July 08, 2017
A funny thing happened on my way to lunch last week. I opened the Daily Mail and read a few snippets about the Camilla-Charles saga by Penny Junor, stuff to make strong men weep with boredom, but then a certain item caught my eye: “Camilla and the Queen finally met in the summer of 2000, when Charles threw a 60th birthday party at Highgrove for his cousin King Constantine of Greece…. They shook hands, smiled at one another, Camilla curtseyed, before going to different tables for lunch.”
Hey, wait a minute, I told myself. You were there, for God’s sake, and had much too much firewater. It had obviously slipped my mind, seventeen years and 5,000 booze-ups later. Thinking back, I remember it well. I had my driver pick me up nice and early from Cadogan Square, but we nevertheless had to speed like hell as the chauffeur was more familiar with the backstreets of Delhi than the gentle rolling hills of the Cotswolds. The reason for my presence at Prince Charles’ country residence was obvious: King Constantine had included my name on his list. I had met Charles and Camilla before, but I wouldn’t exactly say I was an intimate.
If memory serves, and it does, it was a brilliant summer day, and the guests were given a tour by Prince Charles—one I missed as I stayed behind chatting with Conrad Black, said hi to Camilla, exchanged a few jokes with my King, and then proceeded to get drunk seated next to a certain royal I was stepping out with at the time. In fact the certain royal’s mother warned me not to drive, nor to attempt cricket. Which was my next destination. During the boozy luncheon in the sunshine I remembered that I was supposed to be in Badminton early in the afternoon for a cricket match, Badminton vs. the village, or something like that. By the time I arrived at the Duke of Beaufort’s seat I was late and inebriated, and Harry Worcester was rather angry. “Can’t you f———ever be on time, Greek boy?” “Well, I was having lunch with the Queen, and she took her time…” or words to that effect. “Oh, f—- off.”
The reason I say a funny thing happened to me last week is that right after reading the Daily Mail item I quoted above, I went to lunch with Leopold Bismarck and Kevin Burke. The former is a very close friend, but I hadn’t seen Kevin for years, until we sat down at Ziani’s, off the Kings Road, a wonderful Italian restaurant. A very distinguished gentleman was reading The Spectator at the next table.
Kevin looked a bit out of sorts, so Bolle and I began to pull his leg a bit. The trouble was the Camilla story by Penny Junor. His name had not appeared on the list of her boyfriends, and he was the very first one. I must say he had a bit of a point. Credit should be given where credit is due. “You can Google it, for Christ’s sake,” said Kevin in jest, but it’s in there. Kevin Burke, the first to score with the Duchess of Cornwall. We toasted the unsung hero and talked with the distinguished gent lunching while reading the Speccie. We did not mention the fact that Kevin Burke was the first.