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“When I met Prince Andrew…”
Those words once turned heads; now, they raise eyebrows.
What with the sex offender friends, teenage girls – definitely coerced, quite possibly trafficked – nonsensical denials and a carcrash TV interview, the prince has worked himself out of the only job he could ever feasibly do.
I met him when he was still doing that job, just another prince palm-pressing at an ambassadorial party in Johannesburg. It was one of those finger-food, stand-up events of engaging in polite chitchat about nothing at all.
Andrew was a pro. “So,” he said, “what do you do?” And he shook my hand and I cannot remember much else about the actual meeting, except that he looked like the photos, spoke like a toff and made such smooth conversation that nobody had a chance to ask him questions or put him on the spot.
But I also remember something that happened earlier. Before his arrival, a mate and I snuck out and found some pool chairs near the residence, where we took the weight off our high heels while she had a sneaky ciggie. We were young, blonde, both wearing red and, I like to think, we were looking hot (she was a former Miss South Africa runner-up).
Then the door opened and out came a huddle of men, Andrew immediately recognisable. His face was fretful, frownlined; his eyes deeply unhappy. He took a final swig of water from a plastic bottle.
“Right,” he said, “let’s do this.” And then he spotted us, unscripted, out of place. He paused for a second, uncertain, before making a decision: he simply pretended he hadn’t seen us at all.
He and his minders swept away towards the marquee. We followed. We were introduced to him shortly afterwards, the two blondes, and he was all glad-handing joviality and haw-haw-haw, with no mention that he’d seen us by the pool.
I have always remembered that odd, troubled look on his face outside and I gave it my own sad meaning and felt sorry for him for years.
Now, though, I suspect it was simply a grimace of distaste for what lay ahead, for meeting the hoi polloi, the necessary fodder to the well-oiled royal machine.
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