‘Both our wives are obsessed with horses – so we know what it’s like to be in a stable relationship’
Simon on royal coincidences
YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS, as you’re a loosey-goosey kind of prince, is it OK if we sing, ‘Happy birthday, dear Charlie’? Welcome to your eighth decade – I’ve been in it for two years and it’s fine once you get over the shock. Don’t panic. In The Seven Ages of Man, we’re only midway between, ‘The justice in fair round belly with good capon lined,’ and, ‘The lean and slippered pantaloon.’ You’re still younger than Mick Jagger, although you’ve left it a bit late, sir, to get a tattoo or a buzz cut. Things we mustn’t do include: grunting as we get out of armchairs and using phrases such as ‘newfangled’ and ‘in my day’.
We have a lot in common, sir. Like you, I’ve played the juvenile lead for far too long. You are the oldest Prince of Wales on record (I hope you’ll one day be the oldest king). I’ve played second fiddle to many a leading lady, whereas you’ve had just the one. Long may she reign.
Both of us have lived under the shadow of crusty fathers. Like you, I had a nickname at school: you, Big Ears; me, Four Eyes. You were caught drinking at Gordonstoun, I at Harrow. (Couldn’t you have gone for something more macho than cherry brandy, Your Highness?) I too was a fan of Spike Milligan and, with your future subjects, I feared for his head when he referred to you as a ‘little grovelling bastard’. Please tell me it’s not true that you’re a distant relative of Vlad the Impaler.
Our wives have appeared in The Archers: yours as a guest on behalf of the National Osteoporosis Society, mine as the horrible Miranda. Both are obsessed with horses – so we know what it’s like being in a stable relationship.
Like you, I enjoy meeting people – I’ll talk to anyone (maybe not Jeremy Kyle) and flowers, certainly. As I approach the sweet peas, I tell them, ‘Don’t be frightened, it’s just me with a Cath Kidston watering can.’ I’m quite butch, though, with thistles and nettles. We are agreed on the BBC’S doyen of matters regal Nicholas Witchell and modern architecture – each carbuncle-ish in different ways. I too like my boiled eggs medium-soft and find the Royal Variety Performance quite challenging on the eyes.
I could have been anything I wanted; you had no choice. I had the theatre in my blood, you had the king thing in yours, but you’d have made a good doctor, boffin or housemaster – even a ventriloquist, ‘One drinks a gottle of geer.’
We’ve met at various functions, but there were always questions I dared not ask. ‘Is feetmen the plural of footman?’ ‘Can I have a go in your Aston Martin?’
From Four Eyes to Big Ears, happy birthday, sir.
Simon plays Justin Elliott in The Archers