Tag Archives: Buckingham Palace

2011 Picture of the Year

The year 2011 has definitely been globally eventful on the social and political fronts.  But this picture of Kate Middleton ( now the Duchess of Cambridge) walking with her father and sister towards the entrance to Westminster Abbey on her wedding day 29 April, 2011, is my chosen picture of the year.

Having recently seen this spectacular wedding dress up close on display in Buckingham Palace, during the annual summer opening exhibition, I bear witness that this dress is infinitely exquisite.  You really need to be within breathing distance of this sublime creation to fully appreciate its fine detail.

My young daughter who was with me at the time was truly fascinated with the dress. “Mummy, was your wedding dress like this?” she blurted  out in full earshot of those around us. Of course, I pretended not to hear and hurriedly moved her along before letting out a sigh of relief.

Happy new year Kate and Wills. Oops! I meant to say, Their  Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Obama’s Royal Toast Faux Pas

So the print and visual media, on both sides of the pond, have had a field day over President Obama’s royal toast faux pas during the recent state banquet at Buckingham Palace.

President Obama had hardly finished his toast speech to the Queen when the orchestra of the Scots Guard prematurely began playing God Save The Queen.  The President continued with his toast speech and breached royal protocol by speaking over the national anthem. When he raised his glass to the Queen, while the anthem was playing, Her Majesty did not respond.

Although the president later remarked that he thought the national anthem was a “soundtrack to his speech,” some have criticised him saying he should know better. On the other hand, strangely enough, some of our American cousins take the view that the Queen’s snub of President Obama’s toast is a snub of the American people. Okay, the U.S. is a former British colony, but it’s not as if Americans are still British subjects. Anyway, let’s press on.

Adhering to royal protocol may not always be easy for those who do not normally mingle in royal circles. There are far too many complex points of etiquette to remember. Nevertheless, our American cousins should understand that political clout, power or money does not exempt foreign dignitaries, visiting Buckingham Palace, from observing royal protocols.

Those of us who do not ordinarily move in royal circles are more prone to royal protocol gaffes when in the presence of royalty. Members of the Royal Family generally ignore such gaffes when they do occur. Quite ironically, it is the media and, sometimes, a few royal courtiers, who take offence when these gaffes do happen.

I remember vividly my first meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2002. I practiced my curtsy extensively the day before and I hardly slept that night from worrying. To hold me in good stead, I sought advice on royal etiquette from some royal courtiers I knew professionally. The pointers given to me included the following:

  • how to curtsy correctly;
  • to address the Queen initially as “Your Majesty and then “Ma’am;”
  • to shake the Queen only if she extends her hand to me, and then to shake her gently;
  • not to wear a trouser suit as the Queen does not like them on females;
  • not to wear over-powering perfume;
  • not to stare at the Queen’s jewellery;
  • not to speak until I am spoken to; and
  • not to turn my back on the Queen.

Incidentally, I was too nervous to remember any of the cues when I was presented to the Queen. My curtsy wasn’t deep enough and my legs almost gave way under me. As I couldn’t remember which to use first, “Ma’am” or “Your Majesty,” I simply used both interchangeably. What’s more, I stuttered through the first half of my conversation with the Queen before finally gaining my composure. Thankfully, my breach of royal etiquette, which was down to nerves, didn’t receive any airtime. More importantly, the Queen didn’t seem perturbed by my exhibition.

Now back to President Obama. Even when you park royal protocol to one side, one would expect President Obama, as Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, to know that it is wrong to speak over any national anthem.

So far, two official visits to Buckingham Palace and two breaches of royal protocol. Hopefully it will be third time lucky for the Obamas.

The CNN video clip below shows the breach of protocol and the subsequent reactions from the media.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Princess Kate: Roughing It With the Windsors

Everyone appears to have something to say about the forthcoming wedding of William and Kate. Be it the mystery of the wedding dress, the potentially jinxed engagement ring, or the fact that the Queen will not meet Kate’s parents before the wedding, there surely is no shortage of opinions.

Very little, if anything at all, appears to have been written about how Kate is likely to adapt to royal life.  Some people do not even believe that the Royal Family wholeheartedly accepts Kate as  she is not of royal or noble blood.

So how many people are likely to be in this marriage? 2? 3? The whole country? What about the men in “grey suits,” did they survive to fight another day? Better still, what will Kate do for the next 30 years or so before she becomes Queen? For someone young and educated, will Kate get personal fulfilment from playing modern-day Florence Nightingale?  And how will she deal with the ever intrusive press? Let’s just say, the journey of a thousand miles sometimes begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tyre.

If the details of earlier failed royal marriages, as played out in the press, are anything to go by, the success of this union will definitely hinge upon the Royal Family and their courtiers taking a back seat and allowing William and Kate to chart their own marital course.

My royal survival tips for Kate stems from the need for careful consideration of the following:

Where to live:

There is much speculation over where William and Kate are likely to live after their wedding. Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace have been mentioned as possibilities. Given that William is currently based at RAF Valley on Anglesey, were his works as a search and rescue pilot, the couple may initially live in or around Anglesey for a few years.

Now, let’s disregard Anglesey for a moment and pretend that the choice is really between Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace.  Buckingham Palace, being the main London residence of the Queen is also the main hub of the Royal Court. For this reason, in my opinion, the spotlight will very much be on Kate in Buckingham Palace, which she may find a tad claustrophobic, to say the least.

Kensington Palace on the other hand is generally considered “out of the way.” Although some royal courtiers live in Kensington Palace, its layout and the fact that it is not one of the Queen’s UK residences, makes it atmospherically condusive compared to Buckingham Palace. Consequentially, Kensington Palace gets my vote.

Who to trust:

There is no foolproof way of recognising who is dependable and who is not. However, once Kate becomes a fully “signed up” member of the Royal Family, she will need to be careful of who she chooses to trust.

A considerable proportion of stories about the Royal Family, in the press , are actually sold to the tabloids by Royal Household staff. This same group of staff are well aware of the tabloid going rates for stories involving the Royal Family. It is disgraceful that people seek to benefit monetarily from betraying those who trust them.  Whether it is serving Royal Household staff or former staff selling stories of the Royal Family to the tabloids, it is outright treachery.  I also think it is appalling that former Royal Footman and Butler, Paul Burrell, amassed a healthy pension fund, by betraying royal trust.

The embarrassment caused by the Countess of Wessex, in 2001, when she was secretly taped during a discussion with an undercover reporter posing as a sheikh, is another example of trust issues Kate may find herself exposed to.

Dealing with royal protocol:

Royal protocol is the standard rules of appropriate behaviour, dress and  general good form within the royal court. As there are a considerable number of complex points of protocol, understanding and observing them may initially prove a daunting task.  Hopefully, William will make sure that Kate gets the support she needs in this area. However, in the interim, providing Kate remembers to avoid discussing politics, sex, money and other members of the Royal Family in public, she will be fine.

Michelle Obama: spontaneous show of affection or breach of royal protocol ?

Dealing with royal courtiers:

The royal courtiers are the lubricating oil of the royal machinery.  The royal courtiers, which includes Heads of Branch, Private Secretaries, and Ladies-in-Waiting, are a formidable group within the Royal Household. They advise and influence the Royal Family on a host of subjects.

Apart from Ladies-in-Waiting, who are mainly titled women of noble breeding, royal courtiers are, put rather bluntly, hired hands employed by the Royal Family to support the monarchy. It is an open secret that some of these hired hands have almost become more royal than the royals themselves. It is the  self-important types from among the royal courtiers that Kate may eventually have problems with. Those who follow royal stories will remember that the Late Princess Diana and the Duchess of York didn’t particularly see eye-to-eye with some of the “men in grey suits.”

In my opinion, Kate’s artillery for wading off any potential hostile advancement of royal courtiers lies in the Prince of Wales’ acceptance of her as a suitable daughter-in-law despite her non-royal and non-noble background.  If the Prince of Wales genuinely approves of Kate, she has nothing to fear from the chesty peacock courtiers.

If I had to choose one royal courtier I have a lot of respect for, it will have to be Sir Michael Peat. Sir Michael, who announced in January that he will be leaving the Royal Household to return to the private sector, was the Queen’s Keeper of the Privy Purse from 1996 -2002 and the Prince of Wales’ Private Secretary from 2002. He is truly a gentleman and  a decent role model. And I wish him the best for the future.

Happily married: King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan

Despite the much publicised failed marriages of members of the British Royal Family to commoners, these types of marriages can and do work. The marriages of Carl Gustaf and Silvia of Sweden, Abdullah and Rania of Jordan and Mohammed and Lalla Salma of Morocco are testament to this.

Agreed, it may take a lot of work to eventually gain the acceptance of members of the Royal Family and their courtiers, but maybe it is a price worth paying for falling in love with a royal. Kate will definitely need a strong and flexible character to rough it with the Windors.