There were mixed emotions in the family home this Christmas for James Middleton and his wife Alizée Thevenet. Be warned – Princess Kate’s brother’s festive message will pull on your heartstrings – and possibly bring a tear to your eye – especially if you’re a dog owner like myself. Tissues ready!
The new dad – who welcomed baby son Inigo in October – shared a picture on Instagram of the angel atop his Christmas tree – not a figure with wings, but a snap of his beloved dog Ella, who passed away in January.
“The angel on our tree watching over us,” he wrote in the caption. “My first Christmas in 16 years without Ella but our first with Inigo. Happy Christmas from my family to yours.”
James was absolutely devastated when his Spaniel Ella died at the start of 2023. The sweet dog was his canine companion for 15 years – he loved her so much that he named his pet food company after her and he also credits the pooch for introducing him and his wife.
“It is with great sadness that I announce my dear Ella has passed away,” James wrote in an announcement post at the time: “For 15 years Ella has been at my side, from my darkest days to my happiest. I’m going to miss her terribly.”
“Ella had a very short illness, she slipped away in my arms at home and is now buried in the garden alongside [the late family dog] Tilly,” he continued. “I took this picture just a few hours before she died,” he said, referencing two lovely black-and-white photos snapped at the rustic countryside home in Berkshire
“I’m just about holding it together to write this, and despite the fact I knew this day was coming, it doesn’t make it any easier,” James wrote. “Goodnight my darling Ella, [my wife] Alizee and the dogs will take good care of me.”
Although the year started on a sad note, 2023 brought an abundance of happiness for the couple with the birth of Inigo. At the end of October James announced the arrival of his first son, writing: “No matter how prepared I thought I was…I was not prepared for the overwhelming emotion of meeting Inigo for the first time and the love for my darling Alizée as we became three.”
“We have settled into our new life as parents and I’ve told him all about Ella and that if it wasn’t for her he wouldn’t be here today and that we miss her greatly. The dogs have been fantastic at welcoming their little brother into the pack.”
And just how did Ella play Cupid? James recounted the story in 2021. “The two of us were at the South Kensington Club in Chelsea,” he wrote. “Ella was lying at my feet under the table; realising she might want some water, I trusted her to take herself to the water bowl across the terrace. However, she made a beeline for Alizee. Rather embarrassed, I went over to apologize and bring Ella back.”
According to the story, Alizee thought James was a server and ordered a drink while petting Ella.
“Little did I know, I had just met my future wife, all thanks to Ella,” he said. “If I hadn’t trusted Ella, I wouldn’t have brought her to the South Kensington Club and she wouldn’t have been able to say hi to the woman who became my fiancée.”
The couple own six other dogs – Zulu, Inka, Luna, Mabel, Nala, and Isla. But Ella was the first dog James owned in adulthood and he credits her as his strength while struggling with depression.
“I got this diagnosis and Ella came to all of my therapy sessions, which I was reluctant to go from the start,” he said at the time. “But with her by my side, I really became confident in understanding that I had a mental illness.”
“I would go so far as to say that I owe Ella my life, and she doesn’t know that,” he added, speaking on BBC’s Sunday Morning Live in 2020.