If authorities want to prosecute, Pippa could be called as a witness
It happened hours after she attended decadent 18th century-style party
By Rebecca English
Only hours after a debauched aristocratic bash, Pippa Middleton was at the centre of controversy as she was photographed with a man brandishing a gun on the streets of Paris.
Prince William’s new sister-in-law, dubbed Her Royal Hotness after her appearance at his wedding, is expected to be questioned by police after her companion pointed the realistic-looking weapon at a photographer who was following them.
It is not clear whether the pistol was real or a fake, but the French authorities are investigating the incident after receiving a complaint from a member of the public at a time when the capital is on high alert after a string of fatal shootings.
If they prosecute, the sister of the future Queen is likely to be called as a witness. The crime itself carries a maximum seven-year jail sentence.
Either way, the situation has the potential to cause acute embarrassment to the Royal Family as the Queen prepares to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.
The incident occurred hours after Pippa, 28, was guest of honour at a decadent 18th century-themed party thrown by her close friend, the French aristocrat and designer Vicomte Arthur de Soultrait, on Friday.
The licentious bash at one of Paris’s hottest nightspots saw costume-clad socialites greeted by three dwarves lounging on a sofa for their ‘entertainment’.
It concluded with a stripper bursting out of a giant birthday cake before disrobing to a remix of God Save The Queen.
A smiling Pippa, in a scarlet corseted dress, even posed for photos perched on the side of a gilded throne – shipped in for the occasion – next to the vicomte, who wore a studded dog collar and chain.
But onlookers said she still managed to cause a stir and was constantly surrounded by ‘a gaggle of hangers-on, like a swarm of bees’, and had her own bodyguard who ‘watched her constantly’.
The party was, by all accounts, filled with ‘feathers, baubles, jewels and privileged youngsters’. Some 300 guests including the cream of French, American, Latin American and English society had been invited to the bash, which was entitled ‘Le Roi est Mort, Vive le Vicomte’ (the king is dead, long live the vicomte).
‘We don’t take ourselves too seriously,’ said the vicomte’s brother, Marcy.
Arthur went further, boasting: ‘I love decadence. Today we’re going to have fun.’
Champagne flowed and revellers posed suggestively in revealing outfits and cavorted with the dwarves in the dimly lit room, draped with red velvet curtains.
The ‘highlight’ was the sight of a brunette stripper bursting out of a birthday cake and entertaining the guests, including Pippa, to a risque burlesque show which culminated in her striking her metal chastity belt with an electric angle grinder, showering the audience in sparks.
When midnight struck, the vicomte was given a Cartier watch as a present, before joking that he hoped to get a Rolex for his 40th.
The self-confessed party animal is one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in France and runs the upmarket Vicomte A clothing range. It is famed for its eye-wateringly bright preppy style clothing, such as polo shirts.
WHO IS VICOMTE DE SOULTRAIT?
A self-confessed party animal, Vicomte de Soultrait was – despite his supposed ‘mortificaton’ – yesterday still boasting to friends that ‘any party where Pippa is goes with a swing’.
So who is the French aristocrat that has got the Duchess of Cambridge’s younger sister in such hot water?
In fact, he is one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in France and runs the upmarket Vicomte A clothing range, which had a turnover of around £10million in 2010.
Arthur went into business while doing an internship in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2004, and began selling ties imported from Italy door-to-door.
Among the lucrative contracts he has picked up in recent years is a contract to supply ties to the French Olympic team – but his firm is as famed for its eye-wateringly bright preppy style clothing, such as polo shirts, which are immensely popular in France and Palm Beach.
They can be best described as a cross between Ralph Lauren and Gap – but very much targeted at wealthy young people like himself.
Hailing from a wealthy Burgundian family who have an estate in the region as well as a stunning chateau on the outskirts of Paris – to which Pippa is a frequent visitor – de Soultrait is a fanatically keen huntsman whose passion for anything connected with bloodsports is matched only by his love for the high life.
He plays polo to a high standard and has even been photographed with the Queen.
It is clear that his long-standing friendship with Pippa is now, given her sister’s marriage, one he prizes even more highly.
Yesterday, a spokesman for his company insisted that the furor was a storm in a teacup. ‘It was not a real gun. It was just a stupid joke,’ they were reported to have said.
Hailing from a Burgundian family who have an estate in the region and a stunning chateau on the outskirts of Paris – to which Pippa is a frequent visitor – de Soultrait is a keen huntsman whose passion for bloodsports is matched only by his love of the high life.
He plays polo and has been photographed with the Queen.
After the birthday bash, Pippa was among partygoers driven to the trendy Raspoutine bar. According to sources, the high-spirited group did not arrive back at the vicomte’s apartment in the expensive Rue de Varenne until 6am on Saturday.
Following a few hours of sleep, Pippa and her friends emerged in time for a late brunch nearby.
Afterwards she was driven to the Gard du Nord to catch the Eurostar home in a black Audi A5 convertible with red leather seats.
De Soultrait wore a baseball cap and sat in the back with an unidentified male friend, while Pippa hopped in the front and chatted with the mystery driver. It was on the journey to the station, at around 2pm, that the man spotted a photographer pulling up behind him on a moped in stationary traffic.
As his friends – including Pippa – smirked, the driver reached into his glove box and pulled out the weapon before aiming it directly at the photographer.
It is not clear whether the pistol was real or a fake – but his actions constitute an offence under French law either way. A judicial source said: ‘Anybody involved in the illegal use of a handgun in public is liable to arrest and interrogation.’
If the gun was real, those involved in the incident face up to seven years in prison. If it is a fake, they could be jailed for two years.
Sources indicated that the weapon looked similar to a Sig Sauer P226, used by numerous law enforcement and military organizations worldwide as well as by personal bodyguards.
France is on a heightened security alert after Islamic terrorist Mohammed Merah shot dead seven people in the south-west of the country last month.
And two men were arrested in Paris at the weekend in connection with four murders carried out with a pistol over the past five months. If the French authorities decide to question Pippa, the episode could turn into a major incident.
Diplomatic sources in the city said the ‘phones from London were already red hot about Pippa’s involvement’. ‘There is anger in London in royal circles that she has been dragged into this when she was just a passenger in the car,’ said one.
At least one witness has made a formal complaint to police. This is not believed to be the photographer concerned, who is still considering his options.
The complaint has been handed to the judicial police who are conducting a preliminary investigation before deciding whether to alert an examining magistrate.
St James’s Palace declined to comment while the Middleton family solicitor failed to respond to repeated requests for a comment.
Sources close to the Vicomte de Soultrait said he was ‘mortified’ and was ‘preparing to explain’ to the authorities what had happened.
Friends refused to the name the driver who brandished the gun but said he was ‘keeping a low profile and hoping everything will calm down’.