She arrives in New York City for one day.
We met in the 1980s when she did a tour of Canada. I keep the invitation to drinks aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia framed in my kitchen as an impossibly elegant reminder — “The Master Of The Household Is Commanded By Her Majesty to Invite…”
We were instructed to wear a “lounge suit” and had absolutely no idea what that meant. I wore something dressy and enjoyed the stiffest gins and tonics (not sure of that plural) ever, served by ggggorgeous male equerries, aka royal servants. Such a life!
The press corps, which was huge and international, was formed into small artificial semi-circles, into which HRH was gently steered for our introductions.
I’d written some pretty provocative stuff for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national daily, about her visit and had just spent two grueling weeks of 14-hour days chronicling her every move, gesture and garment. (We were actually issued official clothing descripitions to use, like “eau de nil” [a pale celery green] which would have meant nothing to our readers.)
So, when I met her, she frostily barely acknowledged me — after a warm hello to the Brits she knew — “It’s a pity we haven’t had time to read the newspapers.”
Ba-boom! Talk about dissed. We all knew that of anything the Globe, with my front-page stories, would have been top of the list she was reading.
Spending time around the Queen is like entering a very strange world, especially for a Canadian or anyone living in a Commonwealth country where her face and name are on the coins and were, for years, on the stamps. It’s a little as though George Washington or Hamilton suddenly came to life and was standing right in front of you. And you had to report on him — reverence doesn’t work well on deadline.
The one cardinal rule — you never speak to her first and you never touch her. Which can be very confusing when she is friendly and charming to hordes of strangers who know no such boundaries.
A man accompanies her, unobtrusively, her bodyguard. I met him at the farewell party after our tour and had no idea he had even existed — a small, quiet un-noticeable sort of guy, yet a man who had taken a bullet to the chest while saving the life of Princess Anne.
It was an extraordinary experience to spend so much time around royalty. Her jewels are gob-smackingly large. She is surrounded, as royalty always has been, by a retinue.
My favorite detail, ever? I peeked into the back of the car she had been brought to an event in and saw a suitcase with a large red cardboard tag. It read simply: The Queen.