HERE'S MY nightmare: The Duchess of Cambridge is outside the legislature, trying to feign interest in whatever Justin Trudeau is nattering on about, when she glances over his shoulder and sees me in the crowd.
“Blimey,” she gasps, “it’s Jack Knox. Can you introduce me?”
Sure, says JT, keeping that sunny ways smile plastered on his face but making a mental note to have me audited.
Next thing you know I’m babbling like a brook, bowing and scraping like Foghorn Leghorn pecking for the last kernel of corn in the barnyard, because like the rest of Canada I have no idea how to behave when approached by our Royal Family.
Ready or not, here they come. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, three-year-old Prince George and 16-month-old Princess Charlotte — making her international debut — begin their eight-day Victoria-based tour.
For us, the biggest public event of the visit was a 45-minute stop outside the legislature, beginning at 5:05 p.m. Saturday when the visitors were greeted by dignitaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire.
The glamour factor of such a meeting might result in Peak Internet, one of the reasons 500 members of the news media have been accredited to cover the visit.
“For the global media and photographers it’s a unique chance to capture beautiful videos and photos not only of the photogenic Cambridges and their kids — who have been extremely protected from media exposure — but also of another popular and photogenic family, that of Canada’s Justin Trudeau,” wrote Luxembourg-based journalist Cecilia Rodriguez at Forbes.com. (Alas, it seems a family-to-family meeting will have to wait for another leg of the tour, as Prince George and Princess Charlotte weren't at the legislature.)
Likewise, Britain’s Daily Telegraph devoted a good chunk of its pre-tour story to the prime minister, noting he did a strip tease down to his vest for charity in 2011, out-boxed Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau for similar purposes in 2012, has a tattoo of the Earth inside a Haida raven on his left bicep, became the first prime minister to march in a pride parade and did one-armed press-ups prior to the Invictus Games.
Here in the Great White North, though, it’s the duke and duchess who are the across-the-pond attractions. And yes, there are rules on how to act in their presence.
The guidelines have as much to do with efficiency (they have to keep moving) and security as arcane etiquette. So, please, no yelling “yo, Kate!” from the sidelines. No urging them to pause for a pic (best to leave your selfie stick at home). If you feel like a curtsy or bow as they pass, go ahead, but make it subtle. (For a how-not-to video, YouTube Mr. Bean head-butting the Queen).
If they do pause to speak with you, keep your response brief and light; don’t pull up your shirt to discuss your surgical scars or launch into a rant about McLoughlin Point and sewage treatment. Don’t go for a handshake (or, good Lord, a fist bump) unless the royal hand is first extended toward you. If called upon to address them, it’s Your Royal Highness, not Kate or William or Prince (he’s not a labrador retriever).
Other things to remember:
• Also greeting the visitors at the legislature were Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Lt.-Gov. Judith Gichon, Premier Christy Clark, Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas, Songhees Chief Ron Sam and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
There was a 21-gun salute, the laying of a wreath and unveiling of a cenotaph plaque honouring those killed in Afghanistan and an inspection of the honour guard.
Members of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations presented a dance and song. The Victoria Children’s Choir sang.
The Duke of Cambridge addressed the crowd, and yes there was a walkabout.
• After the ceremony the duke and duchess met the prime minister and Governor General at Government House.
• The city gussied up its flower beds, moving its best hanging baskets to places the visitors were likely to see them, and adorning the main stage with 50 large chrysanthemums.
• This is the first international adventure as a family for the duke, duchess and their children. They’ll stay at Government House, the grounds of which will be off-limits to the public through Oct. 2.
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