Over the years I have been fortunate to be asked to work on five royal visits and two presidential visits. But as time passes you move on and don’t give these much thought, unless of course there is non-stop media coverage of the Royal Family with the last of the Queen’s corgi’s dying, the birth of Prince Louis and the upcoming marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.
With up to 15 hour workdays for staff, whirlwind schedules where timings at a venue can be dissected into ten minute segments, these visits become a blur. So when recently asked what my favorite visit was I had to give it some thought before answering, the 1991 Royal Visit to Ontario with Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry, which included the royal yacht HMY Britannia.
William and Harry, who arrived in Canada two days before Prince Charles and Princess Diana, moved into the royal apartments on Britannia. As it turned out the visit’s most amusing moment occurred prior to their parents’ arrival when William and Harry rushed down the gangway of Britannia and then scampered along Toronto’s Queen Elisabeth II Quay to the gangway of Britannia’s escort ship HMCS Ottawa (DDH 229).
A woman, whom I assumed to be their nanny followed closely behind the two young princes’. Eyeing the forward anti-aircraft gun on Ottawa’s bow William and Harry gleefully ran up the ship’s gangway and made their way to the bow with the clear intent of climbing the gun. Standing quayside with a couple of other officers we watched in amusement and started to joke about who was going to tell Prince William, a future king of Canada, that he couldn’t climb on his ship’s guns. I knew the Ottawa’s crew would handle the situation. But before anyone could say anything, we heard a loud, firm command, “William, Harry, get off that gun” emanating from their nanny. Caught with their fingers in the cookie jar – so to speak – the boys sheepishly stepped down from the turret and followed her off the ship, Harry with an impish grin that remains burned into my memory to this day.
Photos courtesy of Joseph Frey