Alexandra's Notebook

Meet a Royal Day

I was lucky enough or, depending on who you speak to, unlucky enough to meet a few royals during my time in the military. The first time was at RAF Mountbattan, in Plymouth, UK, when I had the chance to see and shake hands with the now Princess Royal, Princess Anne. Who, at the time, was doing a number of royal visits to Plymouth and, as it happened, chose to stop in for afternoon tea with us WRAFs in the women’s block sitting room.

Which, of course, meant that days before the planned event, that was to be only about an hour in length, we all had to clean the entire block, top to bottom. And yes, paint stuff outside that included hydrants, and white boarder stones around the two tiny pieces of front garden. I think I was probably the only person there, other than maybe the two WRAF admin staff excited about the prospect of meeting a royal. I had seen Princess Anne, at a distance, on two other occasions as an air force brat. But to meet her in person? I was kind of in awe.

The prep, however annoying, was worth it in the end. Even though this royal would never see anything beyond the front door, hallway, and our sitting room, which suddenly got decked out with a lot of new plants and flowers. It didn’t matter. Officers will find any excuse to make us all clean something. That aside, the fancy china from the officer’s mess was loaned for the occasion and, along with our WRAF admin officer and corporal, we all lined up outside like something from Downton Abby to greet the pennant flying car as it cruised the 30 yards from the officer’s mess down to our building at the bottom of the hill.

Earl Grey tea was served inside with scones, cream and jam, and finger sandwiches the like of which most of us were unfamiliar with. And to which, Anne, taking a droll moment to break the ice and get us all relaxed and chatting said something along the lines of “why do the always starve us with tiny sandwiches?” Making the room erupt in nervous laughter.

It was a fun hour that stretched into 2 and, by the time this down to earth Princess left, turned into something memorable for all present. I know I still remember this woman for her kindness, droll wit, and arching eyebrow.