Queen Elizabeth II. Photograph / AP
As a younger backpacker, Herald on Sunday editor Alanah Eriksen met the Queen at Buckingham Palace – and her henchmen when she took images of the royal bathrooms.
In 2011, Britain was gearing up for the mammoth Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations to mark her 60-year reign.
I used to be in my early 20s and on my OE however choosing up shifts at English newspapers so I might fund my subsequent European backpacking jaunt. I used to be additionally supplementing my earnings by providing tales to the New Zealand Herald again house and had just lately coated William and Kate’s marriage ceremony (from a particular media room quite than inside Westminster Abbey among the many 1900 invited friends).
In November, the Queen was internet hosting a reception at Buckingham Palace for greater than 300 journalists and I would been fortunate sufficient to get an invite.
I bear in mind religiously checking the letterbox, hoping nobody else in our Brixton flat would mistake it as junk and chuck it on the fireplace.
It lastly got here, on thick card together with her gold letterhead on the prime.
“The Grasp of the Family has obtained Her Majesty’s command to ask Alanah Eriksen to a Reception to be given at Buckingham Palace by the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh…”
They requested us to put on a day gown or lounge swimsuit. That is royal communicate for, somewhat bit fancy. I can’t inform you how a lot time I spent agonising over which Primark gown was most acceptable (all cash at that time was going towards journey, hire or meals).
Forward of the royal marriage ceremony I would performed dress-up at division retailer Selfridges for a chunk about what friends could be sporting. I would tried on an outfit price upwards of $5500 (and that was with out the matching purse). Alas, they would not let me take it house.
I additionally did not have the clout of New Zealand’s First Girl on the time, Bronagh Key, who had Kiwi designers falling over backwards to decorate her. I interviewed the couple at New Zealand Home earlier than the marriage and John Key could not cover his admiration for his “stunning” spouse, wearing a navy and pink Trelise Cooper gown and matching silk coat.
On the media reception we had been welcomed into the palace amongst a throng of journalists earlier than being requested to line as much as meet the monarch.
Somebody talked about we would must curtsy – one thing I would by no means performed in my life. So I stood there asking British journos for suggestions and awkwardly practising as the road inched nearer.
I bear in mind the Queen being tiny, however having an enormous presence. She wore a inexperienced gown with a lighter inexperienced coat and wise black heels but it surely wasn’t her garments that stood out. It sounds weird however the remainder of her was nearly glowing as she smiled and prolonged a gloved hand to every member of the media.
I curtsied as certainly one of her folks “introduced” me: “Alanah Eriksen from the New Zealand Herald”. Prince Phillip’s ears pricked up and he mentioned, “Oh wow, you’ve got come a protracted approach to see us.” I did not have the guts to inform him I lived a number of tube stops away so I simply grinned.
Afterwards, we mingled with the Queen.
Okay, properly she mingled with a number of particular folks within the crowd – just like the well-known British TV hosts Philip Schofield and Fearne Cotton.
William and Kate had been there too, as had been Charles and Camilla. Kate reduce a statuesque determine among the many crowd. In a inexperienced gown by British designer Mulberry, she towered over most individuals.
Prince Phillip, 90 on the time, came visiting to our group for small discuss. I informed him I used to be from Rotorua and he remarked he’d been there in 1954 on his “honeymoon tour” with the Queen. That is all we acquired and like a well-seasoned mingler, he was off to the subsequent group.
We weren’t allowed to take any images on the gala however I needed proof of what stays my solely go to to Buckingham Palace.
I believed the royal loos had been the right place for a fast snap, away from the prying eyes of Her Majesty’s loyal staffers.
The washrooms had been all the pieces you’d think about for a palace – plush purple carpet, upholstered inexperienced and gold chairs and bathroom seats that had been extra like precise seats.
I snapped away on my little orange digital digicam (no level utilizing my cellphone – we had been nonetheless years away from good-quality footage from these).
As quickly as I walked out, two of the Queen’s henchmen (that is not what they’re known as but it surely sounds extra dramatic) had been ready. They demanded I delete the images and stood over me as I did so.
And there was no satisfaction in figuring out the images would nonetheless be ready for me within the “simply deleted” file if I would taken them with a contemporary smartphone.
However what was much more regarding was how they knew I would been taking images – had been there cameras within the loos? Or did a fellow journo rat me out?
It seems I wasn’t the one one captivated by the royal thrones – a 12 months later judo star Gemma Gibbons took images of them when she was invited to a reception for profitable Paralympians and Olympians. She tweeted a photograph to her 29,000 followers however there have been no henchmen in sight.
Maybe when you’re a silver Olympic medallist and never a lowly Kiwi journo in a Primark gown you are allowed to take pix of a royal flush.