Last month I found myself entering those famous gates again, this time as a guest. Though I felt a bit like an interloper who might still get bayonetted by a guard at any second.
Plus I am a bit of a republican, so I felt very out of place sitting at the same table (admittedly right down one end where I couldn’t cause too much trouble) as a princess.
But to be fair, Anne (as I call her, now we’re mates) is the best one in the royal family, working hard for many charities, rather than gallivanting round the world, partying and getting embroiled in scandal like I definitely would do if I’d happened to plop out of the right regina.
But I mainly love Princess Anne for the way she reacted to that kidnapping attempt in 1974. An unstable man tried to take her from her car on the Mall, shooting several people in the process. But when directed to get out of the vehicle by the would-be kidnapper she barked: ‘Not bloody likely!’ So he couldn’t kidnap her. Isn’t that brilliant?
So getting a chance to meet the no-nonsense Princess Royal and have dinner with the tall bloke off of Cuckoo was too much to resist. It would also be the first night out for my wife and me since we’d had our baby. Which is setting the standards pretty high. It’ll be hard to go back to Pret A Manger now. I had hoped the Queen would pop by in her dressing gown and nick a satsuma off the sideboard.
The dinner was a real peek into how the other 0.00001 per cent live. There was impressive butling from a huge team of efficiently synchronised butlers and as we ate we were being stared at by the now dead eyes of 18th-century aristos in huge paintings. I felt a bit uneasy (while enjoying it immensely) but we were supporting an important charity as we got mildly p***ed. The tall bloke from Man Down told me a story about the most terrible thing he’d ever done. I said I’d write about it in Metro – oh, but I’ve run out of space. Maybe next time.