My earliest memory of King Charles is of him glancing up at Palma Cathedral from the front seat of a minibus stopped at some traffic lights along the Paseo Maritimo. It was summer 1988. He was paying his second visit to the island with his family. I had just joined the Bulletin and I had been sent to Palma airport to cover his arrival. It was a tall order because I had no car, no camera and no experience. In fact, I must have been the only journalist who arrived at the airport by bus! But I was 18-year-olds and my enthusiasm helped overcome all my shortcomings. I joined the press pack who were camped out at the airport, hiding away my bus pass and trying to look as if I knew what I was doing. What I did know about was aircraft (in those days I was a walking encyclopaedia on the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy).
So I was the first to spot the BAe 146 aircraft of the Queen's Flight (as it was then) when it touched down at Palma airport. I tried to keep my nerves under control and my attention quickly turned to the small problem of transport. How was I going to get to Marivent Palace? It would have meant taking two buses and changing at the Plaza España and Bulletin expenses didn't stretch to a taxi! Luckily I made friends with a veteran French paparazzi who usually worked along the South of France but had travelled to the island for the royal visit. We did a deal; my local knowledge in exchange for a lift to the Marivent Palace.
The British royal party (Prince Charles (then) Princess Diana and the Princes William and Harry boarded a brown minibus escorted by at least four Spanish royal security vehicles and headed to Marivent. My new French colleague gave chase. What I didn't know before I boarded his vehicle was that my French driver was an expert behind the wheel. The four royal security vehicles tried to stop the chasing press pack and their vehicles from drawing level with the brown minibus. They were also experts but my French friend was better. I marvelled at the way he drove his hired car and went through a series of manoeuvres which would have put Lewis Hamilton to shame. He managed to get past the security vehicles and I found myself looking at Prince Charles in the front-seat of the minibus who was gazing at Palma Cathedral. I remember waving at him. At this point my French driver though that it would be best to head for Marivent Palace and await the royal party. He put his foot down even further and we narrowly missed having an accident with a lorry in front of the Club de Mar. It was a close shave but we arrived in one piece at Marivent and I remember getting out of the car and shouting they are coming to the hundreds of people who had gathered outside. It was a hell of a day and one I will always remember.
Reception at the British Embassy
Many years later I was lucky enough to be invited to a royal reception at the home of the British ambassador in Madrid. The Prince of Wales (then) was paying an official visit to Spain. More than 200 people had gathered at the residence on the outskirts of Madrid. I was desperately hoping that I would get a photograph of the heir to the throne (then) and me. I was told that it would be highly unlikely because there was only a single photographer on duty and he was very busy. But I got lucky. I don't know if he liked my suit but he took almost a dozen photographs of the Prince of Wales and me. I spoke very briefly to him and recounted how I had waved to him back in 1988 from a car in front of the Cathedral. Rather strangely he didn't remember it!
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