I had a conversation with an important royal personage this week, quite out of the blue, AND, dear readers, he spoke to me for quite some time. I think I am finally in. I’m one spindly paper invitation away from Prince Harry’s DiscoBalls Nightclub, Rum-Supping Disco Royal Wedding Rave-Up at Buck House on Friday evening. Watch this space.
“It’s a big day for us tomorrow,” he said.
“Yes, your Royal Highness, it is.” I was very surprised to be having this conversation , as La Bluebird is not usually beckoned into royal circles, because I don’t want to dampen their splendour as I am so much better dressed and fruitily glamorous than they are. But there I was in the middle of a park, next to an ornamental fountain, chatting to the Royal Family’s biggest and most important person, about the upcoming celebrations.
“I need a good King. It’s a very important time.”
“Yes, your Royal Highness, it certainly is. How exciting!” I said, thinking about the half-eaten packet of Twiglets I’d left behind on the bench. “Can I have a photo taken with you please?”
He was very obliging, and we stood at the side of the ornamental pond, chatting about America and what he thought the next episode would be in Anglo-American relations.
“We’re going to thrash the French out of there,” he said. “Do enjoy the rest of your time – please feel free to walk around the parklands here.”
Then he wondered off towards a small child who threatened to drop bits of a 99 Flake onto his lovely red tights.
Tights? is that the Royal outfit for Friday? I hear you screeching, people. I bet you are worrying about Prince Balding turning up to his right royal nuptials with a smile and some red tights. SEXY. And ballet shoes. But, calm yourself, Britons, calm yourselves. I need to adequately explain my collision with crowned heads on Monday.
I was in 1536. Edward VI was about to born (although his Royal Kingliness did not know this) and Jane Seymour was about to go into confinement (I don’t mean the Dr Quinn medicine lady). Henry VIII, resplendent in a codpiece of royal proportions and a rough, kingly ginger beard, like Prince Harry’s cheeky uncle, was meeting his public. Most of his public had paid £15.95 for the privilege and were trying to have pictures taken with him. In the courtyard, the Queen’s midwife was being quizzed on what the four humours are.
This was Hampton Court Palace on Monday. This is, in fact, Hampton Court Palace, every day. Visiting with family from the former colony known as USA, we were sucked into a series of bizarre royal role plays. Some poor bastard actor spent the hottest Easter on record wandering around in doublet and hose and a hot hat with ostrich feathers sticking out of it like a right royal plonker. His courtiers were no luckier; their outfits were heavy. black fur capes. Occasionally, Henry VIII’s wife would arrive in the courtyard, screaming about her lady in waiting being a right slapper. Henry would approve. Bemused children in tracksuits looked on, accompanied by frazzled-looking parentals. The actors repeated the same script on the hour, every hour, like some awful Tudor Groundhog Day.
Now, strictly speaking, Hampton Court Palace isn’t really in London. Unlike North London, South London doesn’t seem to have any defined boundaries. We simply are not sure whether London ends and Twickenham begins. Ham? Kingston? Hampton? Its all much of a southwesterly London muchness. In addition, Hampton Court Palace is not easy to find. The entrances aren’t signed properly, and I nearly drove into a private golf club, which I thought might be Hampton Court Palace as it looked a wee bit kingly. Finally though, having got through a traffic-free South Circular and rippled over Kew, I arrived and his kingships lordly palace. Quite a place it is, too.
I looked forward to the maze most of all. I couldn’t wait to get into it. However, once in, it served as a pretty appropriate metaphor for the royal family. People love to get into it, and think the game will be flighty and flirty and hugely fun but they discover it isn’t half as glamorous or interesting as they had envisaged. When they try to make the break for the border, they find the exit concealed, having been hidden away by sly courtiers. Many false starts and dead ends have to be found before anybody gets out with their sanity and the family intact. The clever use of hedgerows has rendered the common citizen powerless. Not that King Henry could have fitted into this maze though, coz he was five feet wide, because he ate like five chickens a day or something. Seriously. He was even leering at my Twiglet packet.
The best guide for a palace is an eight year old child. Thankfully I had temporarily acquired one that morning. Eight year olds are the perfect age for the Hampton Court Palace Activity Book. On the Palace tour, we searched for patterns in the ceiling that revealed passwords, we located the “eavesdroppers” – real models of people’s heads that peered out and over from sections of the ceiling down into the Great Hall, we counted the foodstuffs being prepared in the Tudor kitchens were some other poor actors had been roped in to turn a piece of meat cooking on a spit on the hottest day of the year, and paper mache slabs of meat sat on wooden sideboards. In the royal apartments, I accidentally set off an alarm when leaning over a rope to take a snap of William III’s crapper, a bacteria friendly toilet with a red velvet cover seating. Snazzy. Hope Harry hasn’t found out about it. The ‘partay’ to end all ‘partay’s at Buck House will be full of the Glosse Posse aiming their crowned heads at velvet-covered seats for a slash. Now, that’s what I call the royal wee.
It was all very grand, the idea of 16th and 17th century Palace living. I wonder how much of it has changed? I cannot make a thorough comparison as I’m not allowed into the royal apartments, not since that time they found me in the middle of the Queen’s bedroom one night where I had shouted “Aha! Queenie!” and quite startled the old girl. I got some sort of restraining order or something. Halycon days. I should imagine, though, that Buck House is equally laden with sumptuousness and coated in heraldic glory. And Pippa Middleton. Perhaps that is why the Prince Balding and Kate MiddleClass nuptials seem so unreal. We are being transported into a patchwork quilt of constitutional monarchy past. The state landau coach that will take the heavily protected couple away from Westminster Abbey and towards Buck House was made in 1902. That’s even older than Prince Philip. The pageantry and uniformed daftness is so anachronistic as to seem like watching toy soldiers marching across a child’s make believe world at playtime. The 4.30am dress rehearsal, early yesterday morning, looked positively ghoulish, with officers angrily bossing people about in the lunatic half-light of an early London morning, with the glare of a 102 bus in the background and shiny faced boy sailors looking terrified in the foreground. If the sailors are on shore in the landlocked SW1 area, exactly who is protecting the darn waves which Britannia is supposed to rule? And what about the poor bastards who may have a nasty episode off the coast of Anglesey and have to deal with a reduced helicopter rescue service, as the King in Waiting is too busy getting hitched? Selfish, I call it.
I am at a crossroads between monarchic heraldry and ribald republicanism. I have been invited to a flag waving, sandwich munching, 1950s-esque street party and a republican lunch. I know what the first would entail but what on earth happens at a republican lunch? Presumably anything except coronation chicken is acceptable, for the menu. But what exactly happens? Do we toast the possibility of no Queen, no happy couple? How can you toast something that doesn’t exist? As a beef dinner involves eating beef, does a republican feast involve eating republicans? Am I supposed to get cross about the royal wedding day? And won’t that play havoc with my indigestion at lunch? Has no one thought this through?
Hmm. Clearly not. One thing is clear, though. As the rest of us enjoy our day off and sit about watching the telly and putting bets on at William Hill about whether the Queen will wear a yellow hat and a ski mask, think of those poor sods at Hampton Court. It’s another day for the actor who can’t get any other sort of job, and who has to dress up and pretend to be a Tudor FatBoy for the day. Who, like the Prince of Wales and his son, is just padding around in his current role, waiting for the better job to make itself available. While the 21st century ploughs on, the 16th century is alive and kicking in some northerly corner of Surrey. Get yourself down to Hampton Court Palace for a right fun day out – but don’t lose your head! haha. Happy Royal Wedding Day. Save me some cake. I can have it when I get home from the republicans.
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