Exclusive SCD Royal Recollections: The Series Continues
By Keith Malone // June 24, 2012
UNITED KINGDOM • LONDON, ENGLAND – The heartfelt endearment Prince Charles pronounced to the Queen on the Diamond Jubilee concert stage outside Buckingham Palace this month of June, summed up the intense affection that the United Kingdom and its entire Commonwealth feels towards its monarch.
“Your Majesty….. Mummy,” said Prince Charles live on stage, an endearment that drew smiles, cheers and laughter from the tens of thousands of people outside the Palace.
“A Diamond Jubilee is a unique and special event. We are now celebrating the life and service of a very special person over the last 60 years.
“I was three when my grandfather King George VI died – and suddenly, unexpectedly, your’s and my father’s lives were irrevocably changed and when you were only 26.
“So as a nation, this is our opportunity to thank you and my father for always being there for us, for inspiring us with your selfless duty and service – and for making us proud to be British.
“Proud at a time when I know how many of our fellow countrymen are suffering such hardship and difficulties, proud to be lining the banks of the Thames in their millions despite the rain and the cold, proud to be part of something as unique as the Commonwealth, which through your leadership has given us that essential sense of unity through diversity.
“So, your Majesty, we offer you our humble duty and, with it, three resounding cheers for our Majesty The Queen.”
As the video above shows, the cheers rang out from the tens of thousands of people who’d watched the Diamond Jubilee concert live at the Palace – and which could probably be heard by The Queen’s husband Prince Philip, who was recovering in a central London hospital after being taken ill two days earlier.
The Duke of Edinburgh had picked up an infection during the long day of the Royal River Pagaent, when he and the Queen had spent six hours on the Royal Barge, waving to those millions who’d lined the Thames to congratulate her on achieving six decades as Britain’s and the Commonwealth’s monarch.
That tribute from Prince Charles would have been echoed by all four of the Queen’s children.
They comprise the most senior members of the Royal Family, who – between them – carry out public engagements almost every single day of the week.
Covering some of those engagements has been a privilege of my career as a tv reporter and presenter working for ITV in the south of England over a quarter of a century.
In the previous two features in my special series Royal Recollections for Space Coast Daily.com, I’ve recalled my encounters with the Queen herself, with Prince Charles and with the Queen’s only daughter, Princess Anne.
In this third part of the series, I will describe the times I spoke to Prince Andrew, to his former wife Sarah Ferguson, the then Duchess of York and to Andrew’s younger brother Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.
Prince Andrew The Golfer
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is a Commander in the Royal Navy, in which he served as an active-duty helicopter pilot and later a flight instructor.
The Prince saw active service during the Falklands War against Argentina in 1982, flying on multiple missions including anti-surface warfare, Exocet missile decoy and casualty evacuation.
In between his Royal duties, the Prince loves to play golf – and it was his visit to Wentworth Golf Club in Berkshire to watch the practice round for the World Match Play Championship in 1999 – that brought me in to contact with him as I filmed a sports feature for my TV news show on the build up to the tournament.
The Prince was walking the fairways inside the ropes and was at a junction of two tees and two greens, watching groups of players putt and drive as they passed by.
I was stood very close to the Prince as he relaxed and chatted to some of the biggest names in world golf.
Prince Andrew At Wentworth
The Prince has a single-figure golf handicap and is a member of the exclusive Swinley Forest Golf Club, which is very close by to Wentworth.
He wasn’t there in an official capacity and I could tell he was thoroughly enjoying himself. I am a 9-handicapper myself, so I took the opportunity to ask him a question – golfer to golfer.
“Hello Sir, are you picking up some useful swing tips?” I asked him. “It really is wonderful to watch these players, don’t you think?”
The Prince, who was wearing dark sunglasses on this warm late summer’s day, could see my cameraman was not filming at this point, so he turned to me and I recall him replying: “Yes, very much so – thank you.
“It always strikes me how easy the tempo of these top players is. I wish I could find that tempo. But I’ll keep on trying. That’s the beauty of this game. It certainly is wonderful to watch them.”
The Prince then politely nodded and turned to talk to a member of the group he was with.
As he was not on an official visit, it would have been impolite for me to film this exchange – and I think he appreciated that I had not attempted to do so.
However, I did include my encounter with the Prince in my TV package for that evening’s news show – and I did manage to get a long-range shot of the Duke walking the fairways to include in my report.
Sarah Ferguson Cricket Lover
My encounter with the the Duke’s former wife Sarah Ferguson was also of a sporting nature.
Her late father, Major Ronald Ferguson, lived in the Hampshire village of Dummer, where Sarah was brought up.
His great sporting love was cricket and the major had founded a highly-successful community cricket centre in Dummer.
It has superb indoor facilities – some of the best outside the professional English counties – and is a superb winter sporting resource for amateur cricketers wanting to purse their skills during the cold and wet season that befalls the UK.
The occasion that saw me visiting Dummer Cricket Centre was the official start of the indoor winter league season – and a visit by Sarah, also a cricket lover, to officially open proceedings in the absence of her father, who was ill.
Sarah, who by then was separated from the Duke, watched the practice sessions and then agreed to conduct an interview with me on camera.
She was knowledgeable about the game and was full of praise for the dedication her father had shown in founding the cricket centre and in putting a lot of his own time and money into the project.
Life-saving Hospital Care
My encounter with the Earl and Countess of Wessex was on the occasion of the birth of their first child, Lady Louise Windsor and the discharge from hospital of the Earl’s wife, Countess Sophie.
The birth of Lady Louise in November 2003 had put her mother, the Countess, in grave danger.
It was a premature birth, resulting from a sudden placental abruption that placed both mother and child at risk.
The Countess underwent an emergency caesarean section at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, while The Earl rushed back from an engagement in Mauritius.
Huge praise subsequently went to the hospital’s medical staff, who saved the lives of both mother and daughter.
Massive transfusions of blood were needed to save the Countess, but she emerged – with baby Louise in her arms and the Earl at her side – a few days later, to enormous well-wishing and a long line of photographers, cameramen and reporters capturing the moment of her walking unaided from the hospital’s main entrance.
The Earl paid tribute on camera to the nurses and doctors who’d looked after Sophie and Louise – and he gladly took brief questions from reporters, myself among them, saying how happy and relieved he was to be able to take his wife and first-born child safely home with him.
Major Ferguson sadly passed away in March 2003, aged 71 – but his cricketing legacy lives on and Dummer Cricket Centre is as vibrant and successful as ever.
Four years after the birth of her first child, the Countess returned to Surrey’s Frimley Park Hospital on 17 December 2007, to give birth, again by caesarean section, to a son, James, Viscount Severn.