Meghan Markle returns from maternity leave today, as she unveils her new charity fashion collection in collaboration with Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Jigsaw. However, it is not the first time that Jigsaw has been linked with a high-profile royal name. The future Duchess of Cambridge worked for the womenswear chain as an assistant buyer before her engagement to Prince William for just under a year from November 2006.
The clothing chain is owned by Belle and John Robinson, friends of the Middleton family who lent Kate and Prince William their villa on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique in the early days of their romance.
However, according to royal author Katie Nicholl in her 2010 book “William and Harry”, Kate suffered some embarrassment when people were “mean” to her in the workplace.
Ms Nicholl writes: “At Jigsaw Kate was allowed to work a four-day week, which enabled her to enjoy long weekends with William.
“It was perfect for her but less ideal for some of her colleagues.”
Kate’s friend Emma Sayle told the author: “Kate told me that some of the people she worked with were mean to her and made her sweep the floors after a fashion shoot.
“Kate stuck it out though and she loved the job.
“She always said she had great fun travelling to fairs across the country, where she would hunt for ideas and inspiration.”
Biographer Marcia Moody, in her 2013 book “Kate”, adds: “Kate co-designed a charm necklace while she was there – a fine silver chain hung with a silver bean, rose quartz crystal and pink freshwater pearl.
“The necklaces sold for £55 each, and were created with jewellery designer Claudia Bradby.
“She was the wife of ITV political correspondent Tom Bradby, who had struck up a friendship with Prince William when he filmed him during his gap year and who later conducted Kate and William’s engagement interview.”
The author adds: “She needed to be careful though – while she was in a relationship with William she couldn’t be seen to be using her royal connections to further her career, and so she had to choose well.
“So Kate was treading lightly while trying out the fashion industry as a possible career.”
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Jigsaw owner Belle Robinson told the Evening Standard at the time: “People assumed it was a mercy act on our part, but Kate’s a bright girl.
“She set up the website for her parent’s business so we thought those skills would be useful.”
Ms Nicholl also explains: “The Middletons were good friends of John and Belle Robinson, who own the successful company, and William and Kate had been guests at their luxury holiday home in Mustique that Easter.
“The Robinsons had waived the £8,000-a-week rent after William complained that they could not afford to holiday on the exclusive Caribbean island.
“Instead, he made a donation to a hospital in St Vincent, and in return the pair enjoyed the run of the hillside house which has an infinity pool overlooking the sweeping white sands of Macaroni Beach.”
However, Kate’s exotic holidaying and lack of full-time work attracted criticism, and the attention of the Queen.
Ms Nicholl writes how, by 2008: “If [Kate] was not with William at Balmoral then the couple were skiing or holidaying on Mustique.
“Kate was there so often the press dubbed her ‘Queen of Mustique’, a title that had previously belonged to Princess Margaret.
“The Queen is the hardest-working royal, despite her age, and that a future member of the family was without a full-time job was unacceptable to her.
“While the rest of the world speculated that an engagement was on the horizon for William and Kate, the Queen believed an announcement should be postponed until Kate was settled in a career.”
A source told the author: “It is Her Majesty’s opinion that if Kate is one day going to be William’s consort, then she needs a proper job.
“Swanning from one five-star holiday resort to another is not the prerequisite for a young woman possibly destined to be Queen.”
Ms Nicholl adds: “Kate was stung by the Queen’s criticism.”
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