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40, Love: Twice in a Queen’s Life

Today on 40, Love: A royal engagement reminds Jon Paul of his mother’s flare for the dramatic.

A January 1981 London trip solidified my Anglophile credentials

My mother instilled in me a love—and, well, let’s face it, a flare—for the dramatic.  She could take almost any occasion and infuse it with an intensified sense of purpose.  When I went with her as a kid on a Rhine riverboat tour through Germany, we didn’t just go eat at a castle like the others in our group.  No, mother insisted we purchase and wear authentic Bavarian outfits including lederhosen.  I’ll pause here and blame her for my later infatuation with kinky Berlin boys.

But in July 1981, mother really took things to new heights the day Princess Diana was married to Prince Charles.  Others might have been content to watch the glass carriage procession from the comfort of their living rooms, but not us.  The royal nuptials—“an event so special you might only see it once in your lifetime,” mother told me—deserved to be watched from something grander than our mustard yellow living room in our Dallas ranch style home.

So we packed an overnight bag and checked into the newish Le Meridien Hotel on the edge of downtown.  “It’s more ‘continental’ than British,” mother told me.  “But it’s the closest Dallas has to a Four Seasons.  Which is Canadian.  Practically the same thing.”

I’m not sure the desk clerk quite knew how to respond to my mother when she announced we were there for a special viewing of the Royal wedding.  When she asked that tea and scones arrive at the room by 5am, the attendant frowned.

“Well, ma’am, the kitchen isn’t open that early.  Maybe I could round up some coffee and a muffin?”

Safely ensconced in our room, mother unpacked a bag filled with provisions.  A recent convert to the wonders of the Franklin Mint, she set out a series of commemorative coffee mugs and plates.  But the item that fascinated me the most was the first day cover of stamps issued and a cameo portrait of Diana and Charles in profile.  Ahh, to be immortalized in Wedgewood.  A queen’s dream.  This one’s at least.  Surprising now to think my mother was shocked—shocked—when I officially came out to her in high school.

To this day, I still carry around the stamp & cameo


Turns out, mother was wrong.  I am going to experience another British royal wedding in my lifetime—Kate Middleton to Diana’s son Prince William.  And lucky me, I now live in a city filled with British-infused hospitality options.  All I need now is the official date and I’ll be packing up Chef and Frida for a night at The Dorchester Collection’s New York Palace Hotel for guaranteed tea and scones.  Fingers crossed for a new commemorative stamp to add to my collection.


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