I met a prince for the first time and it was nothing like in the movies

2019-07-24 08:06

Johannesburg – There I was, a week before interviewing a royal for the very first time. My nerves were shot – not at the thought that I would be sharing the same space with the one and only, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco (yes, that is the Prince's full title), but at the idea that I would have to follow strict royal protocol which would possibly include having to utter his entire lengthy name before each question posed.

This is probably a good time for me to point out that the majority of my knowledge on royal protocol stems from The Princess Diaries. Don't knock it; it's a classic. Plus, there was absolutely no way that Anne Hathaway would lead me astray.

I had a week to get my life in order. And by that, I mean learning to curtsy…obviously. 

I was to meet the Prince ahead of the Rhino Conservation Awards in Johannesburg where he would be a guest of honour. It took all of 1 hour, from the moment I arrived at the venue to the end of the 10-minute interview, and in that time, every expectation I had was completely shattered. 

Here's what it's really like to meet a Prince (in my experience):

The briefing:

Hours before the Rhino Conservation Awards, I was informed that Prince Albert's team would prefer that the interview take place in his hotel suite before the event. As if I was not under enough pressure, now I'd actually have to meet him at the place he was staying.

I arrived early to be briefed on the all-important protocol. A dozen questions raced through my mind – When do I curtsy? Was my technique up to scratch? Am I allowed to shake the Prince's hand? And of course, how do I address him? 

Prince Albert's head of media relations met us in the foyer of the hotel. We sat down to have a quick drink before heading to the suite. He was a charming man dressed in a suit – very easy-going. We made small talk as I sipped on water (he had a Coke). 

"You can call him 'Sir'," he advised, saying that if I wanted to, I could address the Prince as "Your Highness" once or twice, but after a while it just becomes tiring, so "Sir" will do. 

Umm…okay, I suppose that's easier than, "Good evening, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. How are you?"

But what about my curtsy? Turns out that was a no-go. A simple handshake would do. All of my hard work just thrown out the window. Admittedly, a sense of relief washed over me. 

"You'll find that you'll feel right at ease once you meet him," the head of media relations told me. 

Prince Albert II of Monaco

The Meeting: 

Security at the Prince's room was tight, as expected. We waited outside the door as the head of security stepped out of the room. We were introduced to him. I can't recall his name because all I remember thinking is, "I would not mess with this guy."

I was right. "I'm a very dangerous man," he joked when he met us. At least I think it was a joke. Either way, I believed him. I told him that.

After a few minutes, we were allowed into the Prince's suite, where we waited in the lounge. We met a couple more members of the Prince's team – all very friendly. There were a few whispers in French. I tried to mind my own business and look as harmless as possible, especially when the head of security was around. 

Finally, the moment came. The prince stepped out of his room. I stood up as his head of media relations introduced me (in a French accent – that's an essential bit of information). 

"Good evening, Sir," I shook the Prince's hand. Nailed it! So far, so good.

"Where should we sit?" the Prince asked, gesturing toward the dining room table, but offering the couches where we had already been perched as an alternative. We opted for the comfy sofas. 

What followed was a ten-minute conversation that completely changed my perception of royals. What I expected was rules upon rules about how to behave. Heck, at some point I even thought my slightly casual dress might offend the royal court. But the reality was far from that.

The Prince had a warm, welcoming air about him. He made a point of asking me how I was when I tried to rush straight into the questions. Everyone giggled, and the tension (which was probably all in my head) lifted immediately. The head of media relations was right; I felt completely at ease. 

At the end of the interview, we were asked to pose for a picture. I tried not to stand too close to the Prince. I was pretty sure security wouldn't tackle me to the ground, but I couldn't risk it. 

So yes, I met a real prince, and it was nothing like in the movies. But look at the bright side, at least I know how to curtsy now. 

(Photo: N.Saussier/Palais Princier)

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