What It’s Like to
Meet a Member of the British Royal Family

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In Short: Impressed.

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In 1991 my employer, the largest telecommunications company in the U.K., came to an agreement with the University of London to run a new type of Master of Science degree specifically for the company’s employees. All lectures and tutorials would take place at the company’s facility in East Anglia. I was amongst the first batch of students to graduate.

There were 30 of us and a special graduation ceremony was arranged just for us. The degrees were given by HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II. There is a strict protocol to be observed when meeting a member of the Royal Family. For example: do not touch them when you speak, do not approach them, let them approach you, do not interrupt them and so on. We were briefed on all this beforehand.

Man in graduation robes being congratulated.
The author hooded and congratulated by Princess Anne (supplied by the author).

I later learned that the course organisers and lecturers had a separate briefing in which Princess Anne herself, told them not to try to speak to her because she wanted to converse with every graduate, not members of staff.

When the ceremony started the Princess was introduced to us and stood centre stage. In front of her was a stool with raised handles on each side. After the speeches by representatives from the university and the company, each graduate was called up by name. We had to kneel on the stool and then, instead of being given a rolled-up certificate, we each had our hood placed over our shoulders by Princess Anne. Because my surname begins with the letter A, I was the first to be presented.

Having placed my hood she spent a short time asking me how the course had gone, did it take up a lot my time over the three years of study, and how I had coped with a return to studying — I was obviously the oldest of the students graduating.

When the ceremony was over we all retired to a hall for a finger buffet, whilst Princess Anne circulated and spoke to every graduate. I was accompanied by my wife and my parents as my guests. Anne came and spoke to us all for almost ten minutes. She asked about where we lived, our children, my work and other subjects. She gave the appearance of being really interested in what we said.

She surprised me with her knowledge. For example she asked my parents where they lived, and they replied naming a small village on the outskirts of Manchester, North West England. She immediately replied, “You will be under the flight path for Manchester Airport.” To have heard of their village was surprising, to know how it related to the airport was amazing. She is clearly sharp and knowledgeable.

My wife had for a few years volunteered with a charity called Riding For The Disabled, of which Princess Anne is the President. This opened another area of discussion, and she had many questions about my wife’s experience with that.

She was easy to talk to and showed a real interest in us and what we had done. I must say I was greatly impressed by her.

Michael Astbury is retired after 42 years in the telecommunication industry. He now volunteers at Tools With A Mission, a British charity recycling tools to provide livelihood creation in Africa.

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5 thoughts on “Meet a Member of the British Royal Family”

    • Yes, I suspect there’s far, far more than the negative ones … but the reality is that the positive stories don’t sell as many newspapers. I’ve never quite understood our desire for controversy and scandal. Maybe our lives are too boring.

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  1. Although I have never met her, I have to say I have always been impressed with Princess Anne. She is very hard-working and has always seemed very down to earth much like her father.

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  2. I met Prince Andrew back in 1990 when I was one of the support workers in a charity in PNG. We received similar briefings, and he showed up, walked around taking with the patients and staff for around 30 mins total visit. I didn’t get much of a impressions he was anything other than interested, but I also got the impression he was being “handled” by his organisers, and the security team. (as a gunsmith, I was quite interested in the weaponry his security team had tucked inside their jackets)

    Andrew did seem genuinely interested in how many of us (staff) were volunteers, and heralded from countries such as New Zealand, USA, and Australia (me).

    The biggest memory of it was how a young (20yo) American staff worker tried to get a photo taken whilst he was shaking Andrew’s hand. Andrew didn’t seem too fussed (possibly even amused), but the handlers were quite pushy and affronted that the guy made the request, and they were quite forceful in their refusal to permit it.

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  3. Anyone who loves horses as much as she always is is always fine with me! Thanks for the memory, and the quiet humane humour from both you and the Princess Royal.

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