Why Royal Critics Call Kate & Pippa Middleton The Wisteria Sisters

Kate and Pippa Middleton have achieved celebrity status thanks to Kate's marriage to Prince William, which vaulted her into the royal family. Because the Middletons come from a middle-class background and ascended to the highest ranks of British society, critics have often referred to Kate and Pippa as the "wisteria sisters," an allusion to the climbing shrub. While Kate and Pippa lacked for nothing growing up thanks to their parents Michael and Carole Middleton running a multi-million dollar business, the Middletons were self-made.

Carole, who can trace her roots back to the coal-mining communities of northeast England, worked as a British Airways flight attendant when she met Michael — something Prince William's friends incessantly mocked. "William's friends, I hate to say it, would whisper rather snidely when Kate would turn up at Boujis which is the nightclub that they used to go to in West London: 'doors to manual,'" royal author Katie Nicholl said on Vanity Fair's "DYNASTY" podcast in 2022, referring to the aviation jargon (via Express).

William's friends also had a nickname for his future bride: "Kate middle class," Nicholl said, adding that they referred to her family as the "en masse Middletons." While William's inner circle looked down on the Middletons, other Brits took issue with the reporting on her background. "They write about her like she's from the ghetto," comedian Jack Whitehall said on "The Graham Norton Show." The sisters reportedly didn't mind. They had bigger fish to fry.

Pippa Middleton was just as ambitious as Kate

Kate Middleton's efforts to place herself in Prince William's path have been a matter of tabloid speculation. She abandoned her plans to attend the University of Edinburgh and applied to St. Andrews University, the same school as William. Kate also took a gap year that coincidentally put the two in the same graduating class. "Here is a very strategic lady who knows what she wants and has got it," author Robert Lacey told Elle in 2020. Pippa Middleton was equally careful about curating the company she kept.

"As soon as Pippa arrived at Edinburgh, she was assiduous about joining the right social circle," a source told The Scotsman in 2008. "She was very charming about it, but quite ruthless in cultivating the 'right' friends." The media rarely missed a chance to call Kate and Pippa the wisteria sisters to describe their accomplishments. That's the moniker the Daily Mail used when Pippa snagged the top spot on Tatler's list of Britain's most eligible singleton in 2008, beating the likes of Princess Eugenie.

While Kate was the one who married into royalty, Pippa was more ambitious. "Kate was always quite jealous of Pippa. I sensed that she feared being eclipsed by her," a family friend told The Scotsman. In some regards, she did. Thanks to her marriage to billionaire race car driver James Matthews, Pippa Middleton is more wealthy than Kate by quite a bit. If social climbing is what the sisters were after, they accomplished it. 

Do Kate and Pippa's social-climbing skills come from Carole Middleton?

Kate and Pippa Middleton might have their mother to thank for rising to the top echelons of British society. Carole Middleton has put a lot of energy into improving her social status. "She's anxious to better herself and to make sure she is financially secure — you only get that when you're born with nothing. She is ambitious, very ambitious for her family. And why not?" a family member told the Daily Mail in 2011.

In fact, Carole Middleton reportedly plotted Kate's marriage to Prince William, a supposition that made its way to the small screen. "The Crown" suggests Carole is the one who convinced Kate to switch to the University of St. Andrew and wait a year so she would be in the same class as William. While the Netflix hit show about the royal family is fiction, many royal experts have painted Kate's mother in that light. "Carole calculatingly placed Kate right at the center of young Prince William's world," Omid Scobie wrote in his 2023 book "Endgame," (via Marie Claire).

Carole supposedly had big plans for Pippa as well, with some arguing that she used Pippa's role as a bridesmaid in Kate and William's wedding to draw attention to her youngest daughter. "[Carole] then [paid] the tabloids to write all those lies about the butt," a social media user wrote on X, previously known as Twitter, referring to the media's coverage of Pippa's curve-hugging dress and the fake bum rumors. The infamous scandal nearly overshadowed Kate's wedding, but it also cemented Pippa's place as a tabloid fixture.