This past weekend wasn't just exciting for me, it was exciting for anyone who likes a bit of royal watching. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall did a lightning visit to Canada and spent about 24 hours in Toronto. As part of the itinerary, they were going to visit the Distillery District, just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. I had the option of going back to work or taking the day off to go gawk at royalty and try to increase my personal collection of royalty snapshots.
Shall we have a brief pause in which you try to decide what I chose?
On a beautiful summer day - because spring lasted about two weeks here in Toronto - I grabbed my camera, a bottle of water and headed for the lovely historical district. I'd done a significant bit of research prior to leaving and I finally identified the art gallery where the government of Ontario reception was being held. The official address is on the side of the Distillery District, by the parking lot. I sat around for a while, watching the registration table as a truly astonishing number of very well-dressed, sleek looking people stood around and talked to each other, fervently clutching official invitations.
After a while, it became clear that this was very much a Government of Ontario reception, as there was a special slot on the registration table for MPPs (Member of Provincial Parliament). I didn't recognize anyone, except David Peterson, a past Premier of Ontario (the gentleman on the right - I felt awkward about very visibly taking pictures of people)
Counted four or five fascinators in total and this one was the best.
I regretted not switching over to my nice purse, convinced I would've been able to crash the party - after all, some friends and I once got the opportunity to crash a party for Mikhail Baryshnikov, so why not Prince Charles' reception? Alas, I had brought the purse we refer to as "The Brick," an old and well-loved purse which would be a complete giveaway that I was very much not on the list.
At one point, I asked a member of the security force if I was in the right place for gawking and he confirmed that I was indeed located in a prime position. Somewhat later, I had a chat with a nice woman with an official Royal Tour ID badge, who told me that no, I should go to the other side because the royal couple were walking through the Distillery. This is when I learned my first important factor of royal watching: security people either don't know anything or lie to reduce the throngs. If you want to know where your quarry will be, ask the harried-looking woman with a clipboard and an ID badge. She also told me that she was there to receive the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I spent a couple of minutes weighing the pros and cons of leaving my post. Mr. Onley has a disability and I thought he might, in a fit of solidarity, be willing to include me in his entourage. I then remembered what I've read about security on royal tours and gave up hopes of crashing the reception.
On the other side of the building, it was just me and a photographer. I asked him if I was in the right place and this is when I learned my second fact about royal watching: ask the photographers. They know where they need to be. I waited around for a while and got pretty excited about being the only person there, thinking it would vastly increase my chances of actually pressing the flesh of the royal couple (the flesh of their hands), while at the same time feeling bad for them that they didn't have screaming throngs of excited subjects greeting them. At approximately 12:30 PM, about 15 minutes before the itinerary said they’d arrive, a crowd of security walked very purposely around the corner, followed quickly by a running back of photographers. Clearly, arrival was imminent.
This was confirmed a few minutes later, when I was told to go to the other side of the small cobblestone street to create a clear path. Security became more visible
And then, clapping started and before I knew it, Camilla was right in front of me and we shook hands! It all happened very quickly. As she moved on, I spotted Prince Charles in conversation (that elbow in green belongs to Camilla - her staff need to get a better grip on weather in Toronto at the end of May. She must've been sweltering)
Managed to snap a candid shot of Charles laughing
and a second or two after that, I was shaking his hand, too! Let me add a few more of these !!!!! Yes, I know that's dorky, but c’mon! I shook the hand of not one, but two members of the royal family! This means I am one degree separated from the Queen! I was impressed with how present he was. He had made a joke with the people to my left about all of them having cameras and after he shook my hand, he pointed out mine and made a comment about that, as well. We were in the same little bubble for perhaps 3 seconds in the midst of several hundred people and he somehow made me feel completely seen. That's talent. Also, both of them were very gentle when they shook my hand. I like that they had enough presence of mind to be careful.
After they had moved into the gallery for the reception, the crowd stood around, chatting and waiting for them to come back out. This is when I discovered that Charles and Camilla were not the only crowned heads present. Miss Universe Canada was also there. My primary impression of her was awed admiration that she could navigate cobblestones in these shoes
and that she really needed a sandwich. Way too thin. Lots of people wanted their picture taken with her and I took pictures of that happening. This gave her the impression that I wanted my picture taken with her and one of the roaming photographers helpfully offered to take one with my camera
My somewhat strained smile is due to having not just my camera pointed in my face (very uncomfortable, it's why I'm usually the one taking the photos), but also several others. Because apparently Miss Universe Canada - who seemed like a very nice young woman - crouching down next to the poor crippled girl is the kind of shot photographers want. I suspect I'm on a couple websites and might also have made a newscast. People, people… Must we be so predictable?
After this little moment of being in the spotlight, I looked around and realized all the photographer had left. Which told me that the Prince and his lady were not coming back out on the side, but probably leaving on the parking lot side on their way to another engagement. So I hoofed it back there. My spot was nearly as good, but I did get a shot of Camilla’s face (instead of just her elbow). The building is in pristine focus, she's not. But at least she's recognizable.
And then I drooled at the car. I want a car like that.