Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Royal Holy Grail

I have a dream. My dream is to come within restraining order proximity of a member of the royal family. Or even on the cusp of breeching security. I've come close but I just seem to have all the luck.

One would think that having over 200 books on the royals (no bragging, there is a point to my mentioning this) would qualify me for a special visit, reward miles, discounts at the official royal store, or at minimum, an inside scoop on their whereabouts. My unwavering obsession with collecting books goes unrewarded. I have to find out like everyone else, through the Internet, checking the official site on a regular basis or the occasional newspaper article.

Two years ago I was in England, in August and the Queen was in Scotland. Windsor Castle had no royals there, however we did see the royal apartments from the outside (and I've got the photo to prove it). During the tour, my thoughts wandered towards the best way possible to scale the walls and get into the Royal Library. I think I could die happy, perusing the private correspondence of Queen Victoria, possibly adding to my already extensive collection of 200 books, periodicals and china. Maybe I could say that I got lost? Pretend to be a mobile library. Those wacky Canadian tourists never know what they'll do!

Since I couldn't find breathing royals, I tried to find some dearly departed ones. Unfortunately even this wasn't possible - St. George's Chapel was closed, the line-up for Westminster Abbey was too long. I did get into St. Paul's Cathedral and I pretended to walk down the aisle, much like Diana did but without the fanfare. A glorious moment for me and an unsubtle hint to my future husband. However, there were no notable royal people buried there. We toured Kensington Palace, which had a nice selection of the Queen's dresses and hats, but that was about it - not minor royal to be found.

Of course I had to go to Althorp, in the slightest possible chance of catching a glimpse of Earl Spencer. This is Diana's brother for the indifferent yet curious; I try to convert people to royal watchers whenever possible. Now I'm easy to please, I would have settled for a hand closing a blind, the waft of cologne, underpaid servants gossiping in the hallway, the Earl on his riding lawnmower. As I toured the house, I noticed that it was spotlessly clean, how do you do that with 5 children? There were personal touches, like family pictures (not counting the dead aristocrats lining the walls), cds and board games. But no dust bunnies, haphazard toys to trip over, or coffee rings on the tables. Do these people even live here? I had to settle for an informative and affordably priced guidebook, some officially sanctioned Diana china, and some photos of us standing in front of the Spencer manse. A picture perfect postcard 'Wish you were here!'

I have to say that I've taken it for granted that the royals will come to Canada. Since I'm unlikely to go back to England anytime soon it's the only chance I have of meeting any of them. I missed the visits in the 80's, Charles and Diana, Andrew and Fergie. So that leaves the Queen and Prince Philip. But they are getting on in age and how many pairs of moccasins can they possibly need? The last time the Queen was in Canada I worked around the corner from the hotel they were staying at, the Fairmont Royal York. When I myself stayed at that hotel we tried to press the elevator button to take us to the Royal Suite, to no avail. Maybe if I'd scaled the walls? Those wacky Canadian tourists never know what they'll do!

I've just recently returned from a trip to Alberta (which I will be writing about in another article) and apparently I just missed the royal visit by mere weeks. Instead, I went to various landmarks and noted the commemorative plaques on the wall (Queen dedicates this, Duke of Edinburgh sanctions that). At the Royal Turrell Dinosaur Museum in Drumheller Alberta, could I have stood in the same spot as the Queen, minus the sensible shoes? I pretended to pull the curtain on the plaque, which she probably gave a cursory glace to; they must all look alike now. I wandered into the Banff Springs hotel, past security and elderly tourists, where the Queen and Prince Philip stayed. The closest I got to anything royal was to observe some photos on the wall of previous visits.

Hopefully Charles and Camilla will visit. After all, they are the next best things. I would give them a warm welcome; invite them over to our house. Of course I wouldn't invite them over just to look at how the other half lives: maybe they could autograph a few items while they're at it, point out factual errors in unauthorized biographies, regale me with family anecdotes. I would laugh heartily and politely while transcribing their comments.

My last and only hope is to live to be 100 so that I can receive an official anniversary message. If I haven't already outlived various ungrateful children and grandchildren who never come to visit, maybe I could guilt them into letting the monarch at that time know of this milestone. With the advances in medicine, if I live to be 105, I would get another message, and every year thereafter (according to the official site). Even celebrating a Diamond (60th), 65th or 70th wedding anniversary and every year thereafter, would entitle me/us to a message. If we reach that special time and either of us live that long, I would be 92. I wouldn't have to hold out for the big 100!

Here's to a long and healthy life.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Three's Company

Remember when Diana famously said, "there were three in this marriage"?

Camilla could now safely say the same thing about her marriage to Charles The fact that Diana has been dead for eight years doesn't seem to mean a thing. Nope, with all of the conspiracy theorists wedged in the woodwork and people who claim to have her internal organs, Camilla doesn't stand a chance of coming out of Diana's shadow, no matter what her good qualities are.

The ghost of Diana will continue to be a threesome in Charles and Camilla's marriage. For people who are into that sort of thing it might not be a problem, but don't the royal newlyweds deserve a break? It must be a burden to know that every single retrospective and book on their lives, and the lives of William and Harry will include a guest appearance by Diana. I can hear the commentary at William's wedding, not to mention the speculation "What would Diana think?" "Is (insert name of bride here) the new Diana?" Not to mention the tabloid reports of Diana haunting the future royal bride and ominous warnings beyond the grave. Good times...good times...

Don't get me wrong; Diana did a great job, bringing her own style to being a royal lady. She set the bar quite high and no one will ever live up to it. However, I'm sure Camilla will be just as good at kissing babies, shaking hands, and wearing tiaras. Well someone has to do it! Who else is there? The Queen has earned the right to avoid small children except when accepting flowers from them. I'm sure Princess Anne has frightened her fair share, not to mention when her dogs attack them. Sophie tries but just doesn't seem up to the task. Yes, someone has to be the friendly, cuddly face now that the Queen Mother's grandmotherly image is gone. True she's not particularly photogenic but who amongst the roster of immediate female royals are? Now that Camilla doesn't have anyone else’s marriage to destroy, she's completely harmless. A Barbara Bush, except with better jewellery.

She could eventually become the matriarch of the royal family, giving her regal blessings to the younger generation, teaching them the royal wave and which fork to use. Some might say that Camilla is a pretender to Diana's throne, but there was a vacancy so Camilla filled it. She's the Mary Kay of royal mistresses. Camilla will eventually move up the ladder, earning a golden page in the royal history books, while relegating Diana and all of those conspiracy theories to a footnote. We're the only people keeping Diana in their marriage, Charles and Camilla moved on long ago.

When future generations read those history pages, Diana will be like one of Henry VIII's wives who kept her head - what's her name? Maybe Charles and Camilla will become one of those classic love stories, love conquering all; negative opinions, public outcries, even ghosts that don't exist.

May the golden page end in a happily ever after.

© Marilyn Braun 2005