Dining with the Queen
On the day that I was dine with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as the date of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, I was in rehearsal for a play. “Don’t worry about sending a car for me,” I had told the prime minister. I would simply change in the theatre dressing room, hop into my little yellow Volkswagen Beetle, and head down to the HMY Britannia.
As I approached the ship I could see thousands of people gathered on the far side of the dock. I entered the line-up of cars. It was only then that I noticed in front of me and behind me there was nothing but black Rolls-Royces, black limousines, and black Mercedes-Benzes. And one little yellow bug. What had I been I thinking? I decided to turn the car around and switch to a taxi, but this was not possible because there were security fences on each side of the line, and the line was moving.
I drove up to the gangplank, got out of the car, and gave the keys to an amazed attendant. The crowd went wild. Later I discovered that people thought I was making a political statement. As I walked up the gangplank and onto the yacht, there was Pierre, smiling and shaking his head.
“Really, Ann, I can’t take you anywhere. Next time … a car. I insist!” And that was the beginning of a grand weekend.
While Trudeau and the Queen spent time together, my role was to take care of Prince Philip. I had been briefed on the names of various people to whom I was to introduce him. I did my best, but must confess that sometimes I had to slur the names when I wasn’t sure who was who. But I am relieved to say that His Royal Highness and I got along very well. Whenever I fumbled, he would simply smile and raise a quizzical eyebrow.
At the end of the introductions, he said, “Well, I must say, that was most intriguing.”
I laughed and replied, “Artists are good at improvising. It’s an absolute necessity.”
“Yes,” he laughed, “I can see that”.
We spent the next few days going in and out of various social events, with me doing my best to take care of my charge. We had a lovely time together, speaking of this and that. Finally, it all came to an end. Prince Philip bent down as he was taking his leave, and whispered in my ear.
“Ann, I would like to thank you for your gentle irreverence.”