by Justin TALLIS with Robin MILLARD in London, May 19, 2017
(AFP) - Pippa Middleton hit the headlines with a figure-hugging outfit at her sister Kate's wedding to Prince William but now the world-famous bridesmaid is becoming a bride herself.
Once again, all eyes will be on her dress as the 33-year-old marries financier James Matthews on Saturday at a lavish society wedding where William and Kate's children will play starring roles.
The wedding will be a chance for younger royals to come to the fore following the announcement earlier this month that Queen Elizabeth II's 95-year-old husband Prince Philip will retire from public duties later this year.
William's younger brother Prince Harry is expected to attend and a lot of the media attention will be on his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle -- amid widespread speculation that the two could be announcing their own engagement soon.
Harry issued a powerful and rare warning to media outlets last November not to harass his girlfriend, who is expected to come to the reception but not the wedding, where media will be allowed outside.
Three-year-old Prince George, who is third in line to the throne after his father William and his grandfather Prince Charles, will be a page boy at the ceremony while his two-year-old sister Princess Charlotte will be a bridesmaid.
The wedding is taking place in the Berkshire countryside west of London, near the Middleton family home.
It will reportedly feature a flypast by a World War II-era Spitfire plane, a 100,000 pounds ($130,000, 115,000 euro) temporary glass marquee and luxury portable bathrooms with oak fittings.
Pippa Middleton rocketed into the public eye at her sister's wedding in 2011, which had an estimated worldwide television audience of two billion.
Pictures of her wearing her white Alexander McQueen maid of honour's dress filled newspapers for weeks afterwards.
Hundreds of thousands joined the "Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society" on Facebook, which six years on retains nearly 200,000 enthusiastic members.
"It is a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that's the right word) before the age of 30 on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom," she once wrote.
- 'Ferocious ability to climb' -
Pippa is the second of the three Middleton children, a year younger than Kate and four years older than businessman James.
Born on September 6, 1983, Pippa spent her early years in Amman where father Michael Middleton worked with British Airways, before attending a series of top private schools on the family's return to Britain.
She graduated from Edinburgh University with an English literature degree, then became a socialite on London's posh party circuit.
The Middleton girls were dubbed "the Wisteria Sisters": "highly decorative, terribly fragrant and with a ferocious ability to climb", according to the Daily Mail.
When her sister married the future king, Middleton had the prime supporting role, appearing on the Buckingham Palace balcony with the royals.
She initially seemed to enjoy the attention, but was confronted with the flip side of fame when a tabloid newspaper published pictures of her topless on a 2006 family holiday.
She worked part-time for her parents' party paraphernalia business then published a wholesome book on party planning in 2012, reportedly receiving a ?400,000 advance.
- Love for boy racer -
"Celebrate: A Year of British Festivities for Families and Friends" was widely mocked for offering glaringly obvious tips, such as when heating up milk for a latte, "be careful not to let it boil over".
In a children's sack race, "The first person to cross the finish line is declared the winner," it said.
But Middleton insisted she had to cover the basics.
She followed it up with a regular column in a magazine for upmarket British supermarket chain Waitrose.
"'Pippa's Friday Night Feasts', will be an exciting opportunity to share my own passion and enthusiasm for food and entertaining," she said at the time.
Her 2016 healthy recipes charity book "Heartfelt" caused less of a splash than her debut as a writer.
A regular royal box guest at the Wimbledon tennis championships, Middleton remained visible on the social circuit.
She had relationships with former England cricketer Alex Loudon and stockbroker Nico Jackson before falling for Matthews.
The former professional racing driver is the heir to the Scottish title of Laird of Glen Affric. They got engaged on July 17 last year.