Friday, 29 April 2011

Prince Philip came to open

the new buildings of the institution where I once worked. It was the first time I had ever had anything to do with "royalty" apart from sitting on my father's shoulders and waving a flag to greet the Queen some years before.
The fuss went on for weeks beforehand. There were meetings. We were told what to wear. We were told how to behave and even what to say. The entire institution was scrubbed from top to bottom - even the parts he was most unlikely to see unless he looked into cupboards or behind the girls' bathroom.
There was friction between the staff over who was and who was not "being presented" and most of us were longing for the event to be over and done with. I was not "being presented". The powers that be had not even considered me as curtseying was considered to be the order of the day and those who had been chosen were being taught to "do it properly".
The great day arrived. We were struggling to control a great many profoundly retarded and normally restless children in hot sun.
Prince Philip took one look at us and promptly discarded all ceremony. He declared the place open in the briefest possible manner and used the extra time to wander through the classrooms and speak to each one of us.
I had a young "runner" in my class, a very dark skinned aboriginal child. He would, if the door was open, try to escape and someone would then have to chase him across the adjacent paddocks. Naturally this happened as Prince Philip entered my classroom, almost knocking him over.
"Does that happen often?" he asked
"All the time," I told him.
"I don't know how you put up with it."
He shook hands with me as if nothing had happened and went on.
Years later I was at university in another part of the world altogether. Prince Philip came to open a science conference of some sort. My tricycle had, we all thought, been tucked well out of sight under an adjacent verandah. At the last minute the weather failed to cooperate and the Prince came in through that entrance rather than through a torrential downpour. He spied the tricycle and promptly wanted to have a look at it, indeed he wanted to see the underside. That would have been impossible unless I unlocked it.
He had to open the conference of course but a staff member and a member of his entourage were sent to find me so that the bike could be unlocked if he remembered he wanted to see it.
I was definitely not dressed for meeting royalty! I thought I would just be able to unlock my bike and quietly disappear. I thought he would forget and that the whole business was a waste of time.
Not so. Prince Philip was on his way back from the opening ceremony. I was to wait in case he wished to ask me anything. I was asked something about myself so he could be prepared but I just said I was doing some research there. I did not mention anything about the previous incident. I did not wish to feel embarrassed all over again!
He strolled up talking to the minder who had spoken to me. Then, without waiting for an introduction, he held out his hand to me and said,
"Gave up trying to chase the little devil did you?"

10 comments:

Melinda Szymanik said...

wow - he usually gets a lot of bad press. He sounds very cool here :)

Kate said...

I wonder if there's a way you can develop a memory like that? I've heard of a few 'celebrities' who remember people from years before, just from shaking their hand.

Sarah said...

Thank you for that Cat. Here in England Prince Philip is treated as a figure of fun. I think he's great. This just confirms it for me :)

Sheep Rustler said...

What a gorgeous story! I always thought he had a better sense of humour than the press allows :)

Miriam Drori said...

That's amazing! He must have met so many people in the meantime. ~Miriam

catdownunder said...

Nobody here believes me when I tell them the story but it is true. I admit I stand out from the crowd a bit - but surely not that much!

jeanfromcornwall said...

From all that I have heard, some of it from the "inside", that is entirely typical of the man. His mind is sharp, his memory is phenomenal, and his thinking is so far ahead of his detractors as to be out of sight.

joannacannon said...

What an absolutely wonderful story! There's so much we don't hear about the Royal Family, it's lovely to read something so positive x

Nicola Morgan said...

Great story. I think he is much underestimated (and I'm no fan of royalty per se.)Thanks for telling us.

Donna said...

This is an awesome story. I never know what to make of Prince Phillip, but you've shown him in a great light.