Chapter 22 - King for a day
When asked about ambitions my stock answer for years has been “I want to be King of England…..you get a big house in London, with a nice garden, car and chauffeur and I also enjoy meeting people….” And for a couple of hours many years ago I thought I was the King, thanks to Prince Philip.
As one of my pro bono projects for Edelman I set up and chaired the first public relations committee of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, a voluntary organisation that offers an individual challenge and encourages young people to undertake exciting, constructive, challenging and enjoyable activities in their free time.
The committee usually met at the Edelman office opposite Hyde Park in London but on the rare occasions when Prince Philip attended, it was held in Buckingham Palace. After one such meeting in 1986 I was asked to stay behind and the Award’s Director said that Prince Philip had invited me to help him present awards to literally hundreds of Gold Medal winners because there were too many for him to handle that year.
The official invitation and instructions duly arrived in the post and on the day Beryl and I went off to Buckingham Palace.
Somehow the doorman was expecting us and we were ushered into the Ballroom and on to a dais in front of hundreds of young people who, like us, had dressed up for the occasion. Trying to look my most regal, I peered into the crowded room which I learned later was more than 120 feet long, had a 45 feet high ceiling and had been opened in 1856 with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War.
In the gallery a band was playing songs from the musical Oklahoma and it seemed like ages that Beryl and I stood on the dais in front of two Thrones waiting for Prince Philip to arrive. I remember thinking to myself “What’s a nice Jewish boy from Streatham doing here….”
Suddenly I realized that Prince Philip wasn’t coming because someone in a black morning suite had thrust into my hand a medal and certificate and to my astonishment the crowd started to line up in front of me.
I suddenly realized that I wasn’t to be the helper but the presenter and for the next hour or so I handed out the awards to the winners.
I don’t know to this day if they knew who I was but many took no chance and bowed to me as I handed them their award! I knew then what I wanted to be.