Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Prince of Wales in Bucharest

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Monday was the British Ambassador's party for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, held this time at the well guarded and discreet sports ground of the National Bank and the surprise guest as they say on television programmes was the Prince of Wales who has been paying one of his regular visits to Transylvania. I keep getting congratulated because I was on television ten yards from the Prince of Wales. How illusory is fame,  to the pursuit of which men give their lives.


He began his speech with 'Your Royal Highnesses' because Princess Margarita and her husband Prince Radu were present. So was Victor Ponta, the new Prime Minister who looked much younger than his 39 years, who towered over the prince physically and made a decent speech in excellent heavily accented English. His grin always strongly reminds me of the gap-toothed Alfred E. Newman who adorns the front cover of Mad magazine. Like Mad I imagine Ponta is less amusing than he looks. You cannot judge books, magazines or politicians by their covers.


The Prince, who  is a collateral descendant of  Vlad the Impaler, spoke from the heart when he talked about his love of Romania, "what a special country it is, and what cultural values it has." He came here a few weeks after I came here to live in 1998 and was enchanted by Romania's sheer old-fashionedness, which I have noticed is what appeals to many foreigners who love Romania, myself included. (Unlike the Prince though I find Bucharest as fascinating as the villages.) It is said that the Prince is now owns large amounts of land in Transylvania. He owns a house in Viscri a village which is idyllic even by the standards of Romanian villages and he has done much to encourage responsible tourism which benefits communities while preserving their character. Talking of the Romanian villages the Prince said, ‎"There is much to do in Romania. If these places disappear, it would be an indictment for a world that has lost its soul."


The President was not there but immediately before attending the party the Prince had met him. I imagine the President does not enjoy the proximity of the beaming Prime Minister, crowned with electoral success at the local elections. I noticed that the President's message to the party began by addressing the Prince whereas it should first have addressed the Ambassador, who represents the Queen. The Romanian version of the message congratulated the Queen on her diamond wedding anniversary not her sixty years on the throne but the translator corrected this in the English version.


Rather oddly, the Prince was then taken to a special covered and dingy VIP section screened from the rest of us where he was surrounded by 'demnitari' who looked pretty unprepossessing. The Prince who described the Chinese Communist leaders as 'the most frightful waxworks' probably knows the type. In his job you meet all sorts and I saw him being absolutely charming to an aged Emil Constantinescu and a lively Ion Iliescu, competing for his attention.




The Prince was a surprise and even in our undeferential  age makes most people, even reformed Communists, feel deferential, something which makes people happy. I was put in mind of what Evelyn Waugh said about putting up in a hotel beside the pyramids: 

'It felt odd to be living at such close quarters with anything quite so famous - it was like having the Prince of Wales at the next table in a restaurant; one kept pretending not to notice, while all the time glancing furtively to see if they were still there.'

Why doesn't Romania restore her monarchy abolished by Stalin? 


Solving that question needs a book.

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