On almost dying at Clarence House
Before I begin this week’s post, can I take a minute to say that I just picked up my tickets for ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ BECAUSE PART ONE IS TONIGHT!!! In fact, I could very well be at the theatre when you read this post. I.Can’t.Even.
Right, now back to this week’s decidedly more royal post.
There is a lot to love about Britain’s traditions. I love almost all of them, which should be an unsurprising fact considering I’m currently living, for the second time, in the UK. And you can’t talk about the traditions of Britain without mentioning the Royal Family. Australia has a complicated relationship with Britain and its Queen. Britain itself has a complicated relationship with its Queen (a hint of which is portrayed so, so brilliantly in the film ‘The Queen’ which I could watch on repeat forever.).
As for me, my relationship is much more straightforward. I’m not a monarchist (I believe Australia should 100% be a republic), but I freakin’ LOVE the royals. I love their castles, their jewels, the palaces, Prince George’s chubby cheeks and Prince Harry’s forearms. Why? Because to me, royalty represents living history. When I visited Windsor Castle, one of the first royal sites I ever went to, I was amazed to think I was walking the same halls that had been in use since the late 11th century. 11th century!
I was standing where King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I had stood. (No wonder I felt a little behead-y.) Not only that, the castle is still in use today. (And I expect it will be used for EXTREMELY lavish parties once Wills & Kate get the keys. Or maybe it’ll be Prince George’s and he’ll just hang with the Obamas when they're all finished with the White House.)
I don’t limit my royal love for those with British blood. Royals from any principality, both small and large, European or Asian, are just as fascinating to me and if I told you my goal was to somehow get invited to a palace for afternoon tea one time, I wouldn’t be lying. Instead, I have to make do with visiting royal landmarks when they open themselves up to us commoners.
I have crossed off a big chunk of royal properties from my ‘to do’ list but Clarence House wasn’t one of them. So when I was scrolling through Twitter one afternoon and noticed Clarence House was open to the public for the whole of August, I booked tickets for a tour the same week.
|Just imagine you're looking at the actual house rather than a book cover. They were a bit funny about taking photos and I wasn't about to piss off the Queen.|
The visit to Clarence House turned out to be…complicated. The tours were timed and said time was very much adhered to, as we discovered when we arrived four minutes late for our time slot and endeared ourselves to precisely no one. The Queen would NOT have been impressed and I only hoped the news wouldn’t get back to her and ruin my shot at a Buckingham Palace garden party invite. (Prince Harry would have totally forgiven us, FYI.)
Our tour guide graciously allowed us to join the next tour and we set off towards Clarence House, extreme stink eye from our guide and all. When she asked our group where we were from, I said Australia and won back some points. She was extremely excited to hear I was from Down Under and had something in particular to show me inside. My mind reeled with what it could be. (Spoiler alert: they were artworks created by an Australian artist of England during WWII. I wouldn’t say I was excited by the great reveal but anything to get on the guide’s good side was a bonus.)
Dotted throughout the house were portraits of monarchs old and new, the Queen Mother and recent photos of Wills, Kate, George and Harry. It was very much ‘look, Clarence House is just a normal house used by a normal family and we have the pictures to prove it!’. I don’t need my royals to be normal. They aren’t normal. They never will be normal. Let’s accept this and move on.
|These peeps are totes normal apparently|
And then we arrived at the Garden Room. A room created by Queen Elizabeth herself which had a lovely view of the grounds and a magnificent tapestry that covered almost an entire wall.
And, there were bees.
I’m allergic to bees. As in, I get stung by a bee and I could very well die if not administered with an EpiPen. On this particular day, I did not have an EpiPen with me since I thought I’d be, well, inside a house. As the bee flew around the room, we were told it could not be killed and that if it came into our personal space, we could try blowing it away. BLOWING IT AWAY?!?!?
And the reason they can’t be killed? Bees at Clarence House are very special as they make around one hundred pots of honey a year. Okay, sure, that’s a lot of hard work and fair play we shouldn’t kill them but still…
So as my eyes darted around the room, waiting to see where the bee would land, my life flash before my eyes. Would I die at Clarence House? Would I make the paper if I did? Would Harry come to my funeral? My heart began to pound at an uncomfortable rate and my palms became too clammy for comfort. As the guide continued to talk about the furniture in the room, the photos (a candid shot of Prince Charles with George that the public had never seen!), I moved slowly but surely towards the exit.
Once we were released back outside, I breathed in deep and waited for my heart to slow down and my hands to unclench (read: bum cheeks to unclench). I had survived. The tour guide was all smiles at us by the end and asked if we’d enjoyed the tour to which we, of course, said yes. We didn’t receive any more stink eyes from her and she did make the point of saying we could return to Clarence House within the year if we held on to our tickets. And then another bee flew by my ear and I ran into the gift shop to buy myself a postcard.
So, actually, maybe my royal love is a little more complicated, and a little more dangerous to my health, than I thought. (Except for Prince Harry, that love is pure and forever.)