Very few people will ever get close to royalty. I did.
On my kitchen wall is the thick white cardboard invitation, engraved in gold, from the Master of the Household, inviting me to drinks aboard the Britannia, then the Queen’s personal yacht.
I spent two exhausting, fun, disorienting weeks following Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip around New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba as they toured Canada. I was then a young reporter for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national daily newspaper of record, and being assigned to cover a Royal Tour was the most impossible of assignments.
It meant producing front-page copy every single day on tight deadlines about….nothing! What the Queen wore. Where she walked during their walkabouts. The ribbons she cut on a highway to open it officially.
We were actually handed a small slip of paper every morning with the words we were to use to describe the Queen’s outfit that day, like “eau de Nil” (water of the Nile)….not light green!
The press pack was enormous and, on that trip for the first time, literally penned into a small enclosed space whenever the Queen actually did something, to make sure we would not disturb the event.
It was the most wearying but cool two weeks of my life as a reporter. My glimpse beneath those ermine robes, as it were, included:
the “purple corridor”, the airspace one must leave behind the Royals’ jet after it takes off;
The Detective, the small, short, quiet, totally nondescript man in a cardigan I met at the final party who is the Queen’s personal bodyguard;
her sparkling, glittering OMG-they’re-real jewels, from her baby-fist-sized emerald pin to her tiara;
the little semi-circles we were all formed into — like mini artificial harbors — when we were finally introduced to her at the Britannia reception.
So….what’s she like?
Frosty as hell to me, my dears. I’d written a few front page stories about her during the tour that she didn’t care for.
“It’s a pity we haven’t had time to read the papers,” she told me.
Right. Like a President or Prime Minister, she is presented daily with coverage, and the Globe’s would have been top of the pile.
The strangest part of my time around the Royal Family was finally realizing, which you can only see close up, how stage-managed their lives are.
While they’re warm and friendly when they choose, they are utterly unlike the rest of us, even the wealthiest and most poweful.
The Royal Family owe allegiance to no one: no boss, no political party, no donors, no fund-raisers or investors. They have courtiers and castles. The live in a protected, gilded, scrutinized bubble.
One afternoon, desperate for any scrap or detail my many competitors on the tour might not find, I peered into the car that was being used to transport the couple.
A small suitcase sat in the back seat with a large bright red paper tag attached that no one else could possibly claim.
One day, it will be Kate’s.