News, Culture & Society

James Middleton, 31, lends a hand to his pregnant sister as he removes a tree

The Duchess of Cambridge’s brother might be struggling to keep his loss-making marshmallow business, Boomf, afloat, but at least he can fall back on manual labour.

In a scruffy T-shirt, jeans and brown boots, 31-year-old James Middleton  lent a helping hand to pregnant Pippa, 34, at the weekend by removing a tree from her £17 million Chelsea home.

Pertinently, perhaps, Pippa’s husband, the hedge-fund manager James Matthews, handed over almost £100,000 to prop up Boomf last year. Is amiable James returning the favour?

James Middleton is spotted getting getting his hands dirty as he helps gardeners remove a tree from Pippa’s home

James (far right) and three others carry a tree out of Pippa's £17million Chelsea home

James (far right) and three others carry a tree out of Pippa’s £17million Chelsea home

Mellor’s fury at developers over smashed porcelain pugs

Former Tory Cabinet minister David Mellor is known for giving as good as he gets, as at least one taxi driver can attest.

But the Classic FM presenter is now involved in his most abrasive battle yet, over the fate of the historic home he shares with his long-term companion Penny, Viscountess Cobham.

American private equity group Blackstone owns St Katharine Docks near Tower Bridge, where Mellor, 69, lives with Lady Cobham, 64, in the magnificent Dockmaster’s House.

Blackstone decided to carry out renovations to the Eighties block next door, Devon House, which have allegedly caused damage to Mellor’s home, including smashing exquisite 18th-century porcelain ornaments.

‘In hammering away at the linked walls, three porcelain pug dogs, dating from the beginning of English porcelain, fell off a shelf, which wasn’t even on the boundary wall,’ Mellor tells me. ‘Two were smashed.’

David Mellor with his partner Penelope Cobham pictured at Buckingham Palace in 2014

David Mellor with his partner Penelope Cobham pictured at Buckingham Palace in 2014

The couple’s remaining belongings are now being put into storage.

‘They’re turning our house into a warehouse, denuded of its content,’ says Mellor, who has lived there for 23 years. ‘These people have no finer instincts. They have no values beyond money-grubbing and treat anyone who gets in their way with contempt.’

Blackstone’s billionaire co-founder and chief executive, Stephen Schwarzman, trousered a scarcely credible £572.4 million last year alone.

His company tried to sell St Katharine Docks for £435 million in 2017, three years after acquiring it for £185 million. When the re-sale proved beyond even Blackstone, it decided to renovate Devon House.

Blackstone’s engineers said the two properties were not joined. However, the couple have reports showing that 12 steel tie-bars run the width of their home, attaching it to Devon House.

This failed to convince Blackstone, as Mellor explains: ‘They did exploratory work, which they now ludicrously say we asked them to do. We didn’t; we told them there were tie-bars and they refused to believe us.’

Blackstone will say only: ‘David Mellor has the right to claim against the insurance which is in place.’

Perhaps Schwarzman could rummage through his loose change for some compensation? 

Prince Harry’s fellow Old Etonian Alexander Gilkes cut a solitary figure at the Royal Wedding.

He may have decided not to take his girlfriend, the Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, because of her intense off-court rivalry with fellow tennis star Serena Williams, who was there as a friend of Meghan Markle.

He may also have not wanted her to meet his ex-wife, fashion designer Misha Nonoo, another pal of Meghan.

I hear that Gilkes, 38, tried to make amends at the weekend by whisking Maria, 31, off to Paris, where they visited the Picasso Museum and sipped cocktails at The Ritz. 

Even Chelsea flowers are not immune to the rising tide of lawlessness in the capital.

Acclaimed shoe designer Emma Hope won gold in the Chelsea in Bloom competition, held to coincide with the flower show, but the plants were stolen from outside her shop in Sloane Square. ‘This year’s theme was love,’ she tells me. ‘We turned up on Sunday and the display had been knocked down and the plants taken — white irises and roses called Rhapsody in Blue.’