With its range of holistic therapies, the Prince’s Foundation Health and Wellbeing Centre has been hailed as a ‘passion project’ for the Prince of Wales.
Acupuncture, reflexology and hypnotherapy are just some of the treatments on offer at the clinic, which is part of the 2,000-acre estate of Dumfries House, the 18th Century Palladian mansion in Ayrshire saved for the nation and lovingly restored by Prince Charles.
The Wellbeing Centre was dismissed as ‘new age hippy nonsense’ when it first opened 2019. But no longer.
These days it is known as The Royal NHS by grateful GPs, who have praised it for transforming the lives of more than 200 local patients referred for its pioneering approach to obesity, diabetes and infertility.
At the heart of the multi-million-pound project sits the glamorous figure of Taiwanese businesswoman Christine Chiu.
Prince Charles’s Wellbeing Centre was dismissed as ‘hippy nonsense’ when it first opened 2019. But no longer. At the heart of the project sits Taiwanese businesswoman Christine Chiu. Pictured: Christine Chiu with Prince Charles at Dumfries House
The centre, and its undoubted success, would never have been possible without her support, including a vast donation.
Charles appears alongside Christine – and her plunging neckline – in numerous photographs on her popular Instagram account and the warm regard is mutual. As she tells Netflix viewers, the Prince of Wales is a ‘really cool guy’.
But what, you must wonder, does Charles make of his friend’s appearance in the hit Netflix reality show so gaudy that even the title, Bling Empire, does scarce justice to the exuberant vulgarity on display?
A cross between the movie Crazy Rich Asians and the reality series Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Bling Empire revolves around the social lives of a group of extraordinarily wealthy Asians in Hollywood and their jaw-dropping consumption.
And whether she’s wearing Dolce & Gabbana or latex fetish gear, 38-year-old Christine is the breakout star.
Bling Empire revolves around the social lives of a group of extraordinarily wealthy Asians in Hollywood and their jaw-dropping consumption. And whether she’s wearing Dolce & Gabbana or latex fetish gear, 38-year-old Christine Chiu (pictured) is the breakout star
So who are Christine and her 53-year-old husband Dr Gabriel Chiu? The short answer is they are self-made millionaires with a reported £50 million fortune thanks to Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc, one of the biggest clinics in Los Angeles.
Dr Chiu specialises in nose jobs and his trademark ‘Mommy makeover’ (a combination of tummy-tuck and breast lift), procedures unlikely to be offered any time soon at Dumfries House.
When the series was filmed in pre-Covid 2019 (the year Prince Charles’s Scottish Health and Wellbeing Centre opened), Christine revelled in showing off her opulent lifestyle.
It included shutting down the Beverly Hills shopping mecca of Rodeo Drive for a Chinese New Year party which, she quipped, ‘cost more than an average home in the US but less than a rare Bugatti’.
In one episode of Bling Empire, the Chius host a ‘leather party’, called Keep It Tight, to promote their clinic’s new ‘ab and buttocks’ tightening machine.
There’s a Botox bar at the party where Dr Gabriel is injecting guests for free, as well as a curious vibrating device apparently used to strengthen the pelvic floor.
Attired in pink latex with matching gloves and headband, Christine tells her guests that ‘Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery is here to keep you keep it tight. Tight abs, tight butts. Yes, front and backside!’
For the first birthday of her now two-year-old son Gabriel, nicknamed Baby G, she hosted a $1 million party at an LA children’s museum complete with Ferris wheel, carnival games, pony rides, a live band and a fairground-style ‘grab claw’ machine filled with Gucci handbags.
Christine drew gasps from the crowd when she announced that, instead of party bags, the couple would donate a million dollars to the museum to provide free admission to children from poor communities.
And sharp-eyed observers will note that the Dumfries House health centre boasts a plaque in honour of Gabriel Christian Chiu III, their tuxedo-wearing toddler.
Acupuncture, reflexology and hypnotherapy are just some of the treatments on offer at the clinic, which is part of the 2,000-acre estate of Dumfries House (pictured), the 18th Century Palladian mansion in Ayrshire saved for the nation and lovingly restored by Prince Charles
The series features other super-rich members of the Asian ‘bling set’ including Anna Shay (daughter of a defence contractor worth a reported £88 billion); Kane Lim (son of a billionaire Singaporean shipping magnate); and Jaime Xie (whose Silicon Valley father Ken sold his business NetScreen, an anti-hacking system, for £3 billion in 2004).
But it is Christine who steals the show. With her love of outlandish couture and ostentatious displays of wealth, she has become such a sensation that her publicist tells The Mail on Sunday she has been ‘swamped’ with interview requests from all over the globe.
When she makes the social faux pas of wearing a Louis Vuitton diamond and pink sapphire necklace identical to the one worn by her hostess Shay, she is ‘punished’ by being placed in ‘social Siberia’ and bemoans her plight saying: ‘I was seated to the left of Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, why am I all the way down here?’
The daughter of a Taiwanese businessman who came to the US at 18 to attend Pepperdine University in Malibu, Christine brags about her royal connections on screen.
But not, as may be expected, her links to Prince Charles. Instead she tells the viewers her Chinese husband Gabriel is from the 24th generation of the Song Imperial dynasty, which ruled China from 960 to 1279AD.
A woman who went to university with her said: ‘Christine is someone who has always been utterly self-absorbed. Of course, she will put pictures of Prince Charles all over her social media because that scores points in her social circle.
The businesswoman turns heads in 2019 at events including Paris Fashion Week and the Cannes Film Festival
‘But her head isn’t turned by royalty. You have to understand she deals with very wealthy, important people all the time because of the plastic surgery clinic and because of the social circles she moves in.
‘Prince Charles is nowhere near flashy enough for her. People might be surprised to learn she has a direct link to Prince Charles through the holistic clinic, but in Christine’s world Charles is just another brick in the wall she is scaling.
‘She’s the ultimate social climber and now she’s got the money to do it, she’s not holding back.’
While it is not known exactly when she met Prince Charles, the source said: ‘She’s been a supporter of his foundation for years. The foundation actively seeks out rich Americans. And if you give enough you get to sit next to him at dinner. It’s the oldest story in the book. Rich Americans buying their way into society.’
Christine spoke about her ‘fascinating’ experience sitting next to the Prince at a fundraising gala, saying: ‘I was told about ten minutes prior to the dinner that I would be seated next to him, which is such a great honour. But there is a lot of etiquette that goes with it.
Prince Charles donors Dr Gabriel Chiu, Christine Chiu and Bruno Wang ahead of the plaque unveiling to officially open The Dumfries House Health and Wellbeing Centre in 2019
‘So I had to do a crash course of the etiquette rules. There are certain times when he stands up and you have to stand up, or he leaves first. Then you’re supposed to face one way if he faces one way.
It’s a lot to think about when you’re trying to have dinner. He’s incredibly charming and he’s got a wicked sense of humour. He’s a really cool guy.’
In a gushing post on Instagram to celebrate the Prince’s birthday last year, she posted four photographs of herself meeting him (on separate occasions), writing: ‘Happy Birthday HRH Prince Charles! What an honour and pleasure it has been to support your vision and philanthropic efforts.
‘Looking forward to visiting with you and to check on the progress of The Prince’s Foundation Chiu Health and Wellness Programmes and Centre soon.’
There are rare moments in Bling Empire where the socialite’s mask slips and moments of humanity peek through. She describes her son as her ‘miracle baby’, conceived through IVF after ten years of trying.
Christine spoke about her ‘fascinating’ experience sitting next to the Prince at a fundraising gala, saying: ‘I was told about ten minutes prior to the dinner that I would be seated next to him, which is such a great honour’
Later she breaks down and cries as she says she ‘assumed the guilt’ of infertility in the eyes of her husband’s traditional Chinese family even though, in fact, the ‘issue’ lay with him.
The Dumfries House clinic treated more than 200 people in 2019. And although it was forced to close its doors for most of last year because of the pandemic, and remains shut to the public, it has continued to offer virtual health and wellbeing courses.
Just before lockdown in March, a baby was born to a couple who took part in the ‘fertility wellbeing course’ and had struggled for two years to get pregnant. Colin and Stacey Forrest were ‘overjoyed’ to welcome baby Calvin.
Stacey signed up for the centre’s fertility course but admitted: ‘Colin was a bit sceptical. I wanted to try anything by that stage. All tests carried out by the NHS showed that there was apparently nothing wrong with either of us, so everyone kept telling us, “Just be patient, it will happen when it happens.” ’
The couple registered for fertility treatment through the NHS and were on the 18-month waiting list for IUI (intrauterine insemination) when they decided to spend three months of their wait ‘trying something different’.
Stacey, a childminder, said: ‘The course helped me as a person and taught me to be less stressed and just generally to calm down.’
As the first series of Bling Empire ends, Christine is shown arguing with her husband about whether to try for another IVF baby.
As for the Prince of Wales, a spokesman for Clarence House declined to comment but a Palace insider said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that he would watch the show.
A source praised the Chius’ philanthropic contribution to the clinic at Dumfries House, saying that they had been ‘enormously helpful’ when it came to ‘realising the vision’ for the Wellbeing Centre. While it has yet to be announced, sources say that the surprise success of the show makes a second series inevitable.
And, who knows, perhaps viewers will be treated to the sight of Christine visiting ‘her’ Scottish clinic – although how well her Manolo Blahnik stilettos will cope with the damp turf at Dumfries House remains to be seen.
- Additional reporting: Saskia Hume and Patricia Kane