CHARM­ING PRINCE CHATTER

KEEP­ING CALM AND CAR­RY­ING ON COULDN’T SAVE THE INFORMER FROM HIS AWK­WARD ROYAL EN­COUN­TERS

The Observer - - WEEKEND - WORDS: MICHAEL JA­COB­SON

Ex­cite­ment is build­ing among those of a monar­chi­cal bent as Aus­tralia awaits the ar­rival of, deep breath, His Royal High­ness Prince Henry of Wales, Duke of Sus­sex, Earl of Dum­bar­ton and Baron Kil­keel, oth­er­wise known as Prince Harry, and Her Royal High­ness Meghan, Duchess of Sus­sex, pre­vi­ously known as Meghan Markle and Rachel from Suits.

Time was when a more re­bel­lious Informer was all for Aus­tralia cast­ing off the shack­les of the House of Wind­sor to embrace a repub­li­can fu­ture.

To­day though, bliss­ful am­biva­lence is my guide.

I like the Queen. She’s OK. Sure, the first 170 years of her reign were a tad dour, but the lat­ter 200 years or so have seen her loosen up nicely.

While Informer hasn’t met the Queen, I have chat­ted to oth­ers in her fam­ily. Prince Philip was the first, when I was a kid. He and the mis­sus were vis­it­ing Tas­ma­nia and, tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to stretch the royal legs af­ter be­ing cooped up in that aw­fully cramped Rolls-Royce, they pressed the flesh of a Launce­s­ton throng in which Informer was en­sconced.

“Hello, young man, you look very smart,” said Philip, clearly taken with a freshly scrubbed Informer stand­ing re­splen­dent in my school uni­form and wav­ing my Union Jack. “Thank you, Mr Philip,” I replied, proof that look­ing smart does not trans­late to be­ing smart.

The other roy­als I met dur­ing a long ca­reer in jour­nal­ism, start­ing with Princess Diana and Prince Charles when they toured the Com­mon­wealth shortly af­ter their mar­riage.

Meet­ing the masses at a Launce­s­ton school, Charles stopped be­fore me and asked: “Do you come from round about?” A ner­vous Informer, think­ing he’d said ‘round Ho­bart’, replied: “No, I come from round here.”

He moved on quickly. A few sec­onds later, Diana stopped and asked: “Did you at­tend this school?” My re­sponse was cut short when, to my left, there ap­peared a greysleeved arm which turned out to be­long to Prince Charles, who took his bride by the el­bow and away from the ig­nominy of talk­ing to an id­iot like me.

I met Prince Wil­liam dur­ing his visit to the Dar­ling Downs af­ter the 2010-11 floods. At one func­tion, we me­dia were herded hither and thither to keep our dis­tance as the young prince spoke to the lo­cals and heard their deeply mov­ing sto­ries. It was im­pos­si­ble not to be im­pressed by him.

At the time I hap­pened to be nurs­ing a shoul­der in­jury, Cooper Cronk-like in its mag­ni­tude — not that it com­pared to the agony en­dured by the peo­ple of the Downs — and I took the op­por­tu­nity to take a seat at the back of the hall.

I was clutch­ing my shoul­der, gri­mac­ing in pain, when a voice said: “Are you all right? Can I help you?” I looked up and it was Wil­liam. And I was grate­ful. And I said “No, but thank you.” And it all hap­pened very quickly. And then he was whisked away. And I have never told that story be­fore.

So, if you need any ad­vice on how to be­have should Harry or Meghan stop for a nat­ter dur­ing their visit, Informer’s prob­a­bly not the best per­son to ask.

“DO YOU COME FROM ROUND ABOUT?” A NER­VOUS INFORMER REPLIED: “NO, I COME FROM ROUND HERE.”

EYE INFORMER

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