By CATHERINE OSTLER
Friends in high places: Pippa Middleton with George Percy in Madrid. Percy is heir to Alnwick Castle
The mini-breaks to European capitals, the days out at swanky tennis tournaments — it’s classic 20-something just-split-up-from-my-partner behaviour.
Now that Pippa Middleton has parted from her banker boyfriend, handsome former cricketer Alex Loudon, the arduous task of consoling Her Royal Hotness appears to have fallen to an extremely eligible young bachelor: one George Percy.
There he is, blond and slightly dishevelled, pushing her luggage trolley as they head off to Madrid with friends; rowing her around a lake; laughing at her jokes at a café and accompanying her to nightclubs.
And again: Pippa Middleton watches the men's singles at The Queen's Club in West Kensington with Earl Percy
There he is again, by her side in London, emerging from a French restaurant near Sloane Square after a three-hour dinner, and taking her back to his flat until 2am; the next day he’s sitting next to her in the stands at The Queen’s Club in West Kensington, watching the tennis, wearing matching shades.
Pippa’s ex-flatmate from Edinburgh (she also resided with Ted Innes Ker, the son of the Duke of Roxburghe) has definitely made himself available for play dates recently, even though he is supposedly busy establishing himself as an entrepreneur.
The word is that they are still ‘just good friends’, although we could all forgive Alex Loudon for finding it deeply irritating that it just happens to be posh Percy who has stepped into the breach.
The ex: Pippa Middleton has parted from her banker boyfriend Alex Loudon, right, and is getting closer to 'Prince of the North' Earl Percy, left
How intriguing it would be if it turned into something more, and Michael and Carole Middleton of Bucklebury, Berks, had a double duchess situation on their hands.
George Percy, you see, is Earl Percy, heir to one of the richest and grandest dukedoms in the land, the Duchy of Northumberland.
The ancient pile he will inherit, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, has been perching on the Border in some form for more than 1,000 years.
The castle, home to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, is known as the ‘Windsor of the North’ and the family are regarded locally in Border country as their royalty.
Nice pad: The ancient pile Earl Percy will inherit, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, has been perching on the Border in some form for more than 1,000 years
No wonder young Earl Percy’s nickname is ‘the Prince of the North’. As a catch, in some ways, he eclipses even Prince William, offering magnificence and history — wealth (estimated at around £300 million; the truth is such estates are priceless) and land (more than 100,000 acres and 100 tenanted farms, as well as an estate in Surrey and Syon Park, in London) without the public responsibilities that go with being a royal.
And as well as enjoying his princely inheritance, he has the freedom to pursue the life of any go-getting young Sloane. That currently means founding an alternative energy company.
The young Earl Percy, 27, is not your average young toff, by any means. Though his family are renowned for their love of sport — father Ralph is said to be ‘obsessed’ with shooting, and Ralph’s younger brother Lord James Percy has designed shooting kit for Barbour — Percy himself has global ambitions.
Alnwick Castle is second only to Windsor Castle, pictured, in being the oldest inhabited castle in England
‘Clever, quite serious, hard-working,’ was the description of one friend.
Certainly, his track record shows no dilettantism. After Eton, he read Geography at Edinburgh, where he met and lived with Pippa.
He was part of what was known as ‘the Castle Crew’; an expensively-educated set of swishy-haired girls and robust young men who spent their weekends at country houses around Edinburgh, rather than going down to London. ‘They were more clean-cut than the hedonistic London lot, though still fun-loving. They liked shooting, drinking, games and outdoorsy life,’ says an Edinburgh contemporary.
Some of the girls were uncharitably known as ‘Brown Sign Hunters’, referring to the brown signs that point to Britain’s statelies.
Last month Pippa Middleton holidayed with George Percy and friends, pictured, in Madrid
Of all the Castle Crew invitations, the most sought after was Percy’s, to Alnwick in the Borders: an hour-and-a-half away from Edinburgh and, fittingly, second only to Windsor Castle in being the oldest inhabited castle in England.
It just so happens that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are visiting next Wednesday for a party in the grounds held by the Duchess, Jane, the county’s Lord Lieutenant.
After graduating — Percy specialised in sustainable development and renewable energy — he showed the scale of his ambitions; after going to the University of Damascus in Syria to study Arabic, Percy went to work on an oil research project in Abu Dhabi.
It was here that he came across his unlikely future business partner, Algy Cluff.
More than 40 years his senior, he is a man with a history in mining and once owned The Spectator.
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