Oct 11

On the road with the Queen

Traveling with the Queen is much nicer than with any other members of her family for one very good reason.

In consideration for her age and that of her husband her day doesn’t start until around 10.30 which gives us reporters an extra hour or so in bed.

We really needed it here in Australia as we were all suffering from jet lag when we landed in Canberra last week.

The Queen rarely does more than two engagements a day, although the Duke of Edinburgh despite his 90 years, sometimes does extra jobs.

How do they do it?   I can’t think of many people of their age who are still working full time 20 or so years after the normal retirement age.


Of course, the Queen has lots of staff who sort everything out for her but it can’t be easy to stand for hours in the 27 degree sunshine as she did last Saturday morning at the Duntroon Military Academy, the Australian Sandhurst.

The Queen, dressed in electric blue, presented new colours to the troops after inspecting their ranks in a ceremony which lasted for 90 minutes, during which she stood the whole time.

When that ended she met soldiers and their families in a garden party, once again staying on her feet for almost another hour.  I am always lost in admiration for the Queen when I see her at work like this.

Years of experience have taught her how to cope in a hot climate like Australia’s. I remember her doctor once told me that natural fibres like silk are the key to keeping cool.

She always wears a shady hat too.  But most of all she always wears an old pair of black shoes because they are comfy.

Last Friday night when she attended a reception given by the Welsh-born Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, I noticed the Queen was wearing an ivory pair of shoes to match her ivory jacquard dress and silver lace jacket. It must have taken a lot of persuasion to get her to change her favourite black ones.

 She looked softly pretty and smart as she mingled with the 700 guests at Parliament House, Canberra.

I thought she looked equally elegant on her arrival in Canberra , wearing an aqua Stewart Parvin miltary style coat over a matching dress.

Australian children seem to love the Queen and chat to her at length when presenting bouquets and stuffed toys.  One nine year old boy who met her at the airport told HELLO! ‘She’s just like your Nan. You want to hug her.’

What higher praise could anyone have?

The following evening Aussie surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore, 23, met the Queen at the prime minister’s reception mentioned above. She curtsied and said, ‘Welcome to Australia, Your Majesty, I adore you.’

On hearing this, Prime Minister Julia Gillard turned to the Queen and said, ‘That’s positive reassurance for you.’

The point is that most 23 year old girls in Britain would think it terribly uncool to gush over the Queen like that.  But there is something about the Aussie open character that makes such an affectionate outburst seem rather endearing.

The Queen is really enjoying this trip to Australia, her staff tell me. And I can certainly understand why.

Jul 11


Millions of people dream of becoming Hollywood stars but William and Kate managed it just by turning up over here.

The Dude and his Duchess, as they call them on this side of the Atlantic, are bigger than Justin Bieber, Beyonce and Barbra Streisand combined.

They are home now at the end of what must be the most successful royal tour ever. When it comes to crowd-pleasing the Cambridges really nailed it.

Over the past 30 years I have travelled around the globe countless times with members of the royal family but I have never seen any of them work as hard as the Duchess of Cambridge on her current tour of Canada.

In the scorching sunshine of Ottawa or the swarms of flying insects around the Montreal dockside where they embarked on HMCS Montreal to sail overnight to Quebec, Kate never stopped smiling. And I suspect, at the end of a long, exhausting day, her feet were aching, because I noticed she changed her snakeskin stilettos for a black pair. Yet that perfect smile never slipped.

Even when a 21-gun salute fired to celebrate Canada Day made me jump out of my skin, Kate did not flinch.

For William who usually travels alone on these trips, she is obviously a great support. They have been giggling and chatting together all day every day, as if they just can’t get enough of one another.

So while Kate and William are winning more fans for Britain what is it like to follow them around?

The answer is sheer hard work! Most of us never got a chance to recover from our jet-lag and didn’t get much sleep, as we have had to be up before dawn most days. There were journalists from 13 different countries covering this tour, a total of 1300 reporters, photographers and TV crews in Canada and another 700 in Los Angeles.

And, of course, everyone is scrabbling around trying to get an exclusive.

But the long days and missed meals all seem worth it when you consider there is an upside to all this stressful travelling and hard graft.

When we arrived in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, we attended a reception for the press with Will and Kate which was great fun.

I can’t tell you what the couple said to us because it was all off the record. All I can say is this Duke and Duchess enjoy a laugh and are having a great time on their travels.

The party took place right on the harbourside and as the sun sank into the sea we enjoyed some of the world’s best food. Lobster, unbelievably fresh oysters and wonderful scallops.
Yes, there are compensations in this job.

If you want a fantastic holiday by the sea, go to Prince Edward Island. It’s the place where Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote her children’s classic Anne of Green Gables, a book which Kate says she has loved since the age of eight.

I must applaud Clarence House officials for planning this tour. It has taken the Cambridges from the national capital Ottawa to the French-separatist area of Montreal and Quebec, over to Charlottetown on the Atlantic shore, up to the Arctic wilderness of Yellowknife in the North West Territories and back down to the cowboy country around Calgary. So they got to see the many faces of Canada and the different kinds of people who make up this melting pot of a country.

They also snatched a few brief breaks en route – taking a love boat cruise overnight from Montreal to Quebec, paddling off to a remote island in a beautiful lake, and spending 24 hours in what the Canadians called a ‘love nest‘ in the Rockies.

Then came L.A. where William, who plays this right-handed game despite being left-handed, won the trophy and collected kisses from his missus.  Later, Kate pulled out all the stops to outshine some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Jun 11

Canadian Capers

Here we go again! Just when royal wedding fever was becoming a lovely memory I’m back blogging once more under a new name – Royal Insider.

I’m off this week to Canada to cover the first tour abroad of William and Kate. This definitely will NOT be a summer holiday for the newlyweds.

It’s Kate’s biggest, most daunting official engagement yet. It involves ten days traipsing around the world’s second largest country. They will visit nine different cities, take an overnight journey by boat, and at least eight flights, including a few side trips to country lakes and beauty spots, not to mention shaking thousands and thousands of eager hands.

William has visited Canada twice before so it is Kate who will be under the most intense scrutiny. From the top of her gorgeous, glossy dark head to the soles of her stiletto heels, she will be forensically examined by the crowds. Women will be vying for a close-up on what she wears. Me too.

Kate and William are now such big news on both sides of the Atlantic that they outshine every other hot couple you could name. Forget Brad and Angelina ( Brangelina, as Americans call them) or Posh and Becks. Mr and Mrs Wales, or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they are now officially known, are what one newspaper called a Billion Dollar Brand.

William is a future king and Kate is the world’s new Queen of the Cover Girls. I imagine perma-tanned Cheryl Cole is now turning a deep shade of emerald.

When I recall how quiet and civilised it was following the Queen on her tour of Canada last July, I know this year’s journey is going to be rather different.

I have lost count of the number of royal tours I have covered, probably around 40, since my first in 1983 when when Charles and Diana toured Australia and New Zealand for six exhausting weeks.

We had 100 journalists on that trip. Now an amazing 1300 journalists from around the globe have applied to cover the Cambridges’ Canadian tour plus another 700 are trying to report on the second leg of the trip in California.

Every flight and every hotel along the route was booked out weeks ago, and I know the press pens will be unbelievably crowded with photographers jostling for shots of our beautiful brunette duchess.

The royal Rat Pack on the road is always a bit like Oxford Circus just before Christmas. Snappers laden down with cameras, lenses and tripods, as well as ladders to help them stand above the crowds, rush clanking from place to place, all desperate to secure the best vantage point.

After watching them at work last Saturday when Kate carried out her first military job at Victoria Barracks, Windsor, I have decided to call this gang the Cambridge Circus.

It was her first chance to show her serious side, to pay tribute to the heroes of the Irish Guards and their families who have made such sacrifices in Afghanistan for us all. Kate rose to the occasion, as outstanding as the round tower at nearby Windsor Castle.

I was impressed as she slowly shook the hands of 60 servicemen in the Ist Bn of the Irish Guards,and presented medals. She made a real effort to give each one a few special minutes, asking about the Afghan tour and the hazards of life in the frontline.

This girl has got IT, a natural knack for charming everyone she meets.

When she crouched down to take a bouquet from a little girl and bent over to chat to a guardsman who lost his legs in an explosion, I was reminded of Princess Diana’s gentle touch.

In fact, Diana wore an almost identical outfit in white when she reviewed cadets at the Sovereign’ s Parade at Sandhurst in 1988.

Next stop Ottawa where the Canadian tour begins. I’ll be keeping you posted on all our Canadian capers.

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