Time magazine labels Middleton sisters 'avatars of aspiration' in annual list

Duchess of Cambridge and her sister, Pippa Middleton, fly British flag in '100 most influential people in the world' list

Time magazine has long celebrated those people whose influence it deems to be both lasting and laudable in its annual list of the "100 most influential people in the world".

Barack Obama, IMF chief Christine Lagarde and business magnate Warren Buffett are among the "pioneers, moguls, leaders and icons" one might expect to be bestowed with the honour this year.

But while the prime minister, David Cameron, who made the list last year, has been dropped, those flying the British flag can console themselves with two-for-the-price-of-one – the Middleton sisters.

According to the magazine, the Duchess of Cambridge and Pippa Middleton earn their position as "avatars of aspiration" amid a British class system riddled with snobbery.

"To appreciate the remarkable rise of the siblings whose very name, Middleton, seemed to presage an unremarkable life among their fellow commoners, you must first appreciate the forces that keep most Britons in their place," Time magazine's Europe editor, Catherine Mayer, writes of their inclusion.

"Snobbery is one luxury all classes feel able to afford. The man and woman in the UK street are swift to mock the upwardly mobile," the citation continues.

Their entry points to the media's "muttered nasty somethings" about the duchess's ambition to "wed above her station", pointing to her supposed nickname of "Waity Katie" and bracketing her and Pippa, 28, as "the wisteria sisters" determined to climb.

Pippa is now "globally recognised, especially from behind", it states, undoubtedly in reference to the Sarah Burton bridesmaid dress that drew so much comment at her sister's wedding. Incidentally, Burton is also listed. Paparazzi photographs of the two sisters are offered to picture editors regularly.

"These images matter. The Middletons have become avatars of aspiration," it says. Yet they are "latter day Mona Lisas" who "smile mysteriously and keep their mouths closed", it adds.

"In an age of bleating, tweeting, confessional celebrity, the middle-class Middletons show their real class," the magazine continues.

The Time list has been the subject of intense scrutiny since it was first launched in 1999. In 2004 there was controversy at Tony Blair's lack of inclusion.

This year's list also includes the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, as well as the singer Adele and Scottish-born online entrepreneur Pete Cashmore, who created the popular news blog Mashable.

Pippa Middleton has been the subject of intense media comment this week after being photographed in a car in France with a man waving what appeared to be a gun at photographers.

There has been intense speculation over whether it was a real or fake gun, and over whether Middleton would be subjected to questioning by French police.

The barrister who pointed the gun is a senior adviser to the German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch, according to reports that emerged on Wednesday.

Others travelling in the car on Saturday have reportedly described the gun as a "children's toy" and claimed that the incident was a joke.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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