The news is bleak. The farce of social media has never been more grating to me. But at least one pure corner of the Internet remains: James Middleton’s Instagram. James, younger brother of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Pippa, is like the lone human actor in a live-action Disney film in which the animals can talk. At his family’s manor in Bucklebury, a rural village in the south of England, where he’s been staying during the pandemic, Middleton is often surrounded by a cuddly coterie of at least nine dogs (twelve on the day he bid goodbye to a litter of puppies); chicks lolling atop those dogs; his partially blind rescue lamb, Captain; and, according to one very wholesome caption, a “rabbit called Pretzel.”
Like a virtual trip to Soho Farmhouse, Middleton’s page is awash in golden light, golden retrievers, and wide-wale corduroy. His Lark-filtered British countryside porn is second to none. He carts bales of hay, bee-keeps as a form of meditation, and deftly uses “lamb” as a verb (i.e. “impromptu lambing”). He drives his dogs around in a bicycle-cum-canine-limo, which was stolen in 2019 but, mercifully, found. His pups recently had a dinner party that looks more refined than any I’ve attended in ages.
Unlike the rest of Instagram, Middleton’s feed actually lowers my blood pressure and thaws my hardened heart. His highlighted Stories, with titles like “More Dogs,” are the stuff of dreams. This week, he thanked his cocker spaniel Ella (mother of Kate and Prince William’s late Lupo) for introducing him to his fiancée, the French financier Alizee Thevenet. In a banner moment for Middleton’s IG, he once captured Thevenet walking about in a bikini and wellies, as one does. (And when he briefly broke from puppy content to post the couple’s yachting jaunt to Italy in September, it looked like an outtake from The Talented Mr. Ripley, before things got deranged.) The vibe and general joy of Middleton’s Instagram has been aptly summarized by a commenter on another post: “Wow!! What a cute dog. By the way you look gorgeous.”
Like Kate, Middleton is an advocate for mental health who has been open about his own struggles. He credits Ella as a source of support in his battles with clinical depression, and the inspiration for his “happiness & wellbeing company for dogs,” Ella & Co. (Middleton is also the creator of Boomf, a personalized marshmallow company.) “My dogs played a vital role in my recovery,” he has written.
But his feed is impressively devoid of royal news and/or thirst as it relates to his siblings, his brother-in-law Prince William, or his nieces and nephews. In March 2019, Middleton posted from Buckingham Palace—but not about his famous family. More characteristically, the focus was on his beloved dog Mabel.