Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Prince William and Kate's tour brings back memories of royal faux pas

Princess Anne greets the public during a royal tour in Saskatchewan.
The announcement that Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton, will take their first official royal tour as a married couple in Canada, made me chuckle as it brought back fond memories of my coverage of Princess Anne's royal visit to Saskatchewan, when I was a journalism student still trying to find her literary groove. 

One of the positions that I have maintained throughout my career is that it's important to dress appropriately for both the event and the assignment. If I'm covering a turkey shoot and I know I'll be interviewing a farmer at work in his barn, I will not be sporting fancy heels.

On this royal occasion, I was assigned to cover Princess Anne's outdoor tour of area churches and historical sites. No one-on-one interview, just a curtsy introduction at the airport. After that, I would be climbing stairs, fences, gates and people.

Prior to getting our press credentials, journalists and photographers were given instructions on proper etiquette and attire. I didn't have to read it. My parents raised me to be polite and I knew how to act in the company of distinguished guests. 

Our small contingent of reporters and photographers were told to arrive at the airport early so the British public relations officer could go over the itinerary. I couldn't have been more excited. My editor Michael and I were off for the whole day and everything was scheduled for the front page.
When we reached the airport runway we were greeted by several other journalists we knew, including a reporter from a rival paper. She was wearing a pretty summer dress and fancy shoes. I chose to wear dress pants, dress shoes and a very bright blouse (so my editor could spot me in a crowd). I would have talked to that reporter, but her glaring eyes forced me to look the other way. Maybe she was shocked that I would disregard a royal order, or that I chose something so bright. Also greeting us on the runway was Princess Anne's press agent. I do not remember his exact words but he singled me out for not wearing proper attire. My face turned as red as the suited Mountie on guard next to me.

Here's why I still chuckle to this day.

When the helicopter approached, the wind kicked up and so did the reporter's dress. She looked like an umbrella caught in a hurricane. Desperately she tried to hold it down, but it kept flying up, up, into her face. When the helicopter finally landed, and the wind subsided long enough for her dress to land, it was she who had the red face.

Before I curtsied, I tossed the British thug who singled me out a theatrical now-you-know-why I wore slacks look.

The end

Mario Testino photo of Prince William
and his fiancee Kate Middleton.
This year's royal tour will come just two months after William and Kate's April 29 nuptials in London. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, "Canada looks forward to welcoming the young couple and providing them with all that the country has to offer including, of course, the special hospitality and warmth reserved for members of the Royal Family." 

Prince William has visited Canada several times. He and Prince Harry joined their dad Prince Charles on a ski trip to Whistler, British Columbia, in 1998. He and Prince Harry also accompanied their father and late mother Princess Diana on a royal tour of Ontario in 1991.

The Canadian Press reported that as news of the tour spread online, reaction ranged from "who cares" to "can't wait!"

"William & Kate are going to be here for Canada Day. Oh my GAWD. Best news of the week," wrote one user on Twitter, who tagged her post with the words "royal obsession."

Details of the tour (and of course proper attire) will be released in the coming months.

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