If you’re surprised to learn that I met Charles and Camilla when they were on their royal Canadian tour this past week, well, that makes two of us. Here are the details on how these events came to pass, as well as some answers to questions I’ve been asked about the day. I’m going to lay it out chronologically from Wednesday morning.
7am: I get dressed. It’s a normal work day for me, but because I know Charles and Camilla will be stopping at the National War Memorial, which happens to be very close to where I work, I put on a dress and a blazer, do my makeup, and put product in my hair. I jokingly write to my friends and family that I’m ready to meet with Charles and Camilla, not realizing that’s exactly what I’ll be doing 8 hours later. (If this isn’t the biggest real-life version of “dress for the life experiences you want to have”, I truly don’t know what is.)
8am: I walk to work. It’s a beautiful day and I spot royal reporters! They’re making their way toward the War Memorial to set their cameras up, do midday TV hits back in the UK, etc. I walk around the War Memorial and notice the red carpet and velvet ropes that have been set up sometime overnight. I’m taking pics and videos of everything, which makes me look like a) a royal enthusiast, b) a security threat, or c) some combination of options a and b. There are already probably 50 non-reporter people milling around, trying to get a good spot to watch the action from.
9am: I try to get at least a little work done before I head back out for around 10:30. (Charles and Camilla are scheduled to stop at the War Memorial at 10:50.)
10:25: I head out to the War Memorial to get a viewing spot. All of the good viewing spots are taken – there are crowds of people around the War Memorial about 6 people deep. I try to use my work badge to get closer and am told by a cop that if I don’t have pre-clearance, it’s not going to happen (Good for them – they weren’t playing around or letting anyone in the area even if they had a fancy work pass). I get a standing spot that has no direct view of the memorial but will have a view of the car dropping Charles and Camilla off. We are told by police that Charles and Camilla are running late.
11:05am: Charles and Camilla arrive at the War Memorial. That’s Camilla’s hand in the front seat, waving at the crowd. Charles is sitting in the back and waving, but his hand is inside the window so you can’t really see it.
At this point, I’m late for a work meeting and book it back to my office. I continue creeping from the office window while I pretend to be a productive member of a Zoom call. This is the view from my building:
11:45: I’m very excited that I got to see Charles and Camilla in person, albeit not at a close distance. I get back to work, thinking that the excitement for the day is over.
12:55pm: I’m about to dig in to my lunch, which I haven’t gotten to eat yet because of all the excitement. I get an urgent call on my cell from (redacted), saying that (redacted) knows I’m a royal watcher and asking if I want to attend the RCMP Musical Ride in the VIP box with Charles and Camilla. I say yes. I’m told to get into a waiting car. The lunch goes back in the fridge – I will think of it fondly several times throughout the coming hours. This whole sequence of events happens in about three minutes.
1:15pm: The car arrives at the RCMP stables. I meet a ton of people and we walk toward the VIP box. I realize that we’re in direct sunlight and start rubbing emergency SPF 50 sunscreen that I keep in my purse on myself like I’m out of my mind. I do this twice through the afternoon, though not when Charles and Cam are in the box.
2pm: Charles and Camilla are supposed to be arriving now, but we’ve been told that they’re running late. I longingly think of my lunch back at work in the fridge. The pipe band and highland dancers keep us entertained while we wait. They really did a fantastic job, as did the pilots of the planes who flew above us.
2:50pm: A busload of royal reporters arrive at the grounds, a sure sign that Charles and Cam are on their way. They get their cameras in place while I try and fail to put my legs into the Duchess slant (my legs are too short). This is the Duchess slant, which I cannot do:
2:59pm: Charles and Camilla arrive to the VIP box of the Musical Ride. This is them coming in, being led by RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki (she is the only person to sit beside C+C during the event). Behind C+C are a good number of security people and palace staffers. I wanted to ask the royal staffers questions SO BADLY! Restraint, I told myself, restraint!
I realized as I was taking the below video that I was going to be face to face with Camilla in a second or two, so I shut off my camera and we locked eyes. I curtsied, which no one told me to do, but I just did it because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you meet members of the BRF. She smiled and held out her hand and I shook it. Her handshake was very gentle! None of this asserting dominance, Linkedin clickbait stuff. I tried to mimic the amount of pressure she used. I think we said hi to each other but honestly I blacked out and I couldn’t tell you for sure. Charles noticed that Camilla had stopped to shake my hand and nodded to me. I may have curtsied again to Charles – again, not sure, because of the having blacked out.
The actual Musical Ride was very fun. I think Charles and Camilla enjoyed it. I enjoyed as much of it as I could while I took creepy photos of them from a few rows behind. I also sneakily Googled the names of the top Clarence House staff while they sat in front of me.
3:45pm: The Musical Ride is over and Charles and Camilla, and their staff and security people, have gone to the next event. The royal reporters have also packed up and are on their way to Rideau Hall (the Governor General’s residence) for an evening reception. I’m still at the RCMP headquarters because (redacted), who invited me, was invited to the post-ride reception. I frantically tweet and post Instagram stories while trying not to crack up from my Royal Analysis Instagram account DMs (example: Did you tell Camilla what you say about her on your podcast?”). I’m so, so hungry. I sneak a piece of cheese and down a can of Pepsi at the reception but I’ve been in the sun for most of the day and am starting to not feel amazing. The last time I ate was 7:30am.
4:45pm: We hit the road to go back toward downtown Ottawa, and the road is GRIDLOCK. The route that took us 15 minutes four hours ago now takes more than an hour. It’s hot, I’m hungry, and the constant gas/brake of being in a traffic jam is not doing great things to my stomach.
6pm: I make it back to the office. I feel like I’ve just arrived home from a Homer-level odyssey. I just took basically a whole day off work so I could curtsy to a couple of septuagenarians while horses whinnied in the background. But, rather than being annoyed, my boss is delighted by my day. My boss is a saint. One of my coworkers, also a saint, microwaves my lunch while I regale her with stories from my day. I eat the lunch like I’ve never eaten food before.
8pm: After working for a couple of hours, I walk home. I’m basically in a stupor at this point. The excitement, the sun, the fresh air, the adrenaline, have completely worn me out. As I walk home, I realize that it’s almost four years to the day since Harry and Meghan’s wedding and a memory comes back to me. A memory of my mom being sick in the oncology ward of the hospital four years before, and me tracking down the hospital staff to make sure she has cable TV in her room on the day of Harry and Meghan’s wedding. She was so excited to see the wedding, so excited to see Harry happy. My mom passed away a month later and it’s a memory I treasure. My mom was a royal lover, the reason I know anything about the royals, the reason I knew to curtsy. And almost four years after her death, I’ve just met the future King and Queen of the United Kingdom. I know for a fact that if my mom has any pull where she is now, she must have orchestrated this – even if she was Team Diana. I feel 100 different emotions. Exhausted, I get home and pass out.
What did they smell like?
I couldn’t smell them. Everything smelled like we were at a horse stable, the main reason being that we were sat beside a horse stable. I’m sure they smell great when not at horse stables.
Did they seem shorter/taller/bigger/smaller than you expected?
They were both taller than I expected. Camilla was very small and Charles was regular-sized when I thought he’d be a bit smaller. Also his suit was very baggy! Maybe that played into it.
How do they look up close? I hear their chemistry is amazing!
They looked very happy and in love. (And truly, thank god for that. Can you imagine having to go to strange events for the rest of your life while people gawk at you, and not have the love of your life beside you? Sounds like torture.) They talked to each other during the musical ride. I think they were both thrilled to be in the presence of horses, which is a very British stereotype thing to say but it’s true! The one thing that surprised me the most was just how deep Camilla’s voice was in person. It wasn’t off-putting, it was actually kind of comforting somehow? But much deeper than on TV or in interviews.
What did they say to you, if anything?
I couldn’t tell you if I had a gun to my head. I truly blacked out and left my body. I know that I curtsied and that Camilla offered her hand and I shook it. I also got a nod from Charles. No idea what they said, and no idea what I said back! For the record, Camilla has very delicate hands and a very gentle handshake.
Did you enjoy yourself? Was the public supportive?
I enjoyed myself so much that it took me two days to recover. Blame it on the adrenaline or the heat or the sitting in the sun or whatever, but I slept like the dead for two nights after and needed naps during the days after. It was like I’d run some kind of royal marathon and as soon as I crashed into the ticker tape, I fell into a coma. I really did enjoy myself and am super super grateful to the person/people who got me into the musical ride and into the VIP box. It was once in a lifetime.
THOUSANDS of people showed up to see the musical ride in the public seats. People brought camp chairs and snacks and waited in the sun to see Charles and Camilla. So even if you aren’t a fan of monarchy in general (or Charles and Cam), you can’t deny that they put people in seats.
Were Charles’ shoes a bit beat up? (Apparently this is typical.)
I don’t know if his shoes were beat up, but you can tell that his suit had definitely been worn before. And, as I said before, it looked quite baggy, which I think was much more the style in the 80s/90s. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we learned his suit was 30+ years old.
How do they look in person?
I don’t know how else to say this, but they look very normal. Just a married couple in their seventies. Camilla’s teeth had dark spots. Charles’ bald spot was roasting in the sun. Of course, they have nice clothes and people with them to make sure they’re comfortable, but if they had been in regular clothes and had no protection, I’m pretty sure most of us wouldn’t give them a second glance.
Did you get a primer on royal etiquette from anyone? Not that you need it, just curious!
Great question! All I was told was that I had to be in my seat for the scheduled Charles and Camilla arrival time, and to not sit down until Charles and Camilla sat down. No one told me to act a certain way or to curtsy. I was actually one of the only people I saw curtsy to them in the VIP box (maybe the only one?), which is why I think they stopped for me. I have no idea if I’m making this up or not, but when I curtsied, I thought I saw in Camilla’s face, and then Charles’s, a look of “Oh, she gets it. She knows the protocol.” I think they appreciated it. If we had talked at any great length I would have called them HRH first and then Sir/M’aam, but we didn’t get anywhere near that.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your questions, your excitement, and your good vibes. I really appreciate you.