June 07, 2010
Well, that was an easy one. King Constantine of the Hellenes—that’s the Greeks, for any of you who never got past fourth grade—celebrated his 70th birthday in his son’s London mansion, and the setting as well as the guest list were fit for a King. Prince Pavlos of Greece is heir to the Greek throne, but the Greeks, being an ungrateful lot, voted against the monarchy back in 1974. The Greek royal family has lived in London ever since. Prince Pavlos is married to Marie-Chantal Miller, daughter of a billionaire, and their house near the river is one of London’s finest. The garden is magnificent and very, very large. A tent covered only half of it, and as the guests arrived we were ushered upstairs for drinks, an act that helped break the ice, so to speak. There were 84 of us, and I shall start by mentioning some of the worthies. Queen Elizabeth II and her consort Prince Philip, born a Greek prince. The Queen of Denmark, sister of Queen Anna-Maria of Greece, Sophia, the Queen of Spain, sister of King Constantine, her son Prince Felipe of Spain, (and as some wag had it, Eric, florist to the stars in Hollywood, making up the fifth queen.)
There was also Prince Andrew, his sister Princess Anne, and The Duke of Gloucester. Lesser titles abounded, Count and Countess Bismarck, the Hon. Nicholas Soames, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill and an M.P., Lord and Lady Carrington, Prince and Princess Michael of Greece, Princess Benedicte of Denmark, and lesser souls like Galen and Hilary Weston, Princess Chantal of Hanover, Nick Scott, and little ole me, Bunky Mortimer. The reason that the party was the great success it was, was the fact that reigning monarchs like the Queen of England rarely attend private functions. She and Prince Philip have attended King Constantine last three birthdays, his fiftieth, his sixtieth and now his seventieth. Constantine gave a marvelous speech, thanking us all for attending, especially the three reigning queens, but was outdone by his son Pavlos, who in his brief talk pointed out how his father had lived a life of extreme dignity “despite the slings and arrows of an ungrateful populace.” (My words, not his.) The English tabloids reported that Queen Elizabeth had a spot on her dress after dinner, and asked who was responsible. I was not sitting near her but I”m sure my old friend Nicholas Soames could have been responsible. Nicholas gets animated and is a good friend of the Queen. He just might have committed a faux pas and spilled a bit of coffee. As I walked out after the party into the beautiful June night I thought to myself that refined manners were once upon a time connected with the virtues of civilization, the rise of politeness and respect opening up the true nature of rational, social and moral beings. Let’s have more of King Constantine’s birthdays. And invites for Bunky.