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(2012 - Spring/Summer Issue)


Where I come from, when a guy invites you to join him for tea, and it’s his birthday, you get him a card.

Turns out, it’s not quite that simple if the guy happens to be His Royal Highness Prince Philip.

The Duke of Edinburgh spent part of a recent birthday hosting our group of 70 international travel journalists at a Buckingham Palace reception, promoting Britain’s tourism industry. According to the British media, I caused a “moment of embarrassment for the prince . . .” simply by handing His Royal Highness a birthday card. 

We’re not talking headlines like Michelle Obama received when she hugged the Queen during her recent visit to Buckingham Palace. It was still a surprise for me to see stories claiming the Duke of Edinburgh “seemed mortified when he was handed a birthday card (by Canadian journalist Janie Robinson).”

For sure, there was a moment of awkwardness when after graciously thanking me for my card, Prince Philip couldn’t locate the royal aide who is usually at his side to collect such gifts, as the prince carries on greeting his guests.

“Would you like me to hold the card for you, Sir?” I asked, taking back my birthday token until the prince’s press officer came to get it.   

Was the card-giving a royal protocol faux pas on my part?

“It wasn’t a problem at all for you to give the card to His Royal Highness,” says Meryl Keeling, a member of the Buckingham Palace Press Office passing my birthday card along to the duke’s Equerry-in-Waiting.

“Originally an equerry was the person in charge of the horses for princes or nobles,” explains Richard Maundrell, a major in The Grenadier Guards and currently equerry to Prince Philip.

“These days, part of my work as a personal attendant is holding the gifts given HRH during official engagements, so they don’t pile up in his hands,” assuring me that my card was a “lovely gesture and would certainly get back to the prince.”

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