You may have read in the newspapers that a prince has got a new girl- friend. You probably thought to yourself at the time I see that the prince has got a new girlfriend. Or perhaps you thought: I wonder if there’s any proper news in this damned newspaper/ What you almost certainly didn’t realise is that behind such a brief announcement lies an exhausting amount of royal ritual and ceremony, which must always take place the same way.
It starts with the age-old exchange between prince and proposed girlfriend, which goes like this.
Prince: Willst thou be my girlfriend?
Girl: I willst.
Prince: Doest promise to be discreet? To smile at the press? Not to stand around in thin dresses with the light behind?
Girl: I dost.
Prince: Canst come and see my Mum some time next week?
Prince: I now pronounce us prince and girlfriend.
Girl: What about the bit about my not selling your letters to the press?
Prince: There won’t be any letters. I’ve learnt my lesson.
The prince then takes his new girlfriend to see his mother at the Palace. There is a rather touching ceremony at the entrance.
Guard: Who goes there?
Prince: The prince.
Guard: The prince and who?
Prince: The prince’s girlfriend.
Guard: Advance, girlfriend, and be recognized.
Prince: She’s new, actually.
Guard: Blimey, it’s all go round here.
The prince will then take his friend upstairs, unless this takes place at Sandringham, in which case they shall both don gum- boots and go out into the kitchen garden or stables. Leading the girlfriend by the hand the prince shall then say:
Prince: Hello, Mum, this is (Here he shall use her name)…
Queen: I am pleased to meet you. How long have you been doing this sort of thing?
Prince: Mum! Please – we’re not touring a factory now. Where’s Dad?
Queen: I believe he is writing an introduction for a book about wildlife.
Prince: That’s the spirit. Well, I’m just going to take (Here he shall use her name again) for a spin in a helicopter.
Queen: Don’t be late for dinner. Charles and Spike Milligan are dropping in again.
The Prince shall then take the girlfriend up in a helicopter loaned by the RN where he shall turn to her and say:
Prince: I think she really liked you. You could tell by the way she let you help brush the dogs. Do you see those people in the potato field down there? They’re photographers from the Sun. Did you know the Sun has more people covering Sandringham than the rest of the world put together? So Dad says.
Girl: I’m sorry – I can see your lips moving, but I can’t hear a single word in this helicopter.
The final part of the ceremony is known as Meeting the Press. This takes place outside the girlfriend’s home at 8.15am as she leaves for work. When she opens the door, the press shall say:
Press: Blimey, girl, you took us by surprise, can you just go in again and then come out once more? Big smile, that’s the way, lots of happiness, this is your big day, going out with the Prince and all that, hold it! Look this way, look that way, look this way again, come on love, you play ball with us and we’ll play ball with you, what’s he like then, have you met the Queen, is it wedding bells, just one more, that’s it, now one more for luck.
Girl: Goodness – is it always like this?
Press: ‘Fraid so, love.
The girlfriend then goes to work looking very thoughtful, reflecting that it’s all going to be harder work than she thought, but that at least she’s going to get the chance to meet in person people like Spike Milligan.
Moreover, The Times 1982