Running from the Royals

A commemorative biscuit tin from the Queens Coronation

Well Campers, its back on the roady rodeo again, as the Ukes head up to Scotland for shows in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling over the next week. This means we'll be missing all the brouhaha over the royal wedding this Saturday, which the press are full of. As every two bit newspaper hack knows, royal reporting sells papers, and since I've lived through a few, I might as well chuck in my two'penneth.
Royal weddings always make me think of 'Money' - Martin Amis's brilliant satire on 1980s excess, where John Self, a seedy ad man, visits a New York brothel.
While he's being massaged, the girl tells him: "You must be really excited" to which he replies non commitally, and so she says again:
"No, You must be REALLY excited"
"About what?"
"Your New Princess!" - she squeals, referring to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Thanks to the Disney Corporation, most western people grow up familiar with royalty and its conventions: the coronations, the palaces, the processions, the balls (as in Viennese - not testicles) and so on. Everybody wants to believe in fairy tales, but like Charles and Diana’s wedding, these marriages are more often a kind of faustian pact.
Whatever one thinks of the soap opera that is the British Royal family, the fact is, for anyone who travels outside the UK, people worldwide are fascinated by them and they generate a certain hysteria wherever they go.
There is a kind of contract, therefore, between the Royals and the press. The Royals feed the press tidbits, while the press attempts to find dirt on the Royals, even if they have to make it up (and most times, they don’t).
I remember when the Ukes played for the Queen’s 90th birthday at Windsor Castle, what impressed me most, was not the event itself, but the elaborate security around it. We had heard that the press were so desperate to find out what was going on, that reporters were repeatedly signing on to tours around the castle, in the hope of picking up something. We had to bring several forms of identification and were warned that mobile phones would be strictly forbidden. In the event, the performers at the cabaret, about 30 of us (musicians, magicians, comedians) were allowed to keep our phones, but I will never forget the malevolent eye of the royal flunkey, who assured us that anyone, ANYONE caught taking a photo would be in big trouble. I could believe it, a snatched photo of such an event might sell for thousands of pounds.
This reminded me of a good friend of mine who used to work at a celebrity magazine back in the 90’s, which had bought exclusive picture rights to the Catherine Zeta Jones/Michael Douglas wedding, for beaucoup bucks. Anxious to protect their investment, security at the wedding was tight; my friend told me that one of the guests arrived in an elaborate regency costume, with ruffles at the neck and wrists, which, while eccentric, was still perfectly acceptable clothing for a wedding.
It turned out that he had a miniature camera concealed among the ruffles of his wrist and had happily snapped away during the wedding and sold the pics for a bomb to a rival magazine.
Here’s me at Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 (God I’m old!) - in those days me and my brother lived in central London, so we watched the wedding on tv, and then strolled up to the palace to see the happy/nervous couple come out on the balcony. I remember loads of tourists passing us their cameras as we were taller than everyone else.
Probably the best story I’ve heard about that royal wedding came from a freelance photographer who was working for the Daily Mail at the time. Charged with getting good photos of the happy couple on their journey from St Pauls Cathedral to Buckingham Palace, he had scrupulously investigated the route they would take. He found that the route went directly under the old railway bridge at Ludgate Circus (since removed) and had gotten in touch with the rail company, to get permission to mount two highly sophisticated cameras (which would be triggered by radio control - this was pre digital) on to the bridge. These would get a birds eye view of the carriage as it passed underneath.
On the day, he lined up the cameras and doubled checked the radio transmitter, so that everything was working perfectly. As the carriage went by, he clicked the button on his radio control, while a dispatch rider, revving his engine, waitied to rush the film to the newspapers laboratories as soon as the procession had passed.
When it was all over and the film was finally being developed, ready for a picture exclusive the next morning, the sad news came through that all they contained were pictures of horse shit, steaming on the tarmac. It transpired that the police, after the mornings rehearsal, had gone along the entire route, going through all the radio frequencies to try and set off any bombs that might have been planted.


  • andrea pasquale bulletti
    andrea pasquale bulletti
    Hi Peter, it's always fun to read your stories..enjoy your Scottish tour!

    Hi Peter, it's always fun to read your stories..enjoy your Scottish tour!

  • Peter
    Thank you Andrea!

    Thank you Andrea!

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