The rush-rush routine of Charles and Diana.
Says John Merton, the society artist who painted a portrait of Diana in triplicate: "I saw her engagement book, which is a terrifying thing. Every hour of the day is booked up for nine months ahead." Diana's engagement book is not really a book but a series of neatly printed pages in an embossed folder, one day to a page and one line for every hour. These are neatly filled in by her ladyin-waiting-appointments every 15 to 20 minutes and a strict timetable for official engagements. Evenings and weekends are also inked in; a line through the page denotes holidays.
John Merton and other portrait painters are allotted a certain number of sittings. He had five, one at Kensington Palace and four more at his studio near Marlborough in Wiltshire. Otherwise they work from photographs, and plenty of those are available,
Diana's schedule takes careful organization and rules out too many of the impromptu gatherings of which the princess is so fond. "Imagine having to go to a wedding every day of your life-as the bride. Well, that's a bit what it's like," Diana confides.
Because her day is so full, she has to start early. The routine rush begins when the butler, Harold Brown, knocks on the bedroom door, never later than 7:30 a.m., bearing a tray of weak coffee for Diana and Lapsang Suchong tea for Charles-he never touches coffee or sugar, preferring to sweeten his drinks with large spoonfuls of honey, which he takes with him everywhere. The breakfast china has a delicate pattern of butterflies that typifies the taste of the princess, who loves pretty, feminine things.
If her schedule allows, Diana then dons a track suit and heads for her early-morning swim at Buckingham Palace. Her detective is already waiting in the car with the engine running, and they make the short drive to Buckingham Palace in record time, avoiding all the rush-hour traffic. If Diana has an early engagement or one of the children is unwell, she sacrifices the dip and does a few stretching exercises before sitting down to a frugal breakfast of pink grapefruit, muesli, and a piece of toast while glancing through the Daily Mail and the Daily Express gossip columns to see what her friends have been up to. She avoids reading stories about herself, because she finds them too upsetting. But she knows what is being said: either her post-bag of letters or her friends will tell her.
The Prince of Wales is an early riser who listens to the farming report on Radio 4 at 6:10 a.m. Recently, he has acquired the habit of being in his study and on the telephone, a breakfast tray of bran flakes and honey on his desk, before 8:00. He will read the papers, though newspaper games, it can be said, do confuse him.
One morning he lost his entry card for the Times portfolio game.
"Find it for me quickly," he instructed the butler.
"Don't worry, sir. I'll get you another," the butler replied.
"No, you can't do that-I must have mine," the prince insisted in the mistaken belief that the card had been specially made for him.
As Charles wrestles with the sometimes unfamiliar ways of the modern world, Diana gets on with her own day. As a mother she is a light sleeper and, unlike her husband, "who can sleep through anything," is wakened by the slightest sound. A pair of earplugs was once even found next to her side of the bed, by an amused member of staff who found it strange to think of Diana sitting through earshattering rock concerts, but going to bed with a pair of earplugs. (She does, however, also take them to concerts!) Diana may have had her night disturbed by a cry for a glass of water or complaints of a stomachache. The boys will always crawl into bed on Diana's side if they are frightened or unwell, and Charles seldom wakes up. But whatever Charles and Diana are doing during the day, they always kiss the boys good-bye before they go off to school in the morning. William has acquired an endearing habit of saluting his father by the front door-imitating some of the soldiers and officials who do the same. And amid much giggling Harry will imitate his elder brother.
If Diana doesn't have any pressing appointments, she will accompany the detective and the children to school in their Ford Grenada Estate car. She doesn't pick them up but tries to organize her day so she can be with them in the early evening.
Diana never forgets how her royal life also consumes that of her staff (the royal family never refers to its staff as servants) and, if they have been working particularly long hours, never forgets to thank them, often with a personal note written in her large rounded handwriting. She and Charles employ at Kensington Palace between 16 and 20, including two valets for Charles, two dressers for Diana, two cooks, two chauffeurs, a butler, a housekeeper, an army orderly, a host of daily cleaners, plus the two nannies.
Diana is on first-name terms with all her staff at Kensington Palace but is not overly familiar with them as she was in the early days of her marriage. She remembers their birthdays and at Christmas chooses gifts with great care, having everything wrapped, tagged, and hidden well before the end of December. Charles is happy to leave that "chore" to his wife, just as before his marriage he left it up to his valet to do all his shopping-at minimal expense!
Being a perfectionist herself, Diana does get irritated if things are left untidy or dirty, and she won't hesitate to inform the staff if she is displeased. At Highgrove one of the maids once left some dirty fingerprints on the woodwork, and Diana, who was feeling tetchy anyway, threw an angry fit.
Normally, however, she is never haughty or bossy, and she asks for things to be done in the nicest possible way"Would it be possible to do this for me?" she says with a smile.
Anne Beckwith-Smith is Diana's chief lady-in-waiting. Her most important role is to assist Diana with her official engagements. The day before Diana is to make an appearance, Anne and Diana's equerry, Lt. Comdr. Richard Aylard, will arrive at Kensington Palace to brief the princess. They will have already briefed those at the site of her planned visit, informing them of her likes and dislikes if she is lunching and how to address her and, as vital to a princess as anybody else, checking on the availability of lavatories. It is a rule that the queen and members of her family have to have a special separate loo provided for their visit. This can cause all kinds of problems, and new Toos are often quickly installed, sometimes to no avail because the royal visitors might not feel any real need to use them. If they do, the lady-in-waiting will stand outside the door on guard to prevent any possible embarrassing intruders. Diana finds this very amusing and is far more embarrassed by the possibility of a new loo being installed especially for her than by the possibility of someone else's wanting to use it at the same time.
"Absolute discretion at all times is the most important requirement for the job of lady-in-waiting," the queen's assistant press secretary, John Haslem, says. "They will never discuss their role with outsiders. "
Two members of Diana's staff that she has a good relationship with are her dressers, Fay Marshalsea and Evelyn Dagley. Diana attended the wedding of 33-year-old Fay Marshalsea in 1987. But behind Fay's smiles on her wedding day was a tragic secret: she had recently learned she had cancer and could die. Only her husband-to-be, Steven Appleby, who is in the RAF, their immediate families, and the princess knew. Fay continued to work for Diana after the wedding until she became too weak and was forced to stop. Diana insisted that she keep her flat in Kensington Palace because it would be easier for her to get the necessary treatment than if she had to travel from the home she shared with her husband at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. Throughout Fay's illness Diana was deeply concerned and on one occasion even accompanied Fay to the hospital for her daily treatment. The genuine concern and support Fay received from the princess helped speed her recovery, and although she is still not out of danger, she is back at work with nothing but praise for her employer: "She knew of my illness virtually from the start," Fay said in an interview with the Sunday Express. "She is very close to me, and I wanted to tell her. She gave me encouragement to carry on. She is a lovely person to work for and very special to me."
Diana is very caring with her personal staff, and nothing is too much trouble for her if something goes wrong in their lives.
Diana's work and interests lead her outside the household as well. And that means hours and hours of charity work. This work brings her into contact with a wide and eclectic range of people. Some are interesting and intelligent; others inevitably are not. But they all want to shake her hand, and on her visit to Australia in 1988 she almost wilted away with the heat and the seemingly endless number of hands she had to clasp-many of them sticky.
It is a problem all members of the "Firm" have to face, and Diana admits she sometimes doesn't know what to do. She can't very well wipe her hand on the back of her dress, and she hates wearing the long white cotton gloves that the queen wears to solve this problem.
Sticky hands are the least of Diana's problems with children. She says she dislikes having to deal with too many of them at once, explaining she doesn't have a chance to do anything beneficial when faced with a whole classroom. She prefers to meet each child individually or talk to children in small groups so she can walk from one to another. She experiences the same problems anyone would when faced with terribly handicapped children and often has to bite her lip to prevent tears from running down her cheeks.
On one occasion she was presented with an angelic-looking child who was both deaf and blind. The child had been told, through sophisticated methods of touch, that Princess Diana was coming to see her. But when Diana saw the child, she was so overcome with shock at her sad plight that she literally froze and couldn't touch her. When she returned home later in the day, she ran to her bedroom, shut the door, and wept, confused and upset by her inability to cope with the situation.
She experiences the same kind of emotion when visiting hospices, when she knows the patients she is talking to might be dead within a few weeks or months. She comes home physically and mentally drained by such visits and invariably rushes up to the nursery to hug her own children.
"I'm so lucky," she says, "to have two healthy, strong boys. I don't know how I could cope if I had a child who was handicapped or mentally handicapped in some way. "
So conscious is Diana of trying to project an image of a hard worker, not an empty-headed fashion plate, that she goes to extraordinary lengths to do her homework and understand the complicated methods by which certain diseases or disabilities are treated. Equerry Richard Aylard writes all her briefs, but the princess does a lot of her own research and refuses to be merely a figurehead for the charities of which she is a patron.
"I think it's important to show you're interested and that you're not just breezing in and out, having seen them for a morning," she explains. "I don't just want to be a name on a letterhead."
To watch Diana "work a room" is to witness a remarkable performance. There is something almost mystical in the way even the very ill respond to her presence. Eyes open, young and old forget their pain for a moment and smile.
In primitive societies kings and queens were believed to be blessed with magical powers, and it took the English Civil War three centuries ago to dispense with the divine right of kings to rule. But the arrival of the Princess of Wales at a hospital or hospice can stir those atavistic folk memories. And even the more worldly among us rarely fail to respond to Diana's very natural charm, and I include myself.
She is an expert in the art of small talk and always looks directly into the eye of whomever she is talking to. She is very quick-witted, with an ability to respond to a question with a snappy reply, which stands her in good stead. I have seen hardened journalists walk away from speaking to her with a bemused look on their faces, muttering, "She's wonderful, so beautiful-and so much more intelligent than I thought." The old magic of royalty can still work its spell.
In addition to Diana's charity work and the daily responsibilities to her family, she and the prince have embarked on several overseas royal tours nearly every year for the eight years of their marriage. For Diana, whose traveling had been limited to a few European resorts and one trip to Australia to see her mother, it has been very exciting. Her first Commonwealth tour, however, to Australia and New Zealand in 1983, was something of a shock.
"It was like a baptism of fire," Diana said. "But by the time I left I felt I'd actually been able to achieve something."
Tours may look glamorous, but they are very hard work. "Although you are tired, you just have to get on with the job," she says, and helped by her hardworking staff, that is exactly what she does.
During their most recent visit to Australia, the princess confessed to friends later she felt ex- hausted most of the time and was longing to lie in the sun instead of standing in a smart frock shaking hands. Diana suffers badly from jet lag, and that combined with the heat wiped her out.
On most occasions, Charles is there advising . her on what she should and should not do. He wasn't at all annoyed by her and Fergie's pranks at Royal Ascot last year, and he even offered to give her a piggyback ride over a puddle himself, which she wisely declined. But when it came to discussion as to whether or not she should be included in the royal "It's a Knockout" team, he put his foot down-quite correctly, as it transpired. Prince Edward was annoyed. He saw his sister-in-law as a major pulling power to persuade Hollywood stars to take part. But Charles was adamant, and a family row ensued. The princess royal accused Charles of being a "stick-in-the-mud," and Diana felt once again she was missing all the fun. When the show came to be screened, she was secretly relieved she had not been allowed to take part; although she thought it a "jolly good giggle," she realized she would not have come out of it well.
While all the parties, receptions, official duties, and traveling keep Diana very busy, they leave her little time to relax and, more important, spend time alone with Charles.
"We're never alone," Diana frequently complains to Charles. When she is free, he is often busy, and if she is not visiting friends, she spends quiet evenings in her sitting room catching up on the TV programs she has missed. She leaves a list with the butler, Harold Brown, of the programs she wants to see, and he arranges to have them recorded. Such soap operas as "Dallas," "Dynasty," and "East Enders" are favorites. She saw Woman of Substance, starring Jenny Seagrove, and The Thornbirds, with Richard Chamberlain, but she doesn't always find time to watch the whole of the many current miniseries shown on television. Sometimes Diana will curl up with a book; she finds it easier to read intellectually untaxing ones, such as Danielle Steele, Colleen McCullough, and Barbara Taylor Bradford romances.
"My husband doesn't approve of the books I read," she admits, but she finds such novels easy to pick up and put down.
From her choice of books to her choice of staff to her determination to raise "normal" children, the Princess of Wales has come to recognize the things she wants in life. And in the years to come, the Spencer determination will ensure that she gets it.
Believe it or not, the future king and queen of England do not, like King Solomon, prefer such delicacies as hummingbird tongues. In fact, breakfast at Kensington Palace, except for the size of the breakfast nook and perhaps a servant or two, could pass for the morning meal in the home of the ordinary family on Elm Street in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Father is trying to read the newspaper; the kids, William and Harry, are trying to keep him from it; Mother is trying to calm her husband's irritability and at the same time improve the children's table manners. On the table is something simple and healthful-grapefruit, bran flakes, and toast or croissants for Mom and Dad, cereal and milk for the kids.
As for the other meals, food is similarly light. No belt-busting pig-outs. Dinner party or not, Charles andDiana stick close to their salubrious diets. Both readily admit that they feel much better if they don't each much meat, so they choose chicken, game birds (which Charles bags himself), and fish over fatty red meats, as well as salads and baked, rather than fried, potatoes.
Charles actually gave up shooting and turned vegetarian for a short time. He has been an advocate of a low-fat, highfiber diet since a visit to an agricultural center in 1978. What disturbed him was the environment in which the pigs were kept to produce maximum output. At the time, he vowed he would become a vegetarian and declared he was glad he was not a pig.
In the royal couple's German-designed kitchen (a wedding gift), Diana's chef, Melvyn Wycherley, prepares a typical dinner: his classic watercress soup, made with fresh chicken stock and cream; or perhaps a seafood mousse; followed by grilled salmon or monkfish; partridges served with vegetables organically grown at Highgrove, their country place; and a dessert of fresh pineapple or mango sorbet. Diana is particularly fond of pastas and homemade soups.
On tour with Charles, it is the responsibility of Charles' man Stephen to bring along everything needed for breakfast. This includes enough bran flakes, honey, chocolate, Olivier biscuits (for which the prince is said to have a passion), and lemon refresher (which he prefers to alcohol) to last the trip. After a mad scramble to reach the airport, without fail Charles' first question is "Did you bring the honey?"
Besides eating light and eating right, Charles exercises, and he loves fresh air. On tour he takes along only some pink pills in case of stomach upset. When he's laid up in bed with the flu, don't bother paying a consolation call. He won't see anyone, not even the queen.
The prince explains that maintaining at least minimum fitness is his approach to life. He tries to do exercises every day and tries equally hard not to eat so much that he can't have a game of polo, climb a mountain, go wind-surfing, or do something equally energetic on the spur of the moment, If he doesn't exercise, he says, he starts "clogging up." He finds a game of polo as good as a doctor's prescription for a cold or a headache.
The princess has her own ways of avoiding "clogging up." Swimming is one; dancing, for which she has taken lessons, another, She also enjoys good health, and a good thing it is, because she doesn't enjoy "needles or drips." The result of her diet-and-exercise regimen is the glow of her natural beauty. Her regimen, however, hasn't prevented a bothersome back or a broken leg during a skiing trip.
Following the tradition of her husband and the royal family, Diana is a believer in alternative medicine for minor ailments, preferring herbal remedies to the antibiotics of modern medicine. She uses traces of arsenic for stomach complaints, deadly nightshade for sore throats, and feverfew plant, a type of chrysanthemum, to relieve symptoms of migraine.
Besides the size of the eating facilities and a servant or two, there is one other difference between dining in Kensington Palace and dining in the ordinary house on Elm Street. At Kensington, Mom isn't bustling about in an apron between stove, cupboards, and table. On occasion, Diana is said to give he "rusty" cooking skills a whirl. But why risk messing up a seafood mousse when there's an expert mousse maker ready to apply his skills in the kitchen?
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|Publication:||Saturday Evening Post|
|Date:||Sep 1, 1989|
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