Kate Middleton's younger brother asked the financial analyst to marry him in the Lake District last month

By Stephanie Petit
October 14, 2019 12:19 PM

James Middleton has credited his dogs with helping him battle depression — and now he can thank his cocker spaniel Ella for leading him straight to the woman he will soon marry!

Kate Middleton‘s 32-year-old brother, who recently announced his engagement to Alizee Thevenet, revealed the details of how they crossed paths for the first time in a candid interview. According to The Telegraph, James’ beloved dog approached Alizee in the South Kensington Club, where they were both having meetings, in the summer of 2018.

James asked the 29-year-old financial analyst — who is trilingual and grew up in Germany, Indonesia, Chile, France, Belgium and England — to marry him in the Lake District last month. It was the location of one of their first getaways as a couple — and a place where the Middleton family vacationed when James, Kate and Pippa were growing up. (Kate even wrote a note that was posted during the Chelsea Flower Show that said it was a place she loved to go “boulder hopping” when she was a child.)

James Middleton/Instagram

One day after news of their engagement first broke, James confirmed the couple’s happy news on Instagram.

“❤️She said OUI ❤️,” he wrote alongside a smiling photo of the pair taken in the Lake District. “Our secret is out but we couldn’t be happier to share the news.”

James Middleton and Ella
James Shaw/Shutterstock

In his interview with The Telegraph, James said he “couldn’t do anything” before he began seeking treatment for depression a little over a year ago.

“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t read a book, I couldn’t watch a film, I couldn’t eat,” he recalled, noting that he also found it difficult to talk to his family.

“The fact is, no matter what experience someone has, your family members are the hardest people [to talk to]… You also have a very different way of interacting with your family than you do with your friends.” he said. “I’m the youngest child, so I think that’s normal. And they are so tuned into you that they can see what other people can’t.”

James Middleton
Matthias Nareyek/Getty

RELATED: James Middleton Thanks His Dog for Getting Him Through ‘Insufferable Darkness’ on Mental Health Day

After visiting a private psychiatric hospital for a consultation, James spent almost a year in cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes attending sessions with his family, including Kate.

“That was so important because that helped them understand me and how my mind was working. And I think the way the therapy helped me was that I didn’t need my family to say, ‘What can we do?’ The only thing they could do was just come to some of the therapy sessions to start to understand,” he explained.

While James went on to add that he’s “conscious that I have not got rid” of his depression, he’s “very pleased that I went through it, because of who I am on the other side.”

Pippa, James and Kate Middleton
Samir Hussein/WireImage

In an op-ed for the Daily Mail published early this year, James first opened up about his battle with depression, recounting his darkest moments before seeking treatment a little over a year ago. He also credited his dogs with providing emotional support.

“I recognize, too, the role my dogs — Ella, Inca, Luna, Zulu and Mabel — have played in my recovery,” he wrote.

“Ella, particularly, has been my constant companion for ten years and she’s been with me to all my therapy sessions. In her own particular way, she has kept me going,” he continued. “As a result, Ella and I now volunteer with the Pets As Therapy charity and Ella is a fully-fledged therapy dog for PAT.”

James later revealed his reason for speaking out about his experience is to help change the stigma associated with mental illness.

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James again recognized Ella last week in honor of World Mental Health Day, the global initiative to spread awareness and stop the stigma surrounding mental issues.

“This is Ella & these are the eyes which helped me get through the insufferable darkness 🐾 👁 ,” he captioned the photo. “The gentle touch of your wet nose and a loving lick was enough to make me feel brave. I will forever be in your debt. Thank you Ella 🐾 ❤️”

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