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Aristocratic roots of Peter Phillips’ NHS nurse girlfriend revealed

2024-06-24 HaiPress

Peter Phillips and Harriet Sperling at Royal Ascot

Credit: Shutterstock

Peter Phillips looked proud as punch as he posed with Harriet Sperling,his new girlfriend,at Royal Ascot on Friday.

It was the couple’s most high-profile outing to date after they embarked on a relationship just weeks after Mr Phillips,46,separated from Lindsay Wallace,his partner of three years.

The couple were first pictured together at the Badminton Horse Trials in May and a friend of Mr Phillips,the King’s nephew,told The Telegraph on Saturday that they were “enjoying each other’s company and spending time together like any normal couple”. They are said to be “taking it one step at a time”.

Ms Sperling,44,is an NHS paediatric nurse and freelance writer who has recently written about her struggles as a single mother.

However,The Telegraph can now reveal she is related,through marriage,to the Duke of Gloucester and also,via Dorothy Courage,her paternal great-grandmother,to the Courage brewing dynasty.

Her great-great-uncle owned Edgcote Manor,perhaps most recognisable as Charles Bingley’s Netherfield Park in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Ms Sperling was born Harriet Eleanor Sanders in 1980,the third of four children.

Nine years earlier,in 1971,Mary Hoskins,her mother,posed as one of Country Life magazine’s “girls in pearls”,a feature originally created as a means of introducing young women into society and portraying members of the aristocracy.

The portrait marked her engagement to solicitor Rupert Sanders,the son of Major Geoffrey Sanders and Eleanor Sanders. Major Sanders served as High Sheriff of Gloucestershire.

Harriet Sanders' mother,Mary,featured in Country Life to mark her marriage to Rupert Sanders

Eleanor Sanders,in turn,was the daughter of Dorothy Courage,Ms Sperling’s great-grandmother,whose brother was Raymond Courage,Lord of the Manor of Edgcote in Northamptonshire.

The 18th century estate,which was once owned by Anne of Cleves,wife of Henry VIII,was used by the BBC for the exterior scenes of Netherfield Park.

The Courage family lived there from the 1920s until 2005,when it was sold for £30 million by Christopher Courage,61,scion of the brewing dynasty,who was born there and had lived there all his life. He is Ms Sperling’s second cousin once-removed.

Edgcote Manor in Northamptonshire,owned by Ms Sperling's great-great uncle,was used as Netherfield Park in the BBC's 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice

Credit: Adrian Sherratt /Alamy

Her father,Mr Sanders,who died last year,was invited to the 1969 marriage of his first cousin,Timothy de Zoete,to Moyra Dawnay,Princess Alice’s niece,at St Margaret’s Church,next to Westminster Abbey.

Moyra is the daughter of Angela Dawnay,younger sister of Princess Alice,the late Duchess of Gloucester.

The Duchess was among the wedding guests alongside her husband,Prince Henry,the late Duke of Gloucester.

Moyra de Zoete and the current Duke of Gloucester are first cousins.

When Prince Henry,son of George V,married Princess Alice in November 1935,the bridal party posed for photographs in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace.

Standing proudly between the bride and Edward VIII is Angela Dawnay,Timothy de Zoete’s mother-in-law.

They are joined by,among others,the late Queen,then Princess Elizabeth,Princess Margaret and their father,George VI.

Ms Sperling’s aristocratic links will certainly stand her in good stead when mixing with the Royal family.

Pictures show that she has already met the Queen and appears to be on good terms with Mr Phillips’ two daughters,Savannah,13,and Isla,12,who he shares with his former wife,Autumn Kelly. They divorced in June 2021.

Australian historian Michael Reed said that members of the Royal family were far more likely to date members of the aristocracy than “more ordinary” people,despite initial appearances.

The King and Queen speak to Mr Phillips and Ms Sperling at the race meeting

Credit: Jason Dawson/JASONPIX

“The Princess of Wales’ great-grandmother,Olive Middleton,was close to her second cousin,Baroness Airedale,and was photographed in 1927 walking with other dignitaries alongside Princess Mary – the [late] Queen’s aunt,” he said.

“Princess Eugenie’s husband – Jack Brooksbank – once thought of as a simple barman,is in fact the great-grandson of Sir Jack Spencer Coke,an Extra Gentleman Usher to the Queen. And,of course,Jack himself is “In Remainder” to the Brooksbank baronetcy. Even Princess Beatrice’s husband has his own “old-school” Italian title. You can call him Count Edorardo Mapelli Mozzi.”

In March,Ms Sperling wrote about her experience as a single mother for Woman Alive,a Christian women’s magazine.

“In the earlier years of my journey as a single mother to my daughter,resources were scarce and the future was uncertain,” she wrote,using her maiden name,Harriet Sanders.

“Yet,in the absence of material security,I discovered the strength and life that comes from true selfless love. A love that is able to be solely devoted to your child.”

If they wed,it is thought Ms Sperling would be the first NHS nurse to marry into the Royal family.

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