RICHARD KAY: As inquest hears shotgun was found near body of Lady Gabriella Windsor’s dashing husband Thomas, heartbroken friends are still reeling in disbelief

They left the church arm in arm, their smiles radiating affection and warmth: the bride in a stylish Italian couture dress hugging her slender figure and the handsome groom unleashing that devastating grin that made him a ‘debs delight’ in the social circuit .

Standing on the steps of St George’s Chapel, acknowledging a crowd of cheering well-wishers and on the cusp of life together, Lady Gabriella Windsor and her new husband Thomas Kingston seemed blissfully happy.

“She was very beautiful and he looked proud,” one guest recalled. ‘They had that steady look of utter satisfaction. My wife whispered to me, “This is a couple that will never be separated.”’

No one could imagine that, twelve weeks before their fifth wedding anniversary, Tom would pick up a family gun and remove himself from her side forever.

Yesterday an inquest heard how the 45-year-old son-in-law of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent was found dead next to the gun with a catastrophic head wound in an outbuilding in the grounds of his parents’ £3million mansion. Kemble, Gloucestershire.

Lady Gabriella Windsor and her new husband Thomas Kingston seemed blissfully happy on their wedding day in May 2019

Details of the final hours leading up to last Sunday’s devastating tragedy were vague and almost mundane. He had lunched with his parents, Martin and Jill, at the family home, a 15-minute drive from Highgrove House, King Charles’ rural retreat.

After lunch, Tom’s lawyer father had taken the family dogs for a walk. When he returned to the house, where the couple had lived since 1996, his son was no longer there.

About thirty minutes passed and his mother went outside to look for him. Shortly afterwards, her husband, unable to answer, forced open the locked door of an outbuilding.

Inside he found their son with a fatal injury.

No other parties were believed to be involved. Gloucestershire Police previously said officers were called to the scene by an ambulance crew just before 6.30pm. According to a post-mortem, the cause of death was confirmed to be a traumatic wound to the head.

Opening the inquest, which lasted just five minutes, Katy Skerrett, Gloucester’s senior coroner, limited her comments to the briefest possible outline of what had happened. “Mr Kingston,” she said, “was visiting his parents in the Cotswolds. His father went to walk the dogs.

Lady Gabriella Windsor with husband Tom Kingston two months after their wedding in 2019

Lady Gabriella Windsor with husband Tom Kingston two months after their wedding in 2019

“On his return, Mr. Kingston was not in the house. His father forced entry into a locked outbuilding, but there was no response. He found Mr Kingston deceased with catastrophic head injuries. A firearm was present at the scene. Emergency services were called. The police are convinced that the death is not suspicious.’

What exactly drove this apparently happy man to an act of desperation in the prime of his life with an adoring wife is now likely to be the subject of intense investigation.

Outwardly, Tom Kingston seemed to have it all. Marriage to one of the ‘nicest’ members of the royal family, a wide circle of friends and a thriving financial investment company. He was a man for whom a life of bright promise from childhood was marked by relaxed cheerfulness and reassuring convention. And someone who, according to acquaintances, sought nothing more than comfortable domestic fulfillment.

Although they had no children, married life clearly agreed with him. He had lived through the goldfish bowl existence that permeates all royal marriages, no matter how far away from the throne they were. And he had done it with aplomb.

Lady Gabriella – Ella to her family and friends – is not in the line of succession to the Crown, but as the daughter of the colorful Princess Michael, she was often the center of unwanted attention. To her great credit, she always handled it with an easy smile.

The couple did not live extravagant lives and were not targeted by the paparazzi.

In many ways, their simple approach – their home is a modest flat in fashionable Notting Hill that they had recently put on the market in anticipation of a move to a larger location – would serve as a valuable life lesson for some of Ella’s royal cousins.

It earned them a place at the royal top table – guests of the King and Queen at their Ascot house party last summer and countless other A-list gatherings.

Indeed, it was significant that the King paused his cancer treatment not only to pay a moving tribute after Tom’s death, but also to instruct Buckingham Palace staff to provide support not only to Prince and Princess Michael, but also to the affected Kingston family. This was unusual because the Kents are not royals. But it also reflects the popularity of Ella and Tom.

His death has shocked a royal family already struggling with a host of domestic problems, including the illnesses of Charles and the Princess of Wales, testing their ability to carry out their normal duties.

Ella loved being married and being “Mrs. Kingston,” even though she technically still has her title and is officially Lady Gabriella Kingston.

Tom laughs with Queen Camilla at Royal Ascot last summer

Tom laughs with Queen Camilla at Royal Ascot last summer

At weekends the couple could often be seen at the Notting Hill farmers’ market, holding hands and browsing the trendy shops along Holland Park Avenue.

When Tom and Ella got engaged, old friends of the Bristol University economics graduate said he punched above his weight as he married into Princess Pushy’s exalted circle.

With equal good humor he repeated that she was the lucky one to join the Kingston clan.

Both had a ‘past’ of course, but nothing too controversial – although Ella did find herself in the spotlight when an ex-boyfriend wrote an indiscreet article about her mother, the royal family and racism.

The truth is that Tom, who spent several dangerous years working on hostage negotiations in war-torn Iraq, had had a string of hot girlfriends before he met Ella. He was one of those handsome figures about whom friends loved to tell tall tales of amorous adventures.

But not all of them were tall. Women were attracted to his languid confidence, while men were jealous of his effortless success with the opposite sex.

Indeed, he has attracted some of the most beautiful young women around the sets of Prince William and Prince Harry.

They included Pippa Middleton, sister of the Princess of Wales, now married to hedge fund director James Matthews – although he denied they were romantically linked – financier Louisa Strutt and Natalie Hicks-Lobbecke, an old flame of Prince William with whom Tom was in a relationship when he was working. Iraq.

He and ‘Nats’ met when they were both studying at Bristol University.

As a close friend said admiringly, “Tom’s great achievement is that none of his old girlfriends have anything but nice things to say about him. Even when it’s all over, they still like him.”

When Tom got married, a friend of Tom’s said to me, “He’s exactly the kind of man you want to introduce to your mother.”

But there was another side to the Gatsby-like figure who always showed up at society weddings on the arm of a beautiful girl. He had a deep and abiding Christian faith. And it was this spiritual element that armed him during the three years he spent in Baghdad, at the height of that country’s post-war violence.

There he worked with Canon Andrew White, the so-called Anglican minister of Baghdad who described him as a ‘fearless’ and ‘exceptional young man’, and who affectionately called Tom ‘Abouna’, Arabic for priest.

The two had numerous brushes with death, most notably when a suicide bomber struck White’s church in 2004, claiming 22 lives.

“Tom was with me in Iraq during the most dangerous days of the war,” White said this week.

“One of the first things I taught him was, ‘Remember, we’re not being careful, we’re taking risks. The next thing to remember is that in peacemaking we don’t make peace with the good guys, we only make peace with the really bad guys.” Tom learned that very quickly and he did the same with me.

“One day he came back from visiting a group of ayatollahs I had sent him to and said, ‘It’s no use, Abouna, they were all good guys.’ He certainly got the message that he could only make peace with the bad guys.”

Memories of that time came back to Canon White when he was one of the guests at Tom and Ella’s wedding. There he was able to talk to his protégé’s new father-in-law, Prince Michael, about a mission the two had completed for him in Israel, long before Ella was a glint in Tom’s eye.

The prince, whose mother’s family came from Greece, had buried a relative near the Mount of Olives, but did not know where. The priest and his assistant not only found the unkempt grave, but also cleaned it up.

Back in Britain, Tom meanwhile entered the financial world, first at Schroders, the blue-blooded asset management company, and later joining Devonport Capital in 2017 as one of two directors. Devonport offers short-term loans to companies operating in developing countries. and has offices in St James’s a stone’s throw from Clarence House.

His wedding day at St George’s Chapel was a great social occasion. The Queen and Prince Philip led the guests.

It had been almost a year since Prince Harry married Meghan Markle at the same location, but that and sunshine were the only things they had in common.

“She was such a sweet bride, who fussed over the bridesmaids and page boys, and he was so attentive too,” one guest recalled. “Of course it helped that they both had dazzling smiles on their faces.”

From the chapel, buses took guests to Frogmore House for the reception, where the couple posed for their wedding photos.

In the gloomy months ahead, they will forever remain a reminder of those happiest days.

Additional reporting: Simon Trump