Posted by: Hannah | 07/23/2013

six degrees of royalty

Here’s the thing – I don’t want any more babies. I’m very clear on this.

I’m also not by nature a sentimentalist, at least not about children growing up or time passing. I’m good with it.

But watching Will & Kate introduce Little Prince Pudding to the world today… god, so many feels.

I could go on and on about the pressure on these new parents, parents just like many of us were, albeit with more resources to draw on. I could talk about how Kate’s every move will be scrutinized – bottle or breast? co-sleep or a nanny? stroller or sling? – but I won’t, because there will be yonks of ink used up in the coming days and weeks on such topics. Instead, I’ll tell my own personal British royal family story, since the monarchy is cool once again.

***

In the summer of 1983, Prince Charles and Princess Diana made an official visit to Canada. Prince William was a year old at the time. I’d only just turned five and was in daycare.

The royal motorcade was scheduled to drive right past our daycare centre. Although I have no memory of it, apparently the daycare staff talked it up for days – we were going to see A Real Live Princess. I’ll bet we were given tiny Canadian flags to wave. Certainly it was hot that day. We were all trooped outside to line up on the sidewalk, or so I’ve been told, and the motorcade went by as fast as local speed limits would allow.

Apparently I was still crying when mom came to pick me up, because instead of Cinderella or perhaps Sleeping Beauty, I saw a line of black cars and some policemen.

However! All was not lost. At the time, my mom was working as a seamstress at Suttles & Seawinds, a small local fashion design shop. My mom’s boss was given the task of designing and making a gift for Princess Diana.

Because the internet is a magical place, I was actually able to find the original press release about the gift – and a really poor-quality newspaper image, too. Behold:

Since the quality of the picture is so poor, here’s a truly cringe-inducing description of the dress from the press release:

[The designer] combined and quilted six floral silk prints in a collage … a shimmering silver grey, with jade, cherry red, and coral flowers. … The sleeveless quilted jacket is pieced front and back and has wide flanges with quilting lines flowing into a curved peplum.*

Hey, what can I say? It was 1983. Anyway, all of the women in the shop took turns working on the dress, so that each one could say that they had a hand in it.

BUT HERE’S THE AWESOME PART.

The gift also included a festive holiday skirt and a cotton quilted jacket for Prince William.

So yes, I was five, but I was a small five. And as far as I know, none of the other ladies working at the shop had young children. Certainly the designer didn’t. They needed a model for the jacket. AND IT WAS ME.

I’m sure Diana, Princess of Wales and fashion icon, never wore that dress. But I like to imagine that William wore the jacket, maybe on a brisk fall day running around at Balmoral, or something. Over the years I’ve felt this weird little thrill, every time I see him, and think I wore the same jacket that he wore. I wore the same jacket as the future King of England.

I felt the same little thrill today, as I watched him snap that infant carseat into the rear of the car, just like Michael did when we brought home each of our boys. He’s taking home his little son, I thought, just like I did. Not in a Bentley, mind you. Not with a billion people watching the whole event live. But it was another connection, however small.

It was, I don’t mind saying, a fun afternoon. And it felt like something was coming full circle.

Congratulations to the new family.

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Responses

  1. Aww. That is a sweet story!

    • I’m just so tickled that a 2-minute Google search yielded all that information about it!

  2. Squee! I’m bookmarking this post to read over and over because it is just so full of awesome. Sure, I didn’t leave the hospital wearing a super cute dress, and my hair was in a ponytail, and we didn’t have any fans watching, but I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. Eeee, baby.

    Also? That description of the dress is absolutely awesome. That would have been so IT in 1983! Quilting! Shimmering! Peplum! I love that you wore the jacket!

    • I think we need to bring back quilting, shimmering, and peplum. We could sell it on Etsy and probably make a fortune.

  3. How exciting!!! I’m with you, he wore that jacket proudly!! 😀
    I also got a little choked up when I saw William take the wheel – I can imagine his thought was very much “I’m the Dad, this is *my* job to get baby home safely” Because really, they have an army of drivers, I’m sure…
    In any event I was very much caught up in the royal baby watch. I’m usually a “no tv” child care, but I chalked this up under historical events and made an exception. One day my dc kids will remember where they were/what they were doing when the future King of England was born 😛 There were the naysayers, but it was so nice to have “news” that wasn’t miserable and negative for one freaking day. I loved that this was something I could share with my kids and not be embarrassed about it, or have it lead to uncomfortable questions.
    What I love even more? When we do find out the baby’s name, it won’t be anything horrific like “North” West…

    • Yup, I’m also no-TV child care, and as it happened all the kids here were asleep at the time, but I absolutely would have let them watch it if they wanted to. As it was, it was so lovely to have that quiet time to myself to weep in peace.

  4. It’s George! Just like George! Except not really! Still pretty cool, though, amirite? You so almost-famous.

    • George AND Louis. I’m waiting for increased blog traffic to start up. Also I want my residuals.

  5. Just seeing this and so glad I did. What a neat story! Did you tell your fellows about the jacket?


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