Opinion: some right royal reflections

By Peter Carr

By the time you are reading this the much-hyped interview undertaken by Oprah Winfrey will have aired. And you are possibly already tired of the subsequent drawn-out media hype that will have followed it. That the Queen, in a stroke of pure political savvy, broadcast a strong Commonwealth message the day prior to the programme speaks volumes as to her huge degree of experience and understanding of those who reside in the Commonwealth.

But we live in changing times. And with great respect (which I am sure you mostly share) the longevity of the dedication of HM speaks volumes. That she is blessed with a quartet of offspring – most of whom are ‘different’ – tells us all that, wherever you are in society, you cannot control your heirs to the degree that you would like. That they desire to digress from the hoped-for line that you have mentally drawn is something that will have caused most parents to shake their head in bewilderment. In the case of the UK Royal Family such a state of social complexity and relationship wandering is more apparent due to the public nature of those who ogle from the side-lines. And make money out of doing so.

Some years ago, I had the interesting experience, along with five others, of spending an afternoon with Prince Charles – at Government House in Wellington. We represented the local board of a fine international educational establishment named United World Colleges – of which HRH was the Patron.

Part of our role was to organise the search for, and interviews of, groups of fine young Kiwis who we felt would represent the nation well with a two-year stint at one of these multi-national educational colleges.

They would mix with similar young people from many countries and study for the International Baccalaureate – which some schools in this country now strive to utilise.

The culmination of the annual search was to find two ‘top’ students (not just in academics) and then take the eight finalists to Government House for afternoon tea.

Prince Charles was due to visit and we had a problem as the Prime Minister (Muldoon) had cancelled government support of the single scholarship that they paid for – we raised funds for the other. We asked the Governor General if we could meet with our Patron to discuss the matter. This was agreed and we duly trooped up the hill behind the Basin Reserve for tea and cucumber sandwiches with the regal visitor.

Between us all we devised a strategy that HRH would have a frank discussion with the PM to seek his agreement to changing his mind. Prince Charles was successful.

Now this is a man not unknown to be heavily criticised for his social behaviour or his views on architecture and consumption of green vegetables. But my abiding memory, after we had consumed huge quantities of weak tea, was when HRH turned to the host saying – ‘Governor General – do think we have something stronger to serve our guests?’ Promptly came a silver salver, several crystal glasses and a bottle of gin.

They may look and sound a wee bit ‘different’ but there is some good in everyone!

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