Conference Room, St James’s Palace, London.
Wednesday 26 September 2012
The fashionistas three rows back began scribbling like fury. They had no choice. Photographs were banned and all audio and video equipment had been temporarily confiscated by security.
“Out-dated black trouser suit. Prim white blouse. Black patent-leather ballet pumps. Minimal make-up; no jewellery. Hair arranged in severe French knot. Kate more skinny than slender. Refuses to smile”, noted The Daily Telegraph’s Lisa Armstrong.
But as the former Catherine Middleton mounted the podium there was a further shock. The famous blue sapphire and diamond engagement ring had disappeared. Only her wedding band now adorned her long slim hand.
“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please,” began the Duchess in tones as starchy as her shirt.
“As we wish to keep this emergency Press Conference brief, we are not offering our customary hospitality. Moreover, as the matter under discussion is sub judice in the French courts, I am reading the text of a prepared speech and will take no questions.
“William is seated on the front row with our new Press Secretary, Mr Ed Perkins. Although we’re not due to start working together until December, it was his suggestion that the transcript of my speech be made available in all major languages to avoid any ambiguity.”
The Duchess took a sip of water before she continued:
“First I must remind you that I am known to the world by my face. Today you see it ice-cold with anger. Should anyone believe I am shaking with nerves - think again. I tremble with rage.
“I am too well aware that I am an ordinary woman who was thrown into extra-ordinary circumstances by my marriage. So be advised: my skull contains an active brain while inside the bosom that has been so vulgarly displayed by some publications represented here, there lies a warm heart that has been deeply hurt. ’Keep calm and carry on’? Hmm. ‘Don’t get mad. Get even’? O.K., this is my chance to talk openly about myself to you.
“As I do not need conventional employment, it would be easy for me to live privately; to indulge all my favourite hobbies more often and to have extra time to see my birth family and close friends. That is not to be. I am strictly committed to the life of a ‘working royal’ and make myself as accessible as is possible, both to people like yourselves and to the general public.
“But everything has been spoilt by the greed of those who abused my trust. While legal action proceeds, William and I have decided to draw a fresh line over the point where the previous ‘red line’ of common decency was crossed.
“Some of you have noticed that I am not wearing my engagement ring. I removed it – with William’s approval – just for this session.
“Everyone knows that it first belonged to his mother. I have made this gesture to emphasise that while I cherish her memory I do not live and work in her shadow. I am a different, quite separate person and am determined neither to imitate her life – nor, heaven willing - her tragically untimely passing.
“But during the many times we have talked about her, William and I have reflected that in the 15 years since her death, technology has advanced greatly.
“For instance,” said the Duchess, opening the handbag by her side to find and replace her ring, “I wonder what Princess Diana would have done if she had owned an i-phone. Would she have surprised you and started ‘snapping’ back?”
The crowd tittered but the Duchess raised one hand for silence as the other drew her own ‘phone from her bag. “Perhaps,” she went on, “my late mother-in-law would have done as I’m about to do. Maybe she would have invited a couple of senior print or photo-journalists to join her on a public platform to explain themselves to her – er - in the flesh.
“I do hope that Mr Michael O’Kane, recently of the Irish Daily Star and Mademoiselle Laurence Pieau of Closer magazine are here. Please come ‘closer’,” she invited, finally breaking into a smile. “After all, this session would be so much duller without you.”
But suddenly the Duchess’s mood changed. She put her ‘phone aside. “No. If I were to do as planned, I’d cheapen myself – and much worse – the monarchy. I can’t, in all conscience, humiliate anyone else as some of you have degraded me. Instead, I’ll wish you all good day. Goodbye.”
“How are we going to handle this?” mused The Mirror’s Victoria Murphy, as the crowd slunk away. “To make things worse, we’re going to have to use just her text and library pictures.
“Ha! Just like the good old days,” said The Independent’s Andy McSmith.
‘Y’know, said Prince William, hugging the Duchess as they walked from the hall towards the Press Office. “Gran need not have worried about this morning’s proceedings. She and Dad have attempted to instil me with the concept of ‘kingship’ since I was a tot. I think you’ve got it straight off. You really are a smart piece! Now, how about a Coke?”
Wednesday 26 September is also Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement. I wish all Jewish readers ‘an easy fast’.
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 18 September 2012)