Bucklebury is about as quaint as it gets. The Berkshire, U.K., village boasts charming 18th-century Georgian brick homes, historic churches and rolling pastures. “It’s often voted one of the best places to live in the county,” a source says of Kate Middleton’s hometown, which is about 45 minutes west of her current residence, Windsor’s Adelaide Cottage. “Only about 2,000 people live there, so it’s a pretty tight-knit community..”

Which makes what’s been happening there even more jarring. In mid-October, a series of posters targeting Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, and their former family business, Party Pieces, reportedly began appearing on trees and lampposts around the village. Kate’s brother, James, was allegedly seen tearing down the posters, which angrily accused the Middletons of not paying their Party Pieces debts. “This is a crisis for the Middleton family,” says the source, “and Kate is caught in the middle of it all.”

Every family member of the family contributed to Party Pieces’ success. The Middletons grew the company, founded in 1987 when Carole saw a gap in the market for children’s favors, into a multimillion-dollar venture, and Kate, 41, James, 36, and their sister, Pippa, 40, all worked there at one time or another.

But rising competition and the pandemic caused sales to fall, and Party Pieces crumbled in June — while reportedly still owing more than $3 million to suppliers. “Carole actually sold Party Pieces to someone else before the company went completely under,” says the source, “but it’s believed by those putting up the posters that she’s responsible for the debts.”

Carole and Michael live in a $5.7 million mansion and, of course, their daughter is the Princess of Wales, “so those targeting them are confused as to why Kate’s parents don’t just pay off the alleged debts,” says the source, who adds Carole, 68, and Michael, 74, “are a little shocked by how nasty these attacks are. It’s very disturbing, because they live there, along with James and Pippa, and are spotted around town all the time. Plus, Kate, Prince William and the kids visit frequently.”

Inside Kate Middleton’s Family ‘Crisis’ After Their Company Went Under: ‘Shocked’
Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

In fact, the princess dined with her parents in the local pub just a month before the posters went up. Luckily, the majority of the people of Bucklebury are behind the Middletons, “who have brought nothing but good fortune to this little area of the country,” says the source. “People are proud that this is the hometown of the future queen of England. Most of the folks are confident that if Carole and Michael do owe a debt, they will pay it off sooner rather than later.”

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