NZ Woman's Weekly

Kerre’s date with royalty

Kerre’s date with royalty

How on earth am I to brush up on 1000 years of British royal history and protocol in just seven days? That’s all the time I have before I MC a special dinner in honour of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The royal couple will be visiting New Zealand as the Queen’s representatives during her jubilee year. Her Majesty has incredible stamina, as we’ve seen during the celebrations in England, but it was probably a good idea to hand over some of the overseas duties to her children and grandchildren.

I was very honoured to be asked to MC the dinner, but then I was told I would be presented to the prince and duchess, along with the chef for the evening, Peter Gordon. It’s all right for Peter – he’s one of the top chefs in London and has no doubt met more royals than you could shake a Sovereign’s Orb at. I, however, have never met anyone royal.

They don’t tend to pop up on the streets of Tuakau or Turangi. To be fair, Charles and Camilla don’t come across as stuffy, sticks-in-the-mud, but I don’t want to look like a completely gauche colonial. I’m in New York in the week leading up to the dinner so I have taken a friend’s copy of Debretts Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners to study in the hours that I am not racing around the Big Apple.

Already I know more than I did a month ago. For instance, with your first reply to the prince, it’s Your Royal Highness. If the conversation’s going swimmingly , you then call him Sir. Camilla is Your Grace, initially, then Ma’am – rhymes with ham. I think. I’ll check. Although curtseying is not expected, it’s a mark of respect and courtesy. Besides, when will I ever get the chance to curtsey again? The heir to the throne is the ideal person to be the first and last person who I curtsey to.

I will be practising my curtseying while I’m away. Every policeman at an intersection; every waitress at a diner; every doorman at the hotel will get a curtsey as I train myself to bob without falling over. That was the only advice given to me by a royal protocol expert when I asked her if I curtseyed to the royal couple. “Yes,” she said in a thoughtful fashion, “but only if you’re sure you won’t fall over.”

Falling hadn’t occurred to me until she planted the seed in my mind and then of course, that was all I could think of. It seems pretty easy – right foot behind left heel and bend knees slightly – but add a long dress and high heels, and it could all turn pear-shaped.

I was too young to attend a deb ball, but I imagine those who did had the same nervousness before being presented to the big cheese at the head of the receiving line. Then I have to get through the evening introducing and thanking the speakers without making a gaffe of monumental proportions that would result in scathing headlines in the British tabloids. Crikey. Why did I ever say yes?

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