Sunday, 16 February 2020

TRH The Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall in Leicester February 2020

The Duchess hanging onto her hat in the windy weather!

The Statue of Suffragette Alice Hawkins in the Market Square

Chinese Dragons entertaining the crowds

A Penny Farthing Bicycle

February 11th 2020, saw TRH The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit the city of Leicester.

After an earlier visit with the Cambridge's to a Defence Rehabilitation Unit in Loughborough, they came to the city centre. Visiting the Outdoor and Food Markets, before coming into the Market Square.

There on a stage, they listened to local schoolchildren singing to them (and using buckets as improvised instruments - B&Q orange!!!) The Duchess was presented with a  miniature statue (the real one they had admired prior to taking to the stage) of Suffragette Alice Hawkins, who used to address crowds in the square. The Prince then made a speech to thank everyone for coming and to officially re-name the square 'Green Dragon Square' (named after a 15th Century Inn that once stood on the site), the Prince unveiled a plaque marking their visit.

It was then off on a walkabout, sadly to the other side of the crowds to where we were! However Prince Charles did cross over to chat. '
''I see You are still taking the pictures'' he said to me laughing!!

Then a rush to try and catch the Duchess who had gone on an unscheduled visit to the City Rooms Hotel where the Prince was scheduled to ttend his next engagement.

Now I cannot emphasise enough how lovely she is! I'm stood opposite the doors outside and can see the Duchess inside (her hat off), she stops and seems to be waving in my direction through the slightly tinted windows.  I don't wave back as think, no, its not me, but she continues looking and smiling. Then she puts her hat on and the next minute the hotel doors are opened and she comes straight towards me. 'Hello Paul, I thought it was you I saw!!' She had come straight over. We had a little chat and she then said she was going back inside as she was leaving by the back exit! How lovely was that and it proves what a classy lady she is who I cannot praise highly enough! She didn't have to come out but she did!!

The Prince left soon afterwards, braving the weather minus his coat! Again chatting to the crowds.

It was cold. Yes! It was sunny. Yes. It briefly snowed. Yes! Did I enjoy the day. You bet!!!

Photographs (C) Paul Ratcliffe 

Saturday, 18 January 2020

The Duke & Duchess of Sussex - A New Chapter....

The Royal Family vs The Sussexes

I've followed the Royal Family since I was little. Watched the royal children grow into adults, get married and start their own families. 
I've bought the proverbial T Shirt and Commemorative Mugs!!

The news that The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have now stepped down as 'Senior' Members of the Royal Family saddens me greatly. That's an understatement, it has created a huge shock. 
If I'm honest I had suspected something may happen for a while, but nothing as drastic as this.

I was on Windsor's High Street on Saturday 19th May 2018, the day that HRH Prince Harry married Miss Meghan Markle. 
The divorced US Actress, known mostly for her role in 'Suits' and also Charity campaigner and spokeswoman for so many causes.  That Spring day was one of glorious sunshine and one that had the hopes of so many good times ahead for the Sussexes and indeed the Country. 

Prior they had done some regional visits to 'hit the ground running' I'd met them in Nottingham (Dec 2017) a few days after their engagement was announced, and Birmingham (March 2018). I was impressed, I was completley won over. Meghan was thoroughly charming. 'What's your name?' she enquired. 'Paul' I replied, 'Well, my name's Meghan. Its lovely to meet you and thank you for waiting'. What was not to love. This was indeed a breath of fresh air (a term I dislike as the air can suddenly change!) Harry was happy. They made a fantastic couple and they were swept up on a wave of euphoria. A tour de force had been created. They had a pop-star like welcome whenever they were seen. I hadn't seen anything like it before. People physically screaming!

The bubble was soon to burst. Before the wedding the 'Markle Debarkle' raised its ugly head. Meghan's father Thomas was found to be staging paparazzi photos in the lead up to the big day. Then health prevented him walking his daughter down the aisle. (A role beautifully performed on the day by Prince Charles)

Then her half-sister Samantha Markle continually opened up about her feelings towards Meghan and lack of what she called empathy to that side of the family. Leaving Meghan's Mother, Doria Ragland, as chief supporter of her daughter at the St George's Chapel wedding.

The honeymoon period was brief. Within a month of the wedding Meghan was granted the rare honour of accompanying the Queen on an away-day to Cheshire. And was indeed warmly welcomed. 
I should know, I was there!

However, there was disharmony. Racial overtones began to filter in more and more. Social media sites, such as twitter, became more vitriolic. Sister-in-Law pitted against Sister-in-Law. It was Meghan vs Catherine. And heaven forbid if you supported both!! Instead of letting each woman shine themselves, we were taken back to the 80's when Diana and Sarah were subjected to the same scrutiny. Who dressed better?? Who hugged a child first? Who made a speech better? It seemed frankly puerile and childish to think that way. Comparisons to Diana, Princess of Wales became more and more commonplace. Letting Meghan shine as her own person was a hurdle she had to achieve.

So how have we come to where we are now? A statement issued by the Queen announcing the roles we knew the Sussexes performed for only under 2 years, was coming to an end??

I can understand the need to keep privacy. Though in a hugely public life there are conflicts.
When their son Archie was born in May 2019 the announcement was very different to those of previous royal babies, and the photographs far more controlled. The names of Archie's godparents  have never been announced. Gone was the photocall on the steps of the hospital, instead a carefully organised photocall within the safe confines of Windsor Castle beckoned.

The statement was released by Harry and Meghan, without the knowledge of The Queen and other members of the royal family came as a shock. They hadn't expected it to be announced. 

Two days earlier they had returned from their Canadian vacation to visit Canada House, London to thank staff for the warmth of the welcome. Many, myself included, were confused at the timing of the visit. As the holiday was private, why thank the Canadians so publicly?? We now know why.

Two days later it seemed to be all over. A website from the couple was hastily launched within minutes of their statement.  It listed various do's and dont's for the Media. Outlined their plans for the future and their hopes. Meghan returned to Canada, to be reunited with Archie. And it appears their dogs were there too!

A 'Sandringhan-Summit' was arranged on Monday 13th January between HM The Queen and TRH The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge. The Duke of Sussex sitting down with them in the Long Corridor of Sandringham House to discuss their future roles. Meghan was rumoured to be joining the meeting by telephone, but that was not to be the case it seems.

So on the evening of Saturday 18th January we finally know what their future would consist of. It includes:

  • NO removal of the HRH titles, but the couple will not use them
  • Repayment of £2.4 million of taxpayer costs to renovate their UK Frogmore Cottage home
  • No more military connections for Harry
  • They wont represent the Queen in the future.
  • To be effective from the Spring. (Although this arrangement will / can be reviewed in a year I believe)

The desire of the Sussexes to be financially independent to me is confusing. They no longer get the 5% Sovereign grant, and the remaining 95% is rumoured to have been paid by the Duchy of Cornwall, provided by Harry's father. So that's not strictly financially independent. I sincerly hope they dont become faces of Products and advertising items on TV. Rumours of brands linng up to work them. Indeed TV coverage surfaced of the couple attending a Disney flm premiere with Harry quizzing the C.E.O about Meghan doing voiceover work, did he know...…? and Meghan saying they were there for the pitch.

A progressive new role??? That remains to be seen what it means. 
Canada seems to have inherited our Duke and Duchess. 
Ongoing questions of their security, though quite rightly they remain private.

When their initial statement first came out my first thoughts were good for them, If they feel tied down by royal life then some time away may help them refresh themselves and time out of the spotlight could only be good. 
Now...……………. I feel saddened & disappointed

If you look back to the Buckingham Palace Balcony on Diamond Jubilee day June 2012, the core members of the Royal Family were there.  The Queen, TRH The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. The Cambridges and of course Prince Harry. That meant he had a significant role to play in the future of the Monarchy. 
So now, and yes you have to talk this way, when the Queen is no longer here, and the Prince of Wales is our monarch, the core Royal family will consist of four people. The future generations, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are too young. It wont be until their 20's they actively start a royal life. Many of the royals who currently carry out royal engagements, the Gloucesters, Princess Alexandra, Duke of Kent are in their 70's and 80's. Princess Anne and the Wessexes wont feature in the core team. The Duke of York is now out of royal life and his daughters side-lined. My concern is that a lot of charities will miss out. 

I do sincerely wish Harry and Meghan well in their new roles, but I'm sad we have come to this. In under two years two people who could have continued to make such a great impact in the UK and overseas have gone. Stepping away from their royal life.

Harry I feel hasn't been happy for a long time. I've seen him have an argument with a press photographer. Seen his dislike having his photo taken on his walkabouts. Memories of what happened to his mother live with him. He walked behind her coffin, as his brother did. 
He it seems, hasn't coped as well.

I'm a Monarchist, I support all the Royal Family. Some members of the family impact more than others. Some attract favourable headlines, some go virtually unnoticed. Whenever commercialism is tried it fails and backfires big time.

As HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother said 'Work is the rent you pay for the room you occupy on earth'

Only time will tell...………………………………………...

December 2017 - Nottingham

Birmingham March 2018

Royal Wedding Day May 19th 2018
With HM The Queen on the balcony of Chester Town Hall - June 2018

Trooping the Colour 2018

RAF Centenary Buckingham Palace Balcony July 2018

January 2019 - Birkenhead
PHOTOGRAPHS (C) Paul Ratcliffe

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Trooping the Colour, London June 2019

One of the Magnificent Drum Horses of the Household Cavarly

The Pollen coming off the Plane Trees on The Mall was terrible, it almost looked like snow / confetti. 
Everybody was coughing away!!

HM The Queen in the Scottish State Coach

Prince Louis of Cambridge makes his Buckingham Palace
Balcony Debut!!

The Queen's Official Birthday was celebrated by her Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) in London on Saturday 8th June 2019

I found a spot on The Mall and stayed there!! It's a  magnificent day of Pomp and Pageantry. Also a very tiring day for standing!

Everything that happens on Horse Guards Parade has to pass you so you get to see the Marching Bands, Soldiers and Kings Horse Troop Royal Artillery as they pass by to fire a Gun Salute in Green Park.. Soldiers come past the crowds selling the official programmes for £5 so you can read all about the Parade.

First came the Three carriages carrying members of the Royal Family:

In the First Carriage were TRH The Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

In the Second Carriage were TRH The Duke of Kent, Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York and her husband Mr Jack Brooksbank.

In the Third Carriage were TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and Viscount Severn.

Following them some minutes later was HM The Queen, this year in a closed carriage, The Scottish State Coach. Behind her on Horseback the four royal Colonels HRH The Duke of Cambridge (Irish Guards) HRH The Prince of Wales (Welsh Guards) HRH The Princess Royal (The Blues and Royals/ Gold Stick in Waiting) and HRH The Duke of York (Grenadier Guards)

I first went onto Horse Guards Parade in 1987 to witness the Parade, and have since seen two of the Colonel's Reviews (the rehearsals held the weeks before) and it is magnificent!

After the Parade returned down The Mall, the crowds queued to be let out onto The Mall to see the Balcony appearance

There I saw over 40 members of the Royal Family, and Prince Louis of Cambridge making his Balcony debut! There were many members of the minor royal family and their children/ grandchildren, who watched as aircraft flew over The Palace, culminating with the world famous RAF Red Arrows Display!

Then for me it was a visit to Kensington Palace and I was Trooped out myself at the end of the day!!

Photographs Copyright Paul Ratcliffe


TRH The Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall in Leicester February 2020

The Duchess hanging onto her hat in the windy weather! The Statue of Suffr...