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Prince Charles and Me at Betty's Café & Tea Room on Valentine's Day Long Ago



"Oh, have you been waiting on me?" Prince Charles said with a laugh as he stepped out the door of Betty's Café and Tea Room in Harrogate on a chilly Valentine’s Day in 2003.


That was the first sentence Prince Charles ever spoke to me. Unfortunately, I was so delighted to make his acquaintance that instead of replying I reverted to my former Fangirl-self and gave the one response that NO prince ever wants to experience. Oops.


But I am getting ahead of myself here.


Let me start from the beginning.


This is Betty's café & Tea Room where prince charles and i met

but—just to be clear— That is not prince charles in this photo.

That's my husband.

He never wears his crown in public.



Now as I mentioned before, it was Valentine's Day. The perfect day to meet a real, live Prince. The Prince of Wales and future King of England, no less.


Here's how it all went down.


I was living in the picturesque spa town of Harrogate, England with my husband and sons and the day started out like any other—get up, have brekkie, and then work on my dance company’s website while the boys worked on their homeschool assignments. But then the phone rang while I was still noshing on my toast, throwing everything into a spin. It was my husband, who had just arrived at his office, calling to share the exciting news he had heard on the radio during his morning drive to Leeds.


“Guess what? Prince Charles is going to stop by Betty’s Café today!”


“What? Why?”


“Betty’s has a big tree planting campaign and he’s coming up to pay his respects and plant a tree.”


“Cool! I’ll take the boys to go see him. What time?”


“Noon. He’s probably having tea, of course.”


“Wow. I’ll bet there will be huge crowds. The boys and I will go super-early so I can take pictures. Thanks hon!”


I hung up the phone and ran to get the boys.


“Guys, grab your jackets. We’re going to Betty’s!”


“REALLY?”


“Right now?”


“Yep! Prince Charles is gonna be there.”


“Prince Charles?” one son muttered while the other one whined, “Wait, are we going to get pastries or not?”


“I doubt it. It will be closed to prepare for his arrival.”


“AWWWW!”


“Well, you can stay home and do schoolwork instead . . .”


Five minutes later we were out the door trotting to Betty’s, me with my camera in hand. (Seeing royalty trumps schoolwork every time.)



Now in Yorkshire, Betty’s of Harrogate is a legendary institution. It is a beautiful tea room and café that serves a proper English high tea and offers displays of delectable pastries that make the mouth water. As our realtor said when she was showing me the town, "Betty's is the place to see and be seen." But for our humble little family, Betty's was more about the delectables. When we first moved to Harrogate we popped by Betty’s EVERY SINGLE DAY to pick up pastries for after-dinner dessert. (The vanilla slices were to die for.) I still drink their Taylor’s Yorkshire tea exclusively. (You can find it on Amazon now, thank God.)



Betty’s was only a ten minute walk from our house. As soon as we arrived, I picked out a spot right by the door where I could take photos of anyone coming or going. There were less than half a dozen people milling around, waiting for a Royal sighting.




“Hm. This guy doesn’t seem to be too popular . . .” one of my sons muttered.


The other son seemed to share his opinion. “Yeah, what time does he get here? How long do we have to wait.”


“Guys, he’ll be here by noon.

“NOON!” they co-moaned.


“Mom, it’s only ten o’clock!”


“I know, I know, but I wanted to get a good spot to take his photo.”


“There’s not a lot of competition for that!”


I looked around, puzzled. Why aren’t there a lot of people here? I wondered. I thought it would be packed.


“Look, I know it’s a bit of a wait, but this is kind of a big deal. It’s not every day that you get to see royalty. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”


“Um, who is Prince Charles again?”


“SERIOUSLY?”


“No really. Which prince is he?”


I was flummoxed. By the time my kids were ten years old they had already astonished a British tour guide by answering questions like, Which wife of Henry VIII had six fingers on one hand? But that had been four years ago. Before they became teenagers and lost interest in historical figures.


“He’s Queen Elizabeth’s son . . . you know . . . the future king of England.”


They looked at me with blank stares as they tried to attach a face to the name and position. I sighed.


“You know, he was married to Princess Diana!”


“Ohhhh, yeah!”


“Right, that guy.”


I sighed again and checked my camera angles, hoping none of the locals had overheard our conversation.


Over time a few more people arrived. By eleven o’clock a small group was milling about and starting to close in around us. The temperature began to drop as well.


“Mom, it’s cold!”


“I know. But I don’t want to lose my spot. And if you guys run home to get warmer coats you won’t be able to get this close again. Plus if he arrives early you may miss him altogether.”


The boys let out deep sighs and huddled together to gripe quietly. I felt a little bad. It really was chilly, but I knew that they’d regret not seeing Prince Charles if they left. So we waited.


And then, the floodgates opened. Suddenly people were arriving in droves. It soon became a crush and some rude-ish folks pushed against me, slowly edging me away me from my primo spot beside the door. I was annoyed but didn’t say anything. I just planted my feet firmly on the sidewalk and leaned my face against the window and stood my ground.



This is a typical line for Betty's when a Royal ISN'T visiting.



At some point the Prince of Wales arrived, but he came from the other side and we didn’t even see him enter.


So we waited.


And waited.


And froze.


And waited, and waited, and waited, and waited until it was almost four o’clock and starting to get dark. But I held my position.



“Good gosh!” I fumed. “How long can a high tea take? And how many employees does Betty’s have? He must be conversing individually with each of them for thirty minutes a piece.”


My sons were just wordless by that time; too cold to speak, knowing it would be fruitless anyway.


Finally there seemed to be some activity around the stairwell. I peered through the glass, using my telescopic lens to see if I could make out a Royal.


“I think he’s on the stairs!” I whispered to the boys.


“Thank you God!” they shuddered as one.


I was right. Prince Charles was finally about to join us outside. But he was stopped every step of the way to engage in more conversation. I practically shoved my face through the glass trying to watch his activity. And that was when one of his security guys gave me the evil eye and began sizing up my camera.



“Mom, that guy is watching you.”


“I know. He’s probably worried that I’m a stalker.”


“You are!”


“I mean like a scary stalker. Or paparazzi. Or a terrorist who has a gun or small missile launcher built into my camera.”


“I don’t like being seen with you.”


“Stop! I’m going to get a photo of Prince Charles whether this guy likes it or not! Wait! Here he comes!"


Others must have seen his movement as well because there was a surge forward. I planted my camera lens against the window and prepared to shoot. (That word "shoot" sounds terrible when referring to a Royal. Sorry.)



"Let the photoshoot begin!" I murmured, as I elbowed the people beside me.







As my flashes went off the security guy planted himself right in front of me, just in case. I kept having to maneuver side to side to try to get another shot. And that was when Prince Charles really began to notice me.


But not in a "Oh dear Lord, she's scary" kind of way. More like a "Hey, she's cool" kind of way.



Then he gave me a huge smile through the window as he prepared to step outside.



Then Prince Charles walked out of the door and stepped right up to me and said—with an amused twinkle in his royal eye—"Oh, have you been waiting on me?"


I laughed at his witty remark. Then without thinking I instinctively swung my camera up to my eye to fire off a shot.


But the good prince is a master at dodging direct eye contact with the paparazzi and before my shutter could close and open he had turned his eye to the bimbos—I mean nice British ladies—standing beside me. So I didn't quite get the shot I had hoped for. (But I probably could have gotten this nice close-up featured in a tabloid if I had tried.)


the money shot below. Except I made no money.


Sadly, Prince Charles kept moving away . . . Distancing himself from my Nikon.

And, sadly, me.

My sons were just looking down in shame, pretending like they didn't know me.




Naturally, I tried to weave through the crowd hoping for another princely encounter. Security kept their eyes on me most of the time.






After shaking hands with the local commoners the prince began the tree-planting ceremony.





This was the moment before he smiled and waved at me.

By the way, I had no idea where my children were at this time.




As the prince drove away and the crowds thinned, my sons wandered over to me, shaking their heads at my Fangirly antics. And then they brought me back to earth with what I felt to be a bit of a verbal assault.

"Can we go home now?"


"Yeah, I'm starving."


"Me too, We haven't eaten since breakfast."


"And we didn't even get any Betty's!"


"And I can't feel my fingers or toes."


And just like with Prince Charles, I was rendered speechless. I exhaled in bad-parent shame and said, "Sure. Let's go home. Maybe we'll pick up something to eat at Marks and Spencers on the way home."


And that was how I spent Valentine's Day with (and mostly without) Prince Charles, the guy who was just crowned King of England today. I'll always remember him fondly. Especially since he didn't have his security guys tackle me to the ground.


But most of all, I'll always remember Betty's of Harrogate. Where you feast like royalty.


Oh, and by the way, two months later we were on vacation in Rome and went to visit the Vatican and just happened to walk up when Pope John Paul II walked out onto the balcony to sing a song. And my kids were like, "Who's that guy?"


Epic sightings of historical figures are simply wasted on teenagers.









When my husband and I returned for a visit in 2012 we visited The lovely tree that Prince Charles planted eleven years earlier


Kinda needs a new marker though!


if you are ever in harrogate, don't forget to stop by Betty's


Happy coronation day everyone!




Good luck & god bless you king charles!

Let's do tea sometime!

Meet you at betty's!

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