Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Second day in Melbourne for Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla

The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School in Southbank, Melbourne. The young drummers started a noisy welcome beat for the royal couple.

HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall arrived in a car with the Australian coat of arms and a no. 1 on the number plate. Nothing could have been more appropriate for the future King and Queen of Australia.

After spending about an hour inside the school building the royal couple came across the street to greet the small, but enthusiastic crowd of spectators. HRH Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, charmed the Melburnians with her natural friendliness. She took time to chat with a couple of the crowd.

And then she was introduced to Bert, the French bulldog, who had already met HRH Prince Charles on the previous day at the Australian Tapestry Workshop.

Bert not only attracted the attention of the royal couple, but the media people were beside themselves when Their Royal Highnesses took delight in meeting Bert.

Thanks to Neville's quick writing this blog can give a firsthand account of Bert's encounter with the Duchess of Cornwall:

"After the success of meeting the Prince of Wales yesterday, I was not getting my hopes up for an equally fortunate day today. I was also very tired this morning (Bert was so exhausted from yesterday that he snored loud enough to wake the dead for most of the night). But after a quick breakfast we were ready to head back into town. We got on the train, which was packed with people on their way to work. Bert sat quietly at my feet; he's an old hand at train travel. We got to the National Gallery of Victoria just before 9:00 am with plenty of time to spare. The Premier's press release said the Duchess was accompanying the Prince to his engagement at the National Gallery, even though she was due to host a reception at Government House for Osteoporosis Australia. A member of Victoria Police confirmed that the Duchess was not accompanying the Prince. Nearby a member of the royal party heard my question and came over and told me that the Duchess was not going to join the Prince on his next engagement either; a visit to the Victoria College of the Arts Secondary School. I told her that I was a bit frustrated at the lack of information about the royal couple's itinerary. She agreed and said she did not know why things were so disorganised.

"As we had nearly an hour to fill in, I took Bert for a walk through the nearby gardens. We started at the Alexandra Gardens, cut through the Queen Victoria Gardens and ended up in King's Domain. On the way we passed the very impressive statues of King Edward VII and King George V. We even met another French Bulldog. His name was Gary and he could have been Bert's twin. At the gates of Government House I could see the Prince of Wales standard flying at the gate. Over Government House itself, however, the Governor of Victoria's standard was flying (well, it was actually hanging very limply in the listless breeze, but that does not sound very impressive). The Prince of Wales may be the future King of Australia, but the Governor of Victoria still outranks him when it comes who gets the main flagpole. Soon we were back at the National Gallery of Victoria. I remembered other royal visitors I had seen here over the years. In 1987 there was Queen Margrethe II, Prince Henrik and Prince Joachim of Denmark. Then in 2005 Crown Princess Victoria paid a visit (I wanted to say "welcome to the National Gallery of Victoria, Victoria, Victoria", but settled instead on a simple "welcome to Melbourne Your Royal Highness.")

"A small crowd had assembled, including a group of members of the British Parachute Regiment who now live in Australia. The Prince is their Colonel-In-Chief and he asked to see them. Also, a large group a school children was hijacked from their visit to the gallery to join the waiting crowd. Promptly at 10:00am the Prince of Wales arrived. Bert and I stood up the back to enjoy the atmosphere and watch him interact with the crowd, and, after remembering my phone, I even took a couple of photos. The Prince went into the gallery and the crowd began to disperse. I happened to walk past the member of the royal party I had spoken to earlier. She told me it was definite that the Duchess of Cornwall was not going to join the Prince at the school. I was very disappointed by this, but given their poor track record with accurate information, I decided to still go to the school and see what happened. I am very pleased that I did.

On the way to meeting a Duchess: Bert and his owner

"It took about ten minutes to walk to the school, and when we arrived there were only about ten people waiting, including our very own Radical Royalist (whose itinerary information was spot on). A very friendly Acting Sergeant came over to see what we were up to. I asked him if the Duchess was coming to the school with the Prince, "which Duchess?" he asked with a grin. "Yes", he confirmed, the Duchess was expected with the Prince. He then told us that "Royal Protocol" dictated that we could not take photos or talk to the royal couple. I think my somewhat incredulous expression surprised him, so he went off to confirm this odd regulation. He was back very quickly and told us to ignore what he had just said. Outside the school there was a troupe of drummers ready to beat a welcome to the royal couple, the media was all lined up, and about a dozen or so people, mainly from nearby offices, waited for the big moment. In a flash they arrived. The Duchess of Cornwall was most definitely in the car so I relaxed and got ready to enjoy the arrival. But, no; an Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer decided then to ask about Bert (calling him Killer). By the time we finished chatting the Prince and Duchess were inside the school. Never mind, I thought, there was still a chance of meeting them as they left.

"The Prince and Duchess spent about an hour in the school, but soon enough signs of activity indicated that they were about to depart. We were allowed to move out onto road and get closer to the car (by now the crowd had swelled to about twenty people). The Duchess came out first and headed straight for the car. For a brief disappointing second it seemed they were going to make a hasty departure for the airport (their next stop was Adelaide). But a few people in the crowd started yelling CAMILLA and, after a moment's hesitation, the Duchess headed over to say hello, followed close behind by the Prince. The media began to press in and I was again worried that the Duchess would not make it down to where Bert and I were waiting. So I picked up Bert, who seemed a bit surprised, and hoped for the best. Another AFP officer told me to stand back, but seemed content for Bert to be held up. Almost immediately the Duchess spotted Bert and came over to see him. She said hello to me, and shook my hand. I said "Hello, Your Royal Highness", but it was Bert who had her attention. "This is Bert" I told her. "Hello Bertie" she said as told her his name is Bert, and the Duchess patted him on the head and said "hello Bertie". She then told me that she used to have a Boston Terrier, and then went back to tickle Bert under his chin. I explained to her that Bert had met the Prince yesterday, but he really wanted to meet her. She seemed pleased and started to move on. At this point Bert started to get fidgety (he does not like be held) and with a quick twist he wormed himself free and dropped to the ground with a thud: right at the feet of the Prince of Wales (completely unhurt; he may be 15 kilos but he bounces like a ball). The Prince looked surprised and said "what was that?", he then glanced up and saw me. "Just us again", I told him, "Bert wanted to come and see the Duchess". He laughed a little and moved on. I don't think the Prince is, at heart, as much of a dog person as the Duchess obviously is. The royal couple got into their car, and with a final wave from both the Prince and Duchess, they departed for the airport.

The media loved the story of a Monarchist dog meeting the Duchess of Cornwall. Neville was quizzed by The Age's Tony Wright (right).

"Then the real madness broke out. Bert and I were swamped by reporters and photographers, all wanting to know his name and breed. There was a TV interview (which, thankfully, did not make it to the evening news) and a press interview (which did make it online). I was a bit worried that all the attention might go to his head, but Bert coped well. Finally, after our very busy morning, we were able to head for home. Bert has been sound asleep for several hours now, snoring deeply. He was dreaming about ten minutes ago, no doubt about his royal encounters, and his new-best-friend-forever, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall."

Tony Wright's article in The Age agreed, that "the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall devoted their visit to Melbourne on Wednesday to matters that consume their hearts - and while doing it, won the heart of a little dog.

The Duchess, who said she had watched her mother die in agony from osteoporosis - a disease that causes bones to become brittle and easily fracture - attended a reception at Government House intended to raise awareness of the disease.

It was, she said, the first thing she was determined to do when she knew she was coming to Australia.

The Prince, for decades a proponent of sustainable design for housing and community, took himself off to the Housing Melbourne Symposium at the National Gallery of Victoria to applaud Melbourne's architecture, the preservation of its tram system and the creation of new urban areas for community enjoyment. 'You have done a tremendous job in preserving the past and creating well-loved and well-used urban spaces in the present day,' he said. 'Unlike most cities around the world, Melbourne kept its tram system and improved it and is now considered a global leader.'

... members of the public stood in the street, but when the duchess - who owns Boston terriers - spied a French bulldog, she stooped to pat it. The dog's name, according to owner Neville Condron, a Coburg resident enthused by all things royal, was Bert.

'''Bertie,' cooed the duchess, possibly recalling Prince Charles's grandfather, and the re-named Bertie reciprocated by licking her hand.

'''Yes, Camilla was quite taken with Bert and Bert was quite taken with her,' said Mr Condron. Indeed, 'Bertie' had met Prince Charles during a function in South Melbourne only the day before, and the prince, giving the mutt a pat, had opined that 'one of these days, I'll get my hand taken off'.

'''Bert's more likely to lick your hand off,' Mr Condron said."

This is, what the Herald Sun had to say about this morning:

Camilla makes a good impression

"The duchess has been warmly welcomed at official events and has happily chatted with the small crowds that have turned out to greet her since arriving in Australia on Monday.

"'Camilla just seems so relaxed, people are warming to her and I think it's been long enough for memories to fade a little bit and I think she's off to a really good start.

"'I think Australians would like her sense of humour and enjoy the way she dresses. She's very relaxed with the crowd.

"'I think she's great and they look so happy together. It's a good thing.'

"Mr Condron took his French bulldog, Bert, to meet the royal couple, and the duchess was especially taken.

"'The duchess said she used to keep Boston terriers, which are a similar looking dog, not as cute as French bulldogs though, and she was just very taken with him and gave him a good pat and called him Bertie,' he said.

"'He was enjoying himself. He'll sleep well tonight.'"

Pia Akerman had this to write in The Australian

Trams and puppies the royal highlights

"Melbourne has won a place in Prince Charles' heart for its trams and architecture, but it's the canine residents which have brought a smile to Camilla's face.

"The Duchess of Cornwall meanwhile - known for her love of animals - has been keen to meet some of the dogs of Melbourne which had travelled with their owners for a glimpse of the royal couple.

"Outside a youth arts performance this morning, Camilla made a beeline for Bert the French bulldog, proudly held aloft by his owner Neville Condron.

"'I said, 'Don't worry, Bert would lick your hand off,"' Mr Condron said. 'She was very taken with him, and he was very taken with her.'
"The duchess told Mr Condron she had bred Boston terriers, similar to the French bulldog."

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