A shoulder to lean on: How Carole Middleton has been a strong support for the Cambridges

By Sarah Trumbley

Carole Middleton, Duchess Kate's age-defying mom, recently rang in her milestone 65th year on Jan. 31. She celebrated the occasion with lots of love and, of course, treats from her own party-supply company.

Surprising their boss with beautiful decorations and a custom cake, the staff of Party Pieces were determined to make this birthday one she would never forget.

"We've set up the office for a very special 65th birthday!" the caption on the company's official Instagram account read as they displayed a cake bearing her photo and two candles – a "6" and a "5."

A shoulder to lean on

Sweet birthday wishes were sure to have been just as plentiful from Carole's loving family members – particularly her husband of almost 40 years, Michael, and her children Kate, Pippa and James, as well as her beloved son-in-law, Prince William, with whom she's always been close.

"Kate's got a very, very close family," William said back in 2010, during the Cambridges' very first interview as an engaged couple. "I get on really well with them, and I'm very lucky that they've been so supportive."

"Mike and Carole have been really loving and caring and welcoming towards me, so I've felt really a part of the family," he continued.

Kate and Princess Charlotte leave church with Carole and Michael on Christmas Day, 2016. Photo: © Anwar Hussein/WireImage

That bond has only deepened over the years, with Carole even stepping in as a mother figure for William – who lost his own mom, Princess Diana, in 1997 when he was just 15 years old.

Royal author Phil Dampier suggests in Britain's The Sun newspaper that the duke's close relationship with his in-laws has "provided a middle-class haven for him" and "helps keep him grounded."

Lately, Phil explains, Carole has been there for William, 37, and Kate, 38, more than ever as they deal with the aftermath of the Sussexes' exit from the Royal Family.

"Now that Harry and Meghan have, in effect, left the Royal Family, there is a lot more pressure on William and Kate," Phil said. "Carole will be a stabilizing and supportive force in the background, looking after the kids when needs be but also just being there for them.

"[She] is very much a power behind the throne and her influence is immense... There will be stressful times ahead, and Kate and William will need the support of Carole and Michael more than ever."

"Like second parents"

Echoing that sentiment, a source close to the family told the same publication that William and Kate had made "quite a few visits to see the Middletons in Berkshire" since the Sussexes left for Canada, and that Carole had spent a lot of time at the couple's country retreat, Anmer Hall, in Norfolk. It's a place where Kate admits she and William can be themselves – "when we are in the countryside with the kids." And for both of them, that sense of ease is felt at her parents' home, too. After all, William has been visiting the Middletons since his university days with Kate.

Carole and Michael at their home in Berkshire just after William and Kate's engagement was announced in 2010. Photo: © STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP via Getty Images

"William's in-laws have become like second parents," said the source. Upset by Harry's decision to leave, "[he] has been leaning on Carole and Michael a lot."

Unbreakable bond

Carole is well-equipped to provide support – in fact, she wouldn't have it any other way. As she said during an interview with the Daily Telegraph in December 2018: "My family are paramount. They come first and that will always be the case."

Carole (second right in the centre row) was joined by James, his girlfriend Alizee Thevenet and Pippa (right) at Wimbledon in 2019. Photo: © Karwai Tang/Getty Images

The loving mother has certainly proven this over the years by being there for William and Kate, during the hard times as well as the happy times – one of the happiest being, of course, the couple's fairytale wedding day on April 29, 2011.

"I was involved lots with pip's and Catherine's wedding," she told the Telegraph, referring to daughters Pippa and Kate. "But I think the most important thing as a parent is to listen to what your daughter wants. You can have all the ideas in the world, but it has to be about them. Like every mother, I wanted to look my best, make my children proud and enjoy the day."

Grandma knows best

Carole is a doting grandmother to William and Kate's three children – Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, 21 months – and has become actively involved in their lives. Very much focused on spending quality time together and making memories, she admitted to the Telegraph, "I love it! I'm definitely hands-on."

After her first grandchild, George, was born, he and Kate stayed at the Middletons' home, Bucklebury Manor. As he grew, Carole happily took on surrogate parenting duties, including taking the tiny heir to the throne to preschool when it was time.

Michael and Carole with Prince George (centre) during the King's Cup Regatta in August 2019. Photo: © Karwai Tang/WireImage

As her family continues to grow and evolve – Kate's younger sister, Pippa, 36, is married with a one-year-old son and brother James, 32, is newly engaged – the proud mother and grandmother is grateful to know that, though tough times are always changing, their family dynamic will stay the same.

"My biggest fear was that I'd lose my family," she told the Telegraph. "But we've stayed close."

And the Cambridges know their children couldn't have better role models as they grow. At the time of their engagement, locals in Berkshire were thrilled.

"They really are lovely people, without airs or graces," said one of the Middleton's neighbours at the time, according to the Telegraph.

"I think Kate is the epitome of a modern princess who lives in the real world," another added to the publication.

She has her mom to thank for that.

This piece was adapted from HELLO! Canadaissue 700.

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