April, 2011

Apr 11

Kisses for the missus

It’s the moment everyone is waiting for. While only 1,900 guests will see William and Kate make their vows in the Abbey, tens of thousands will cram outside the gates of Buckingham Palace to see the newlyweds make an appearance on its balcony.

And when they do appear around 1:25pm the crowd will be urging William to seal his new marriage with a kiss. It’s a tradition that began 30 years ago on July 29, 1981 when the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer. After they returned to the palace for lunch they stepped out on to the famous balcony with the Queen and the rest of the royal family.

Their fairytale wedding had captivated everyone and, carried away by the romantic atmosphere, the crowd wanted to see the couple kiss.

blog-29april-01.jpgAt the time the Prince appeared wary. ‘They are trying to get us to kiss,’ he told Diana, who replied, ‘Well, how about it?’

As was later revealed, Charles then turned to the Queen and said, ‘Mother, may I?’ With a nod of approval, she said, ‘Of course!’ He needed no further urging and puckered up with his beautiful young wife, as the crowd roared with delight.

Five years later it was Prince Andrew’s turn to kiss his bride Sarah Ferguson. When the newly created Duke and Duchess of York appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony they pretended they couldn’t hear the shouts of the well-wishers urging them to show their love for one another.


Cupping an ear they mouthed the word ‘What?’ until finally they relented and amid an outburst of giggles, Andrew planted a long, smoochy kiss on his wife’s lips.

They were like playful puppies, who simply could not hide their feelings for one another.

It was different when the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999.

Their wedding took place at St.George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where there is no balcony. But Edward had already demonstrated his passion for his bride on the day they became engaged. He grabbed his laughing fiancee and kissed her soundly in front of the cameras.

From the time Queen Victoria became the first member of the royal family to marry in public, smooching or canoodling was quite out of the question. Public displays of affection such as this were not considered appropriate until Princess Diana came along. Although she was an Earl’s daughter she had a wonderful common touch, which endeared her to the public.

So, it wasn’t surprising that she was ready and willing when her groom planted a loving kiss on her upturned face. The body language between the two revealed a longing to be kissed on her side and enthusiasm mingled with wariness on his.

So what can we expect from Kate and William? They have been great smoochers right from the start. It was back in 2004 when William kissed Kate on the slopes of Klosters that we first knew she was his girlfriend.

William is someone who likes to surprise us. So I won’t be astonished if he stops at the Great West Door of the Abbey as he emerges with his wife on his arm and kisses his new missus.

Since then they have been snogging and canoodling all over the place. So don’t be surprised if they break all records on the palace balcony and kiss repeatedly.

My only worry is it may rain just when they appear. This would ruin the highlight of the day for all of us. So, let’s hope the rainclouds roll away and it’s nothing but blue skies for them both from here on.

Apr 11

Kate is our good news girl

Slender Kate Middleton looks as if she weighs no more than 110 pounds or a shade under eight stone. But to us in Britain every single ounce of her is pure 24 carat gold.

Her popularity is so great internationally that an estimated extra 800,000 tourists will visit our shores this year on top of the usual 600,000. Many of them will be spending their Euros, Yen and Dollars on royal wedding souvenirs, making wonderful music at the cash tills for retailers.



blog-kate-25-april-03.jpg“I wouldn’t be surprised if Kate Middleton’s legacy is bigger than the legacy of the Olympics, both domestically and internationally,” Dr Harold Goodwin, a professor of tourism at the University of Leeds, told The Times.

The teal blue dress Kate wore on her engagement day has been endlessly copied and sold around the globe, as has the sapphire and diamond ring she wears which once belonged to Princess Diana.

People have been queuing for blocks to visit Westminster Abbey which charges adults a hefty £16 for admission and £6 for children. Then there are the royal wedding souvenirs, the Union Jack flags, the bunting and other decorations for the street parties being held around the country.

And I’ll bet that within 24 hours of making her vows, some clothing company will have a near identical copy of the bride’s dress on sale, bringing in more bucks.

On April 29 London will be the centre of the world with more than 2 billion television viewers glued to every second of the wedding coverage.

One estimate claims that the wedding will spark so much interest in Britain that it will bring in an extra £2 billion for our economy and create 50,000 extra jobs.

Yes, in a nation reeling under the impact of the economically troubled times, Kate is our good news girl, cheering us all up.


So only the most miserable republicans would moan about the cost of the pomp and pageantry this Friday.

As Kate floats down the aisle she will have the goodwill of the nation behind her. She is more popular apparently than any showbiz celebrity like Lady Gaga. So I’ll raise a glass on the 29th to William whose good judgement in choosing such a winning wife has brought us all such a windfall.

And, as for Kate, I would offer a little advice after all my years of reporting on royal brides. We are all behind her willing her and William to live happily ever after. All she has to do from now on is smile and look happy.

People are already increasing pressure on Kate by speculating that she may produce an heir in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year. Forget about that, Kate, just concentrate on loving and supporting William. There is plenty of time for babies, but you can never recapture the joy of those early months of marriage.

So, take it slowly, don’t rush into official life and most of all, whatever you do, NEVER talk to a fake Sheikh!

Apr 11

Longer may she reign

In all the feverish excitement about THAT wedding I hope you haven’t forgotten that the Queen turns 85 this week.

And if you suppose that she will be taking the day off to enjoy a slice of birthday cake with a glass of her favourite German white wine, you’d be mistaken.

H.M. will be working, of course, because her birthday, April 21, is Maundy Thursday, an important date for her as Head of the Church of England.



blog-18-april-01.jpgIt’s the day when the Church of England recalls the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and this ritual has continued down the centuries in a modified form. Elizabeth I used to give poor people gifts of food and bags of money as well as washing their feet.

Every year during the church service the Queen still presents bags of silver coins to the same number of people as her age, on this occasion 85.

This year the ceremony takes place at Westminster Abbey, the church where Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton will marry just eight days later.

Like any other mother or grandmother, the Queen loves family weddings. It’s not often you see our dignified monarch actually run anywhere, but I remember seeing her running after the balloon-bedecked carriage carrying the just married Duke and Duchess of York as they left Buckingham Palace for their honeymoon in July, 1986.

When her youngest son Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones in June, 1999, at Windsor the Queen sent her personal maid to help the bride get dressed. My palace spies tell me that the maid or ‘dresser’ as they are known at court, then had to rush back to the Queen’s apartment at Windsor Castle.

As she left the bride she explained, ‘The Queen wants me to see her new wedding outfit before she leaves for St.George’s Chapel. She is so excited about it.’


So while everyone is examining the bride’s dress next week I will also be fascinated by what the Queen is wearing.

There should be a few other queens present at the royal wedding but I’ll bet ours is the most stylish of all. Her clothes are always colourful and eye-catching because one of her main aims is to be seen by as many people as possible.

Unlike the rest of us, the Queen has not one but two birthdays. Her second is always celebrated in June with the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horseguards Parade. This year it will be a double celebration because it falls on June 11, the day after the Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th birthday.

So the appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony of the whole royal family will be even more special this year. And of course, there will be a newcomer waving to the crowd in the Mall.

The new Princess Kate will be standing beside her husband William. The following month her granddaughter Zara Phillips will also wed. It all adds up to the happiest summer for the Queen and the Duke for a very long time.

Apr 11

An English Rose

TV crews from America, Australia Norway, France and Germany as well as the BBC, ITN and Sky descended on a small Lancashire town called Darwen this week.

The big attraction was, of course, Prince William and Kate Middleton making their last public appearance before they tie the Windsor knot on April 29.

It was noticeable that barely six months after her engagement Kate has learned a lot about life in the royal spotlight.


blog-12april-01.jpgThe smooth way she greeted officials, plunged into crowds of well-wishers and chatted to small children while carefully staying three steps behind her Prince was very revealing. Kate charmed the locals like a true English rose which prompted one local Paul Ratcliffe to present her with a bouquet of red roses and wish her all the best for her wedding.

‘It’s nice to be spoilt,’ Kate told him with a dazzling smile.

This gift prompted me to realise that Kate really is a true English rose with all the qualities to be a great 21st Century queen.

First there is her rapport with the public. ‘Hi,’ she said repeatedly, as she went on a lengthy walkabout though Witton Park.

This informal greeting demonstrated that she uses the language ordinary people speak. She is not too ‘posh’. Her easy, relaxed style made people feel she was approachable and friendly.

When I asked those who had shaken her hand what they thought of her, most replied, ‘Beautiful, simply beautiful.’

Kate connects with people effortlessly – not in the way Diana did because she is nothing like Diana, who was a giggly young girl when she became engaged.

Kate is more mature. She thinks before she speaks and quite importantly she is a commoner. The Middleton family count a few miners on the maternal side which makes Kate’s rise to future queen an inspiration to everyone.


Her outfit on a cold, rainy morning was also spot on. Her French navy skirt suit looked smart but not extravagant. While representing British fashion Kate must not appear to be a slave to it or she will seem shallow and frivolous.

The navy colour of her suit was so similar to William’s dark business suit that perhaps intentionally she did not stand out in the group of officials around them. On a dark, overcast day this caused more than one well-wisher to say, ‘I wish she had worn something brighter.’

There were also many comments about Kate’s slender shape. ‘She’s so slim,’ I heard again and again.

There were a few sighs of disappointment when Kate’s lovely face was hidden by the black umbrella she carried. Next time perhaps she could borrow a clear plastic one from Camilla who still uses the ones the late Queen Mother had.

But the people of Darwen and her next stop Blackburn clearly loved her. They were so pleased to welcome both her and William that most waited more than two hours in heavy rain for a glimpse of them.

Prince William led the way proudly, clearly delighted that his choice of a bride is approved by the British people.

He frequently put his arm around her and, at one point, held her hand as they stopped for a few minutes while touring Witton Country Park.

‘I am fortunate’ said William earlier that day, ‘because I have the support of my family and friends, I do a job I love and I have Catherine.’

Listening to him you get the feeling that this is a royal marriage that will last. They may be in the final stage of singledom now.

But clearly they both can’t wait to end their bachelor days and start the next, exciting stage of married life together.

Apr 11

A sunny honeymoon?

Prince William may believe Anglesey, where he has been living with Kate, is a Welsh kind of heaven. And, I’m told, in Summer it can be. Especially if, like that soon-to-be-wed couple, you have an isolated house with a sea view and your own private beach.

I must admit I was bowled over by the place last week but not in a good way. Howling, gale force winds almost swept me off my feet as I arrived at RAF Valley, where the Prince works as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

The royal press pack were waiting for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to fly in from RAF Northolt, near London, on an executive jet, but the 50mph winds almost prevented their plane from landing.

blog-prince-william-01.jpgPrince William had planned to greet his grandparents on the airfield apron and show them around the Sea King helicopter he flies on rescue missions. But their rendezvous had to be moved into a hangar to avoid everyone getting hypothermia.

The ten minute rendezvous finally took place as planned, but as I left the strong wind blew my notebook out of my hand and I was in despair until a kind policeman chased after it and returned it to me.

Most of us reporters and photographers had arrived the previous evening after a five hour journey from London. When we all gathered in a hotel nearby for dinner there was just one topic of conversation – the royal honeymoon.

We are not planning to invade it, of course, but we were playing guessing games as to where it will be.

The snappers thought it would probably be somewhere like cold, rainy Balmoral. They reckon that during the recession any honeymoon in a sun-soaked luxury resort would make Kate and Will look extravagant and heedless of ordinary people’s troubles.

blog-balmoral-01.jpgThe Queen’s highland home, they argued, would also guarantee the couple complete privacy as well as a low cost break.

I disagreed strongly. This is hopefully the only honeymoon Kate and William will ever have as this royal marriage has got to be one that lasts.

So, why should they be deprived of a fantastic, once in a lifetime holiday in a sunny place?

Yes, I know they have fantastic holidays in places like Mustique, Ibiza and Kenya every year, but they aren’t like us ordinary folk who can grab a package deal and hop on a plane to Spain.

They can only truly relax in a secure place where the paparazzi can’t find them. Will (as friends and family call him) has an extremely stressful job and deserves a complete rest.

For me, Mustique would be a perfect haven. Kate’s parents were there in January which makes me think they could have been checking out villas for their daughter and future son-in-law.


Will and Kate had been there a few times most recently in 2009, renting the exclusive Villa Rocina, which has its own infinity pool.

Photographers, who are banned from the island, but cruise around in boats offshore, did catch them sunning themselves on a yacht. No doubt there will be heavier security on the royal honeymoon and paparazzi snappers could soon find no respectable newspaper or magazine will buy their pictures.

Who wants to publish shots which destroy the private happiness of these royal newlyweds? Most British newspaper readers would be outraged.

I would also suggest that there is another point to consider. Anyone who has lived and worked in Anglesey over this past Winter, deserves some sunshine and blue skies. In my experience (five visits) they are in short supply around that island which sticks out into the Irish Sea.

Let Kate and William go where they please, PLEASE! And let’s hope no envious Republicans dare to criticise them if they turn up on some exotic isle.

But Will and Kate have proved to be so clever at keeping secrets lately that perhaps we will never find out where they begin married life.

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