February, 2011

Feb 11

What’s in a name?

I am trying very hard to get accustomed to calling Kate Middleton ‘Catherine.’ On their return to St.Andrew’s, the place where their love story began, last Friday, Prince William declared ‘This is a very special moment for Catherine and me’. So I suppose Kate is now out of date.

It makes me feel as if I am reporting on a different girl. The name Kate seems more friendly. It is one-syllable short, snappy and neatly fits into a newspaper or magazine column.

Just think of all the wonderful Kates we know, like Kate Moss, cute Kate Hudson or even the dazzling Cate Blanchett.

Catherine is much more dignified and regal; nine letters instead of just four. It summons up great women in history such as Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII’s sad, spurned first wife, or Katherine Parr, his lucky, last queen.

Today we also have the famous film star Catherine Zeta Jones who, coincidentally, was at Buckingham Palace last Thursday receiving a C.B.E while William’s Kate, er, sorry, Catherine, was launching a new RNLI lifeboat.

I’ll never forget my first encounter with the star of The Darling Buds of May and Chicago. Some years ago I bumped into her in the crowd of spectators at a polo match in aid of the motor neurone disease association. She explained she had come with a family friend who was terminally ill with motor neurone disease, I introduced her to the Duchess of York, who was then patron of the MND charity.

The fresh-faced girl from Cardiff was breath-takingly lovely with a wonderfully natural manner, so I wasn’t surprised when she went off to marry a Hollywood prince called Michael Douglas and won an Oscar.

But in the newspaper headlines she is still known as Zeta Jones because that’s shorter. So what are newspaper editors going to do? When mentioning Will’s bride will they switch to a nickname like ‘Cath’ or even ‘Cathy’?

I doubt that very much.

When Lady Diana Spencer first appeared in the spotlight everyone called her Lady Di. When she married she became the Princess of Wales but that name was far too long for newspapers so she was known simply as Princess Diana or Di.

Despite this for the rest of her life the French still referred to her as Lady Di, pronouncing it as Laydee Dee, of course.

She used to get irritated when people yelled ‘Hi Di’, and would snap, ‘It’s Diana, actually!’
In the same way Prince William is stuck with the tag ‘Wills’, which his parents called him when he was a baby. Today his friends and family all call him ‘Will’, as he told me himself when we discussed the subject last year.

So, even if the Queen gives Will a title on his marriage and his wife becomes the Duchess of something-or-other, I doubt it will make much difference. The newspapers will still call her Kate, because it suits them – or rather, suits the narrow columns of their publications.
As far as they are concerned Kate IS great!

Feb 11

Canada, here she comes…

I wonder if Kate, sorry Catherine, Middleton has the faintest idea how tough her first royal tour will be.

When newlywed William and his wife fly off to Canada at the end of June, the new Princess will have experienced only a handful of official royal engagements here at home. To date she has done one evening job in Norfolk just before Christmas and has two more lined up this week in remote Anglesey and St.Andrews.


So she has yet to find out what its like to have a wildly enthusiastic reception in a big city like London or Birmingham.

But within a few weeks of her wedding she will be traipsing across a vast country, hopping across time zones, wide open plains and mountain ranges. Her ten day trip will take her from the smallest province, postcard-pretty Prince Edward Island to the vast Northwest Territories, the cowboy country of Alberta and sophisticated cities like Quebec and the capital Ottawa.

It’s a daunting schedule for a novice royal, although no doubt William has given her lots of advice, perhaps telling her all about the screaming hordes who greeted him in Auckland and Sydney a year ago.

I well remember feeling sorry for Will in the sticky summer heat as I watched hundreds of girls almost wrench his arms off, so keen were they to shake hands with their future king as he went on walkabouts. Not to mention the over-exhuberant ones who planted endless smackers on his red face.

Last July I followed the Queen across Canada as she arrived on the Atlantic coast at Halifax, which was hit by Monsoon-like rain and freezing temperatures. We then moved on to Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto, where enormous crowds turned out everywhere she and Prince Philip appeared.

By the end of the trip the early cool, wet weather had changed to sweltering heat but, after 60 years touring the world, our Queen took it in her stride. I hope Kate can do the same despite her lack of experience meeting crowds of excited people.

Sometimes the best-laid plans of palace aides and government tour officials go awry.

In Toronto the royal couple stayed in the grand Royal York hotel, which shortly before a big banquet, was hit by a power cut which left us all in the dark.

A similar power cut once hit Prince Andrew and his wife Sarah while they were in the shower preparing for a big dinner in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The Prince later made a speech with a lot of jokes about what went on when the electricity went off in the bathroom.

On Princess Diana’s first tour of Australia in 1983 record crowds thronged the streets of Brisbane, pressing so close to the royal visitors, that the new Princess was completely overwhelmed. She had to be whisked away to a quiet room in the town hall where she could rest and be revived with a drink of water.

My advice to Catherine as she plans her first overseas tour is to read the Duchess of York’s autobiography ‘My Story’. She called her first tour of Canada ‘ten gruelling days… my dress requirements alone would have sent a saner woman screaming for the nearest exit’.

She describes the lack of time to dress for evening dinners, explaining Andrew got ready in half an hour so had time to rest, while she and her hairdresser wrestled for ninety minutes trying to stop a heavy tiara falling over her nose. In any spare time she was running through her next speech, ‘working all the time, not a moment to rest.’


By the end she wanted nothing more than to collapse on a beach but Andrew took her on a camping trip through the mosquito-and-bug-ridden Northwest Territories which no-softie Sarah called ‘the greatest endurance test of my life.’ She kept a diary which Princess Margaret once dipped into then quickly shut saying, “I don’t want to read more. It’s too gruesome.’

Well, Good Luck on your first tour abroad, Catherine. I suspect you’ll need it.

Feb 11

Little maids in a row

So now we know the names of the lucky few who will be the attendants at the wedding of the decade.

Just as we thought Pippa Middleton will be Maid of Honour and therefore in charge of the small bridesmaids and page boys when her sister marries Prince William.

The choice of blue-eyed little Lady Louise Windsor, seven, Prince Edward’s daughter who is the spitting image of the Queen at the same age, and lively Margarita Armstrong-Jones, was no surprise.



I also expected Camilla’s three year old grandchild Eliza Lopes would be chosen as her mother Laura has been a friend of Kate’s for ages. And, as we know from that tete a tete over lunch last week, William’s stepmother is being wonderfully supportive of Kate, so including her angelic little grand daughter is a nice way to say thank you.

Little Eliza, then two, was an enchanting attendant at the wedding of Caroline Benson last spring, although she fell asleep half way through the ceremony.

It was also no surprise that William’s godchild Grace van Cutsem,three, son of his close friend Hugh van Cutsem, is on the list. The Prince was an usher at Hugh’s wedding to Rose Astor.

Both page boys Billy Lowther-Pinkerton, 10, (son of William’s private secretary) and Tom Pettifer, eight, (son of former royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke) are old enough to behave well throughout the ceremony.

I well remember Prince William, then four years old, dressed up in a sailor suit as a page at the wedding of naval officer Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986. He kept pulling his hat off and sticking his tongue out at his cousin Laura Fellowes, who was a bridesmaid.

His mother Princess Diana said afterwards she was hideously embarrassed by his antics, but those of us who were there thought it was endearing and totally hilarious.

No doubt, William believed it was better not to have any impish little rascals as pages of the same age at his wedding.

Naming Prince Harry as ‘Best Man’ instead of using the old royal title ‘Supporter’, indicates that William is determined to make his wedding as ‘normal’ as possible. He appears keen to make it less regal and more real; to be just like everyone else.

This means that Harry, 26, will be thrown together with Kate’s pretty sister Pippa, 27, at a very exciting time.

Now we all know that Harry is a chap who loves blondes, and one golden-haired girl in particular. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Kate was dreaming of a little matchmaking. Gossips won’t be able to resist wondering if another Middleton miss might land herself a royal catch.

After all, Diana plotted to get her friend Fergie into the royal family and invited Sarah to the house party at Royal Ascot where the Yorks romance began. So who knows where this bridal party will end one day?

Feb 11

America says no more waity, Katy

I have lost count of the American TV networks who have called me up over the last few weeks. They seem absolutely obsessed with covering every aspect of William and Kate’s Spring wedding but don’t like some of the palace’s arrangements.

‘Why are you having the wedding at 11.00am?’ asked one U.S producer. “It doesn’t suit us on this side of the Atlantic because that’s 6.00am. in New York and the middle of the night in California.’

I had to gently explain that Buckingham Palace is more concerned about the most appropriate timing for the British public to watch the Prince and his bride make their vows among all the splendid ceremonial.

Every royal wedding I have ever covered has taken place at 11.00am Greenwich Mean Time because it is the most convenient hour for everyone involved, especially palace staff, not forgetting hard-working caterers, cleaners and road-sweepers who’ll be clearing up the streets afterwards.

Then there are the silly, only-in-America questions. Who is the wedding planner? When informed that members of the royal family don’t need wedding planners because the Lord Chamberlain and Master of the Household take care of every detail, I was greeted with disbelief.

‘No, you’re kidding, right? There must be some company organizing the whole shebang.’
My colleague Mark Stewart, four times winner of Royal Photographer of the Year Awards, has also been deluged with requests for his pictures of Kate and William from US TV shows.

Over the past year he has scooped the world by getting exclusive shots of the couple at several friends’ weddings, so his photographs are much in demand.

‘They can’t get enough of Kate and William’, he says. ‘All the American breakfast TV shows are running wedding stories every day. I can’t send over enough to meet their endless orders.’

The way the US TV networks are behaving you would think the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution never happened. They act as if William was their prince.

Over here it’s quite different. We in the media are keen but not beserk about it. There are really only two big stories that everyone in the British Isles wants to know about. Who is designing Kate’s wedding dress and what will Will and his mates get up to on his stag night?

As for the dress, how I wish Catherine Walker was still here to design it. I don’t think anyone ever made lovelier gowns for Princess Diana.

If Kate gets her way the designer of her fabulous frock will remain a secret until April 29. But I’ll bet William’s farewell to the single state leaks out, if it’s anything like Peter Phillips’ three-day bender on the Isle of Wight.

In the meantime, I keep getting calls from US TV producers who think they know more about what’s happening than we do here.

Perhaps they don’t realise the Queen is approving every teeny detail of the wedding, including the decision to drive to the Abbey in a car herself. And, as we know, the whole wedding party will return to Buckingham Palace in a procession of open carriages.

But I had to smile when I read about a new American nail polish produced to mark the royal wedding. It’s called ‘No more waity, Katy!’

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