what a week it was for... Prince William

What went on at the Prince's hormonally charged ball? An ex-partygoer has some revealing memories

In Cinderella, the Prince is allowed go the ball. In modern London, it seems, he is not. This week, OJ trial-style hysteria gripped the British media because, of all frivolous things, Prince William attended a ball. The problem, according to those censorious writers who raked over the embers, was the unsuitability of the ball - an event named la Fiesta, held at Hammersmith Palais in west London on Monday. With the help of remarkably graphic photographs we learned that it and its clones - public balls for privately educated teenagers - are Bacchanalian, orgiastic, hormonally charged affairs where no self-respecting 13-year-old (and particularly not Prince William) is safe.

Unless behavioural patterns have changed greatly over the past decade, this is exaggeration to the point of distortion. Thirteen years ago, when I was 13, I attended those functions in their dozens. Yes - there was plenty of extraordinarily vigorous hormone-driven activity, particularly at the larger venues such as the Hammersmith Palais or the Savoy, where there are endless nooks and crannies into which to retreat: I still recall with amazement that I managed to snog my then boyfriend solidly for four hours under a table at something called the Bluebird Ball. But while everybody tried that kind of behaviour once, afterwards, back in the dorm, most girls agreed that balls spent like that were rather boring.

The best balls were the ones where you had a boy on your arm, Jane Austen- style, and you kept on bumping into your classmates. You did not particularly wish to snog your escort - well, not more than once or twice - but you desperately wanted to show him - and yourself - off. There is huge street- cred in being seen at these balls (everybody wants to share a dorm with you to hear the ball gossip) and even more if you are photographed at them and then appear in either Harpers & Queen or Tatler.

Inevitably, some boys did not share this perspective. Boys from Marlborough tended to want to grope, not talk, while those from boarding schools over an hour away from London, such as Radley and Rugby, became too intense because they did not know enough other people there. The Catholic schoolboys (they all know each other) and Harrovians and Etonians (high attendance figures because they are close to London) were the best because they were as keen to see their friends as you were. Consequently, the main physical activity at these endless events - the Feathers, the Crystal, the Cinderella, the Rose, the Icannibal, the Chaos etc - was what is generally considered to be the most mundane, unerotic activity in the world: walking.

Round and round the rooms you would go, clinging on to your man, who had, of course, removed his bow tie and had his shirt hanging out for sameness' sake. "Oh look, there's Alice, we must go and say hello!" you'd suddenly exclaim, ignoring the fact that he looked rather bored by the prospect. A frantic exchange of kisses and compliments over little clingy balldresses would ensue and a brisk dialogue. "Have you seen Kate and Alicia?" "No, where are they?" "Over there somewhere?" "Oh right. We must go and find them. I'd promised to introduce them to Charles/Malcolm/ Simon," and once more you would be off on your frantic perambulation.

The boyfriend whom I snogged so violently under the table used to delight in bumping into his friends from Harrow. I remember one of them stopped us on another occasion, mid-perambulation, and whispered something to him which made him turn bright red and grin from ear to ear. "What did he say?" I asked bewildered. The boy gulped: "That you're pretty," he said and immediately disappeared on to the dance floor to gyrate energetically to Murray Head's "One Night in Bangok", in an attempt to restore some order to his hormones.

That Prince William stayed sober and did not snog anyone on Monday night is therefore not surprising. Neither is the fact that he undid his bow tie.


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