’s favourite sea salt chocolates. 

According to one source, Kate and William formed an ‘insular unit’ with Carole and her husband Michael.

They added: ‘You could say that Kate and William, unlike most couples with a set of in-laws, feel most at their ease and happiest with her parents around. Tensions dissipate and there’s a party atmosphere.’ 

When Kate felt ill and exhausted through her pregnancy, it was her mother that she relied on for support.

Carole was also said to help William decide what he should wear to engagements.

Another source said of William’s love for Carole: ‘He is in thrall to her capabilities, her tenacity, high-energy levels, her superb organisational skills and her networking.’

‘She above anyone else knows what makes Kate happy, what type of staff she will gel with, and understands her overriding need for loyalty and privacy. Carole leaves nothing to chance.’

William's closeness to Carole was evidenced by the fact that she joined Kate when she made her first official public appearance at William's passing-out parade at Sandhurst in 2007

William’s closeness to Carole was evidenced by the fact that she joined Kate when she made her first official public appearance at William’s passing-out parade at Sandhurst in 2007

Kate and Prince William wave to crowds from the Buckingham Palace balcony on their wedding day, as Carole Middleton beams next to them

Kate and Prince William wave to crowds from the Buckingham Palace balcony on their wedding day, as Carole Middleton beams next to them

William with Kate, her brother James and mother Carole on a chair lift during a skiing holiday in 2012

William with Kate, her brother James and mother Carole on a chair lift during a skiing holiday in 2012

Kate walks in between her mother and father at William's passing-out parade at Sandringham in 2007

Kate walks in between her mother and father at William’s passing-out parade at Sandringham in 2007

William and Kate walk past Carole and Michael Middleton and Kate's siblings Pippa and James at the Christmas carol service inside Westminster Abbey, 2021

William and Kate walk past Carole and Michael Middleton and Kate’s siblings Pippa and James at the Christmas carol service inside Westminster Abbey, 2021

Carole and Michael seen before they make a statement on the engagement of their daughter Kate to Prince William, 2010

Carole and Michael seen before they make a statement on the engagement of their daughter Kate to Prince William, 2010

Writing in her 2022 book The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor – the Truth and the Turmoil, royal commentator Tina Brown described how William ‘adopted’ the Middleton family after just a year of dating Kate.

One acquaintance told Brown: ‘Not only did he fall for her but them. A warm nest with a complete nuclear family and seemingly wonderfully uncomplicated.

‘The dad played the dad, the mum the county’s tiger mum, but he also saw the daughters and James getting along – and wanting to get along – with their parents. What a contrast.’

William, who had a choice of palaces to spend weekends, enjoyed nothing more than ‘tennis, TV and Carole’s creature comforts at the Middleton manse’, Brown said.

The Prince’s love for the whole Middleton family was evidenced by his decision in 2011 to spend Christmas at their mansion in Bucklebury, West Berkshire, rather than with the Royal Family. 

William was such a regular guest at the Middletons’ home that he transferred his quadbike there from Highgrove. 

He also joined the family on their holidays, including to the island of Mustique, which was once a favourite of Princess Margaret.

And his closeness to Carole was evidenced by the fact that she joined Kate when she made her first official public appearance at William’s passing-out parade at Sandhurst in 2007. 

Michael meanwhile became like a ‘surrogate father’, according to Brown.

An acquaintance said: ‘If your own father is always hosting dinner parties for fifty on Catherine the Great china or whatever, it’s not very relaxing. 

‘Whereas the Middletons were like a pipe and slippers, with the wireless on, which is slightly the sort of William and Kate world.’ 

Carole and Michael have also formed a very tight bond with their grandchildren.

They were the first members of the family to visit Prince George when he was born in 2013 and have been a constant presence in his life ever since.  

A month after the young royal’s birth, Michael volunteered to take the first picture of his new grandson so that William and Kate would not have to bring in an external photographer.

In 2014, Carole joined William and Kate on their tour of Australia and New Zealand so she could help look after George alongside the couple’s nanny, Maria Borrallo.   

And the Middletons’ mansion in Bucklebury is just a 45-minute drive away from Adelaide Cottage.

It means Carole and Michael are on hand to help raise the Wales children. 

Whilst King Charles and Camilla are close to George, his maternal grandparents have more time on their hands for obvious reasons. 

After Kate’s cancer diagnosis earlier this year, it was the continued support of Carole and Michael that allowed William to continue undertaking some royal duties – even as his father the King also battles the disease. 

In April, William was spotted at a Norfolk pub with his mother-in-law. It was another sign of how close they are. 

During the Easter school holidays, Carole again stayed with the Wales’, according to the Mail’s Richard Eden.

Carole had her very own Cinderella moment as she lost her heel, but luckily she had a charming prince on hand

Carole had her very own Cinderella moment as she lost her heel, but luckily she had a charming prince on hand

Prince William, Sir Francis Brooke and Carole Middleton smile as they attend day two of Royal Ascot 2024

Prince William, Sir Francis Brooke and Carole Middleton smile as they attend day two of Royal Ascot 2024

Carole holds onto William's hand

Carole Middleton speaks with Prince William, Prince of Wales as they attend day two of Royal Ascot

Carole Middleton speaks with Prince William as they attend day two of Royal Ascot

Prince William deep in conversation with Carole Middleton and Zara Tindall at Royal Ascot today

Prince William deep in conversation with Carole Middleton and Zara Tindall at Royal Ascot today

Carole seen at Royal Ascot yesterday, as Prince William laughs behind her

Carole seen at Royal Ascot yesterday, as Prince William laughs behind her

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, previously said: ‘Carole and Michael are just as much family to William as they are to Catherine.

‘He loves Carole being around to help as she has been with the children from the beginning and it is easy and reassuring having her invaluable help.

‘Both with the children and keeping Catherine’s spirits up. She is a strong woman!’

Yesterday, after William helped his mother-in-law prise her heel out of the grass, the pair walked off together to join other guests.

The Prince of Wales was later spotted deep in jovial conversation with Carole, Michael and Zara Tindall.

William arrived at Royal Ascot alongside Queen Camilla in what was a rare joint outing for the pair at a social occasion.

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