On a date with a royal and a few thousand onlookers

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The Independent Online
TELL ME, how do you go about dating a royal?

You mean, to find out how old they are? Check the real age of the Duke of Edinburgh, that sort of thing? Well, I don't think carbon dating is going to be very useful. I'd recommend looking them up in some reference book, seeing what year they were born in and then subtracting that from . . .

No, no, how does one go about having a date with a royal person?

Why would you want to know that?

In case I go out on one.

What makes you think you're going to do that?

Well, you never know.

But all the royals are married . . .

Not any more. A lot of them are coming back on the market. Marriages splitting up left, right and centre. So, if I ever go out on a date with one, I'd like to know what to do, what the form is, when to shake hands and all that sort of thing . . .

Do you normally shake hands when you are out on a date?

Yes, if that's all that's on offer.

So when you take a female date home, you shake her hand goodnight?

Quite often. It impresses them. They think: Ah, here's someone who is not desperate for a goodnight clinch. You explain that you find the exchange of perfunctory kisses most unsatisfactory, and that you would rather bring back a warm clasp of the hands.

I see.

And the girl thinks, Ah, here is someone I can trust at last.

I see.

And then you wrap her in a big clinch.

I see. Well, when it comes to dating a royal, there won't be much of that. There'll always be a chaperon present.

A chaperon?

They call them private detectives nowadays. Well, what happens with a royal date is that a few weeks previously you will get a phone call . . .

From a member of the Royal Family?

No, no. From a member of the Royal Household. It's a bit like getting a knighthood. The Queen doesn't ring you up or drop you a note, asking if you would like to be Sir Somebody. You get a discreet feeler from some underling, asking whether in principle you might consider the possibility of an honour being awarded you.

So I might got a guarded call from a lady-in-waiting or equerry or somebody, trying to find out in principle if I was game for a royal date? And whom I would prefer?

Something like that.

I'd prefer the Princess of Wales.

It's not an easy as that. Even if you have been favourably selected, you still have to go through a long process of vetting and approval.

You mean investigation.

Yes. The intelligence people have to check you out.

In case I'm too intelligent to go out with a royal?

Something like that. They also check your background, known associates, medical history . . .

Are they afraid I'll pass something on to the Royal Family?

Oh no, not that. But they have to know what you have suffered from in the past, so that if you fall ill on the date they will have a good idea what to do. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be for the Royal Family if someone fell ill on a date with one of their members? And tried to sue them? Or even died while out with a royal?

Mmm. But they'd hush it up, wouldn't they?

Possibly. Anyway, finally you get to go on your date, and you get introduced to all the other people coming with you.

She's going to be dating several other people at the same time?

No, but there will be the driver, and the detective, and the lady-in-waiting.

Good Lord. And will they all be bringing dates as well?

I think not.

So then we go out for the date?


A small intimate evening out?

No. That might come later. To begin with, it's safer if they let you go somewhere there are thousands of other people. A banquet perhaps, or film premiere. Then, if you come up to the mark, you might be allowed a quieter evening out as things progress. But first they want you where they can see you.

What do I talk about to the royal?

You will get a list of permissible topics beforehand.

What happens if I don't want to talk about them? What happens if I find the private detective more interesting to talk to? What happens if I want to go home early?

You will be struck off the list of royal dates. They cannot afford to have people dating the Royal Family who are not going to take it seriously.

What I don't understand is why it is so difficult to date a royal. And, if it is so difficult, why their marriages don't last longer.

Oh, it's not hard to marry a royal. That's quite easy. It's dating them that's so hard.

In that case, tell me how you set about marrying a royal.

Some other time, perhaps.