The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall completed their whirlwind tour of New Zealand and most people seem to think it was a resounding success. I have written previously that I was to MC the Diamond Jubilee Trust dinner to honour the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, where the prince and duchess were to appear on her behalf, and I hope I conveyed to you just how nervous I was.
A gossip columnist wrote I was an odd choice given my cavalier approach to public speaking – which is a polite way, I think, of saying I’m prone to informality and the occasional cuss word. The gossip columnist was quite right. I thought I was an odd choice too, but I was determined to stick to the script and not let the organisers a down.
It was quite a to-do seeing what’s involved in hosting royalty. The number of police officers gathered at Sky City was extraordinary and a couple of hours before the event, trained dogs sniffed every nook and cranny for explosives.
A crowd had gathered to see Charles and Camilla, and Peter Gordon – the chef for the evening – and I waited nervously in the foyer to be presented. I was confident about my curtsey, but my hands were clammy. I begged the hotel staff for some ice and a napkin so the poor prince didn’t have to grab a sweaty paw.
The next minute, in they came and we were presented to the couple. I executed the perfect curtsey for the prince. “Oh my dear, thank you,” he said, “you didn’t have to do that.”
“Well,” I said, “If I can’t curtsey to the future king, then who can I curtsey to.” He laughed and moved on to Peter, and I was presented to Camilla. My curtsey to Camilla was a little wobbly. I think I was so flush with success at nailing the first one that I didn’t have the same level of concentration.
We talked about her visit to the Bruce Mason Theatre for a performance of Hairy Maclary and she told me she loved Dame Lynley Dodd’s books and had read them to all her grandchildren. Then they were off to meet people who’d donated to the charitable trust, and Peter and I went to work.
There was a fabulous line-up of entertainers – from the new kids on the block, such as Kawiti Waetford, to Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the Topp Twins. Charles was a brilliant speaker. I suppose he’s had plenty of practice, but I didn’t expect him to be so funny and self-deprecating.
He clearly adores his wife – he mentioned her at least 10 times in his speech. To hear Kiri sing live was a treat. I can’t imagine what it must be like to open your pipes and let out the most beautiful sound.
The Topp Twins were a triumph. They appealed to the prince’s sense of humour and although I’ve seen the invisible poi dance a 1000 times, it’s still as funny as the first time.
Later, after dessert and coffee, we swapped notes about the royals. We agreed Charles made you feel like you were the only person in the room when he spoke to you and Camilla was lovely in person. It was a night to remember for all the right reasons.