Kate Middleton reportedly “let her hair down” at a music festival last weekend, enjoying dinner and sipping margaritas with her country friends, the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, who have long been the objects of fascination in royal circles and among royal followers because of the longstanding but unsubstantiated rumor that Prince William and the marchioness once became too friendly, or even had an affair.
Photos emerged this week on social media of the Princess of Wales in a rare private moment at the Houghton Festival, which was staged on the grounds of the Cholmondeleys’ 1,000-acre estate in Norfolk. Kate and William have an estate nearby.
Royal watchers no doubt enjoyed seeing the usually polished princess in this unguarded moment, drinking what appears to be a cocktail and dressed casually in black jeans and sneakers. There also were reports that she tipped waitstaff nearly $900, as her friends also poured out tastes of a high-end French rose wine, the Daily Mail said.
< Middleton was visiting longtime pals David Cholmondeley & Rose Hanbury — the woman Prince William was accused of having an affair with several years ago — at their home when they suggested heading over to the music festival > #Rave #BottomsUp https://t.co/eAfJx0r6hb
— Baroness Bruck (@BaronessBruck) August 16, 2023
“(Catherine) was in high spirits, ordering spicy margaritas, eating affogato (an Italian coffee-based dessert), and speaking affably with the other members of her party,” the Daily Mail columnist Richard Eden reported.
Princess of Wales sipped spicy margaritas with Rose Cholmondeley before her party ‘left £700 tip’ at music festival she attended with her Norfolk neighbours. #royal Via @DailyMailUKhttps://t.co/Zmg0eqfH7c
— Richard Eden (@richardaeden) August 15, 2023
Eden reported that Kate’s companions at the three-day festival included the Cholmondeleys, who were hosting the event on their property. The princess had earlier dined with the glamorous marchioness, a former “bohemian” model better known as Rose Hanbury, and her 62-year-old husband, David Rocksavage, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley.
“After dinner, one of the guests suggested that Catherine go to the festival,” a source told the Daily Mail. The festival ran 24 hours a day from Thursday to Sunday and involved more than 200 musical acts performing on 13 stages across the Cholmondeleys’ property, the Daily Mail reported.
“Catherine was nervous about the idea, but, after much discussion with her protection officers, she went with lots of security,” a source told the Daily Mail.
Kate’s presence at the Cholmondeley estate will no doubt raise eyebrows for reasons other than the $900 tip she left. For one thing, William wasn’t there, and Kensington Palace had no comment on why he was not, the Daily Mail said.
But supporters of Kate and William could say that her dinner with the couple proves again there was never any truth to the cheating rumors.
The rumors began to emerge on social media and in a few U.K. and U.S. publications in the winter and spring of 2019. The rumors became known as “the turnip drama” on social media because William, Kate and the Cholmondeleys were part of a posh social circle, based in rural Norfolk, that was charmingly dubbed “the turnip toffs.”
The rumors also began percolating at a tricky time for the royal family. That’s when tensions began to boil over between William and his estranged brother, Prince Harry, as Harry himself recounted in his best-selling memoir “Spare.”
Reports have also suggested that the rumors played a role in William and Harry’s falling out. As the turnip drama gained traction, Harry’s American wife, Meghan Markle, had become a regular target of reports in the U.K. tabloid that she was too “demanding,” or the cause of tensions between her and Kate or between her husband and William.
Loyal supporters of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who now live in California, accused palace courtiers of planting negative stories about Meghan in order to distract attention from William’s alleged bad behavior. On the other hand, apparent fans of William and Kate accused the Sussex supporters of pushing rumors that William had an affair in 2018, while Kate was pregnant with their third child, Prince Louis, to deflect negative attention away from Meghan.
In response to Harry’s book, Tom Bower, author of “Revenge,” an unauthorized critical biography of Meghan, alleged that William had become “incandescent” with rage because the American former TV actor had “seized” on the affair rumors and were using them to “needle” Kate.
In an interview with Megyn Kelly in January, Bower said he never believed the affair rumors were true, “but it was huge gossip in London at the time.”
“At the time and apparently, allegedly, Meghan had raised that with Kate to needle her and that was part of the reason why William was so incandescent with rage,” Bower said. “His wife was being asked by Meghan what it was like to be betrayed by (him).”
Questions about Kate and William’s relationship with the Cholmondeleys popped up again ahead of King Charles III’s coronation. In March, Charles named Rocksavage his “Lord-in-waiting,” a prestigious position that means that the British peer — and presumably his wife — woild attend important state and royal events, including Charles’ May 6 coronation. Going forward, the couple also will be called upon to represent the king on various occasions
As Eden reported in March, Rocksavage, who’s also a filmmaker and a descendent of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain, was previously the “Lord Great Chamberlain” until the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September. He was then replaced, Eden said, making it appear that “he was losing his intimate connection with the monarchy.”
But Rocksavage’s appointment as Lord-in-waiting was expected to mean that he and his wife would return “to the heart of the royal court,” Eden said. William and Kate were “likely to be pleased” with the appointment because of their long friendship.