It might sound odd but I feel like a line in a famous song from the 1920s: “I’ve danced with a man, who’s danced with a girl, who’s danced with the Prince of Wales.” Herbert Farjeon wrote this in 1927 at the height of the popularity of Edward, Prince of Wales, who briefly ruled as Edward VIII.
It popped into my head as I stood with some 30 others in a circular line in the British high commissioner’s drawing-room to be introduced to the Cambridges. Before Sir Dominic led them to the sweating masses in the garden, he put aside 40 minutes for an eclectic selection of Indians.
Now in England they say punctuality is the politeness of royalty. The Queen, I’m told, is always on the dot of time. I guess in deference to our Indian habits her grandchildren were half an hour late. But that hardly mattered. Expectation only made our hearts grow fonder.
The first thing you notice about the Cambridges is their height. He’s well over six feet and she’s only an inch or so shorter. The next striking feature is their smiles. Both were flashing radiant ones whilst her eyes seemed to twinkle as well. They’re quite mesmerising.
Finally, no one missed how incredibly elegant and thin the Duchess is. The first was expected but the second was everyone’s initial comment after she moved on.
Maneka Gandhi, who was standing beside me, whispered: “I can’t believe a mother of two, whose last child was born 11 months ago, can be so thin.” Jitendra Singh, the minister in the PMO, nodded in agreement. That reminded me of something ‘Mrs Simpson’ (later Duchess of Windsor and the woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated) is alleged to have said: “You can’t be too rich or too thin!”
Now small talk is never easy and it certainly doesn’t come naturally. However, it literally trips off the Cambridge tongue and I mean that as a true compliment. To chat with 30 strangers isn’t easy. On top of that to look genuinely interested and appear to enjoy it is a truly royal talent. Plebs don’t have it.
When it was my turn, Dominic introduced me as someone who wanted to interview Prince William and added: “I didn’t let him!” It provoked a guffaw. “He’s protecting me!” the Duke riposted.
We first chatted about the King and Queen of Bhutan, who he was due to meet a few days later. “I tell you what,” Prince William said with a large smile and a wicked look in his eyes. “I’ll get you an interview with the King and the High Commissioner can’t stop that!”
Next, cricket and Sachin Tendulkar, subjects on which I’m no expert. Nor, I suspect, is the Prince. “I gather you hit Sachin for a six yesterday?” I said. “I did indeed and, let me add, it was one of his faster balls.” Everyone started laughing.
The Duchess obviously heard her husband’s joke. “What he didn’t add is he got out on the next ball!” Unfortunately, that’s all I can remember of my two minutes. I know we chatted about other things but I was transfixed by her elegance and bewitching eyes. I guess I was star-struck!
So, now, you know why I began the way I did. The Herbert Farjeon song revels in the then Prince of Wales. Ninety years later I’m revelling in his great great niece and nephew. Let me, therefore, borrow from the song once again: “My word I’ve had a party, my word I’ve had a spree, believe me or believe me not, it’s all the same to me! I’m wild with exultation, I’m dizzy with success, for I’ve danced with a man, who, well, you’ll never guess…”
The views expressed are personal