Kate’s brother turns to the Good Life (and breeding spaniels) to find peace: James Middleton tells how he and his wife are restoring a £1.45M Berkshire farmhouse after a decade working in London left him battling depression
James and his French financier wife, Alizee Thevenet, are restoring a £1.45million Berkshire farmhouse, complete with a smallholding.
The move means that the 35-year-old former boss of Boomf, a company that sold personalised marshmallows, is recasting himself as a gentleman farmer – with a sideline in breeding spaniels.
James, left, has sheep, ducks, goats, hens and beehives as well as dogs. The couple plan to become fully self-sustainable – like the characters in TV’s The Good Life.
James Middleton and his wife Alizee are revelling in country life with their four spaniels and one flat coated retriever
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday last week, James said: ‘This morning, I was up at six – vaccinating our flock of Herdwick sheep, which are a wonderful breed from the Lake District but which are known as escape artists! I’m learning as I go.’
James, who, like his sisters Kate and Pippa went to Marlborough College, set up Boomf in 2013 but it went into administration in 2021.
Last year, he spoke candidly about being diagnosed with clinical depression and said that nature had helped to improve his emotional health.
His new property is in Stanford Dingley, near to the village of Bucklebury, where he grew up and where his parents still live.
It’s also near where Pippa and her husband James Matthews recently bought a rundown petting zoo. Kate is believed to be planning to move into the area too, along with Prince William and their three children.
The Duchess of Cambridge carries Princess Charlotte followed by her brother James and sister Pippa for a service at Bucklebury parish church on Christmas Day in 2016
James says: ‘Living in London, you don’t have community. You don’t get to know the things in life that people care about. We are so lucky to live in a small village with 100 people and two pubs. Our house dates back to the 16th Century, so when it’s windy it blows through the drawing room. But that’s the charm.’
James and Alizee – ‘it’s pronounced like Champs-Elysees, it took me a while to get it right!’ – now have six dogs, including Inka ‘the naughty one’, and golden retriever Mabel, his only non-spaniel.
Later this month, they are due to lead a parade of hundreds of dogs at Goodwoof, a new two-day celebration organised by the Duke of Richmond on his Goodwood estate in Sussex (tickets available from the Goodwood website).
It is described as a ‘canine version of the Chelsea Flower Show’. James breeds working spaniels.
Last year he gave a black cocker spaniel to the Duchess of Cambridge after her beloved Lupo – also bred by James – died suddenly at the age of nine.
Last year, James Middleton spoke candidly about being diagnosed with clinical depression and said that nature had helped to improve his emotional health
Middleton pictured with the Duke of Richmond at his Goodwood estate in Sussex
‘Most of the spaniels I breed go to people I know well enough to have a coffee with. I don’t advertise,’ he explains.
‘I always say dogs are a way of life – not an accessory.’ James says he wants more people to be able to bring their dogs to work. ‘I would encourage more offices to take dogs in, or even provide facilities.’
He also believes more shops should allow dogs inside. While he’s speaking about his responsibilities for his animals, the obvious question is whether he and Alizee plan to have children.
James quips that baby goats are the only kids in the farmhouse nursery for now, but adds: ‘I think children are inevitably going to be our next direction and we’re both very keen and happy to let nature take its course.’
For the moment, though, James is busy tending his animals. The latest addition was a clutch of hen chicks and next he must prepare his dogs to join him as the face of Goodwoof, especially naughty Inka.