By Royal Appointment, Dinner is Now Served

There is a good amount of planning, thinking, researching, and editing involved in writing a blog.   I try to pull something together which might be of interest for the reader and also enjoyable for me to create.   Each week, I experience a little stress as to whether the content will be relevant, provide a decent and fun read, and help to invite the reader into our lives.  I enjoy the process and thought at this stage in the game, I would be prepared for my next big step, but honestly, inviting Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall over for dinner is harder than you can imagine.

Planning an event for guests always means considering the essential six:  who, what, where, when, why and how.  Here we go:

Who:  Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

What:  Dinner, afternoon tea, drinks, and/or a walk on the moors.  Hey, we’re flexible!

Where:  Our place, Crockern Farm, Dartmoor

When:  We’ll offer up some dates, but really we are unlikely to have the same schedule demands.

Why:  Why not?  He is, after all, the Duke of Cornwall.

How:  Herein lies the challenge.

I’m not too worried, yet, about the menu, the drinks, table settings, or even security; but the correct wording for the invitation has set me into some serious writers block.  For inspiration and guidance, I’ve consulted all the obvious experts on etiquette:  Debrettes, Emily Post and Miss Manners, and I’ve made use of the Internet.  This is not as straightforward as it sounds because if you type in something as simple as, “How to invite a prince to dinner?” an assortment of entertaining, but not 100% useful, options appear.  How to Word Princess Party Invitations is not exactly what I’m after.   With a little perseverance, I stumbled upon the Official Website of the British Monarchy and I found some answers.

Debrett’s image of old found on internet

I suppose the easiest way to guarantee success in having The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall come to our home is to write to them early.   I imagine the demands of the Royal wedding last year, the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics this year, and the numerous engagements for the Royal family throughout the Kingdom, means there are just not enough hours in the day to do it all.  By writing early and with a few possible dates, perhaps we stand a chance at a positive RSVP?

I’m hopeful, but not holding my breath.  We invited The Queen to our wedding.  We must not have done it correctly or with enough lead time as I simply placed our “Parties Spanning the Pond” invitation in an envelope and addressed it to “Your Royal Highness the Queen” at Buckingham Palace and put a first class stamp on the envelope.  Naturally, we followed the common rules on timing — eight weeks prior to the event — but clearly that did not give Her Royal Highness The Queen sufficient time to attend our parties.  I regret our sloppiness to this day.  We did receive a response written by her Lady-in-Waiting stating that The Queen was unable to attend our event and wished us years of happiness together.

Our letter from The Queen

Our letter from The Queen

I’m not repeating this mistake again.  I want to get the invitation just so and what I’ve discovered is that members of the Royal Family receive a lot of correspondence from the public.  To guarantee a successful response, you can’t be too casual and simply send an e-mail, text message, or pick up the phone.  There is very strict protocol as to whom and how a letter of invitation should be written.  As I’m not planning to write the Queen on this occasion, I can set aside the best practice advice of the Official Website of the British Monarchy for the formal opening of the letter to The Queen as “Madam”, and the correct closing of the letter, “I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant.”  With all other members of the Royal Family, I am in more familiar territory of letter writing:  the formal opening is “Sir”, “Madam” or “Your Majesty” and I am to close with “Yours sincerely.”   I’m starting to feel somewhat emboldened.

My first step, before I set pen to paper, is to make an informal enquiry to the relevant private secretary, outlining the nature and purpose of the event.  I’m thinking that if I just send a link to this blog I can swiftly address this initial step and perhaps increase my readership to boot!   With that sorted, I shall need to turn my attention to getting the exact wording correct and practice legible handwriting to add that extra personal touch.  And, I shall make no mistake on their titles:  Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.

Why am I so hell bent on inviting Prince Charles to our house?  Well among his many titles, he is The Duke of Cornwall.  He received this title automatically upon Queen Elizabeth II accession to the throne sixty years ago.   Unlike some other titles one might receive, the Duke of Cornwall is bestowed only upon the eldest surviving son of the Monarch and Heir to The Throne, so no girls need apply, and it has been like this since its inception in 1337.   The Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate set up to fund the public, charitable and private activities of The Prince of Wales (aka Prince Charles) and his family.   The Duchy’s land on Dartmoor comprises about a third of Dartmoor National Park making it the largest landholding in its portfolio.

So, if Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall, is a landowner in Dartmoor, and we live bang in the middle of Dartmoor, I think he might be interested in what we’re up to regarding our home improvements.  For example, the track has been repaired and all our potholes are filled.  The electrician moved the fuse box to a safe position above the water tank.  The roofers are taking off slates, putting in insulation and making the roof watertight as I write this.  We are in discussions about upgrading the central heating, installing a set of stairs, refinishing our wood floors, checking to see if the local prisoners might make us a bespoke front door, and the list goes on and on.  Prince Charles has an interest in architecture, so I would really like to hear his thoughts on some of our renovation ideas.   I’d also like the chance to talk with him about making the place more environmentally sensitive with a discretely placed wind turbine to generate electricity.  I know he is not a fan, but it is so windy where we are, perhaps he might help endorse any planning requests to the National Park Authority.  It may be a stretch, but I think it is important to keep all options open.

We also have more than a few things in common.  According to the Duchy of Cornwall Website, the Duchy:

  1. “Strives to achieve a balance between its commercial obligations and stewardship of the natural environment.”  So do we!
  2. “Through a Duchy initiative, The Dartmoor Hill Farm Project, the Duchy is working to identify ways of showing the link between the public’s enjoyment of the moors …Through the initiative, the public can purchase meat from livestock reared on Dartmoor.”  We’ve done that!
  3. “The Duchy has supported the Dartmoor pony with a programme to improve the breed characteristics of the animal.”  We do too!   We give carrots to Pi, our neighbour’s Dartmoor pony, every day!
  4. “The Duchy is a partner and keen supporter of the Dartmoor Biodiversity Action Plan and the Action for Wildlife Project, which aims to protect vulnerable species and habitats, such as encouraging the declining numbers of moorland wading birds such as curlew and lapwing to breed more successfully.”  Here!  Here!
  5. And we all appreciate the Aston Martin.

Prince Charles’ Aston Martin recently converted to run on wine.

I’m aware that although human, their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall are Royalty and will deserve Royal treatment.  I must not be shy about discussing important event details to guarantee their visit is as pleasant as possible.  Such things might include:  possible food restrictions, accommodation needs for over night stay or a room to freshen up and change, travel arrangements, recommendation for using a four wheel drive rather than that 1950s vintage Rolls Royce, and, precise directions because a GPS will not take you directly to our address.   I’m worried though; will I need to bring in servers to help?  Will there be someone to advise on the etiquette and protocol for cocktails before the meal?  How should I avoid over-serving a member of the Royal Family?  What about toasting?  Plate clearing?  Is it okay that the chairs don’t match and our dinning table is in the centre of our kitchen, albeit it a traditional farmhouse kitchen?  These sorts of details need to be considered well in advance.

As does choosing the correct wine to serve!  Obviously it needs to be a British wine and those from the Royal vineyard at Windsor Great Park aren’t expected to be ready until 2013.   Many of the English sparkling wines are very good, contrary to how one such wine was received at the 2005 Lakeville International Wine Smackdown.    At this esteemed competition, Roger entered a contender for first place and of no fault of the wine it did not win, place or show.  The judges failed to chill it before serving, and therefore it stood no chance against its competitors.  This was a really damning verdict too, as one of the wines that year was an ironic entry from New Jersey with the recommendation on the label, “best served when heated.”  Oh, what heathen friends and family we have!

Given Prince Charles’ commitment to organic foods, the menu will necessarily be made with the finest local, sustainable and organic products we can source.  We have free-range eggs, a small winter veg garden underway and the greenhouse is going to be delivered in about a month.  We make a yummy homemade pizza, so I’m thinking that could be such a fun meal!  Perhaps it might be better if their schedule delays them until the spring and we could add a nice side salad from our garden.

There are just so many things to consider for this event, so, in the meantime, I’ll send in my absentee ballot for the US election.  I’m hoping to send out a lovely invite to HRH sometime soon.  We’ll see what happens.   I understand that if my invitation is declined by His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, PC, ADC, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, I am permitted to extend it to a more junior member of the royal family.  I wonder what Prince Harry is up to?


20 comments on “By Royal Appointment, Dinner is Now Served

  1. Julia Osborne says:

    Would just like to say that I too have recently converted to run on wine!!!

  2. Eileen Swanson says:

    What fun Catherine I hope they come!! That would be a shock!!!

  3. Jenny says:

    Pizza could be risky – think of possible spillage issues … might go down the route of small canapes which would go well with the English wine … but overall I like your plan.

  4. ann dawney says:

    I think the word for this is chutzpah! Attagirl! And let them eat pizza… If it’s half as good as the meal – and wine – you served Mike and I in July they are a very lucky couple.

  5. Sheila Shepheard says:

    Let’s hope it doen’t come to you having to invite Harry. What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas with him. Still the following blog would be entertaining no doubt!

  6. Jim says:

    Ms Charlton,

    As an avid reader of Country Life, I think I have learned a few things about how to lure the Prince to Crokern Farm. Basically, the invitation needs to have a few key words that will push the Prince’s brass buttons.

    Sustainability: focus on the back the earth movement.
    Old fashion Values: You’ve got those because, well, you can’t afford modern methods.
    Tradition: There nothing the Prince likes better than strolling some farm, wearing his Barbour jacket with a border collie circling him. Focus on this picture.
    Bob’s your uncle: Take it from here, Catherine.

    Nice to meet ya, yr highness. I’m Jim

    • Sir,
      Thank you for your helpful advice regarding the social event in discussion. I can’t help but feel you are absolutely right about the guiding image I should use to make this event happen.

      p.s. Do you want to come if they say yes?

  7. Anja Hemmerich says:

    If you pull this of, well then I just have to eat a hat made out of cheese!

  8. Carol Hynes Assmann says:

    Stay the course, Catherine. Pizza & sparkling wine are fabulous together. The bubbles serve to cleanse the palate.

  9. says:

    I know a lovely wine you could serve your royal guests!

    Sent from my HTC

  10. Will there be hats? I find most gatherings are greatly enriched by outrageous headgear.

    • What a fantastic idea! I hadn’t considered the fashion aspect of the gathering. Yikes, another potential oversight! Hats or fascinators could be just the ticket to making it a more exciting event.

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