The Royal Visit – as it happened – part one

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrive at St. Clement's Church accompanied by the British Ambassador Sian MacLeod (far left) © Sybille Yates

Further to my previous posts entitled ‘A forthcoming Royal visit’, ‘Three days to go…….’ and ‘Only 12 hours to go…..’, today was the big day when, as part of their official visit to the Czech Republic, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, joined the regular St. Clement’s Church congregation for our Sunday morning worship.

I set the alarm for 6am, just to be sure I had plenty of time to have a shower, eat breakfast and collect everything together, ready to travel into the city centre. In fact, the four-legged alarm clock called Oscar, landed on my bed before 6 am. I think he knew I had to get up early!

The 9.34am Number 8 tram duly carried Sybille and I from Podbaba to Dlouhá Trída in the 18 minutes it was scheduled to do, meaning that we arrived outside of the Church at about 9.55am, more than an hour before the Royal Party was due to arrive. However, the streets around the Church were completely clear of cars and numerous policemen were already patrolling. Only when I pointed to my clerical collar was I allowed to walk across the road and stand nearer to the Church. This rather confirmed my worst fears that the security concerns of the Czech police might prevent some regular members of the congregation actually getting to Church.

Our host congregation, the Ceskobratrské Cíckve Evangelické /the Evangelical Church of  Czech Brethren, were having their normal 9.30am service. As I stood near the door I could hear their hymn singing and the voice of Pastor Eva Halamová. However, Pastor Eva had previously promised that she would try and shorten their service a little and, true to her word, they finished at 10.15am, a full 10-15 minutes earlier than normal. As I entered the Church, Pastor Eva and I exchanged a hug as I thanked her for her cooperation and she wished me well for our service.

I was followed into Church by several Czech security personnel and a couple of sniffer dogs as the whole premises were carefully searched to see anything untoward could be found. Only  Churchwarden Gerry Turner, Sacristan Marshall Johnson and Welcomers Peter Morpuss and Amanda Neill, were allowed in until the search was completed.

Once the congregation were allowed in, the Church began to fill rapidly. It was good to see that many of the regular congregation had heeded my instructions and had come to Church in good time rather than dashing in at the last minute. And there were quite a number of somewhat unfamiliar faces who had obviously mainly come to see our Royal Visitors though many were friends and family of regular members of the congregation.

I was fortunately in the vestry when my mobile phone rang at 10.35am. It was Sher, an American member of the congregation saying that she and several other people were across the street from the Church but were being prevented from getting to Church by the police. I charged down the aisle still talking on my phone and was very helpfully followed by Gerry Turner and a couple of British diplomats from the Embassy. Between us we sorted things out and hopefully nobody who wanted to come to Church in the normal way was prevented from doing so.

However, one of my most abiding memories of today will be of an angry Gerry Turner telling a Czech policeman in no uncertain terms in Czech, that he was behaving like the police used to during the latter years of the Communist regime! Gerry can speak from experience having lived in Prague for ten years during the Communist era. I don’t think the policeman concerned was quite expecting that!

Gerry Turner and me waiting for the arrival of the Royal Party © Sybille Yates

By 10.50am, the Church was virtually full with only the reserved pews empty and the rarely used seats along the side walls also occupied. Sitting in many of these were a group of over twenty young people who I assumed had just come to see our Royal Visitors. My assumption proved to be completely wrong. They were a group of young Dutch Christians who had taken part in a competition which involved travelling in pairs and hitchhiking from Utrecht to Prague. They came to Church to worship totally unaware that we were expecting special guests!

Soon after 10.50am, I spoke to the congregation reminding them of the note in the front of the Order of Service about turning off mobile phones and that no photography or videoing of any of the service was allowed. I then went to the main door to wait with Gerry Turner, for the arrival of the Royal Party.

We stood and waited opposite a large group of accredited press photographers which included Sybille. There were quite a large number of people gathered to watch on the far side of the street and many locals looking out on proceedings from the windows of the surrounding apartment buildings.

Right on time at 11am, preceded by numerous police cars all with blue lights flashing, the Royal Party arrived. The accompanying photographs taken by Sybille, illustrate the event far better than my written words.

Elise, better known as 'Pixel' with her posy of daffodils for the Duchess, together with Mom Susanne, Dad Mark and Gerry Turner © Sybille Yates

Me greeting Prince Charles whilst the Duchess and Gerry Turner look on © Sybille Yates

The Duchess of Cornwall with her flower posy, together with the Prince of Wales, walk towards the Church entrance watched by Peter Morpuss, Church Council member and welcomer for the special occasion, together Pixel's parents and Gerry Turner © Sybille Yates

Amanda Neill, the second welcomer on this special day, looks on as the Prince, the Duchess and the British Ambassador approach the Church door © Sybille Yates

Once I had escorted the Royal Party to their pew, the service started and, I am very pleased to say, ran remarkably smoothly. But more of that in my next blog post…….

6 comments to The Royal Visit – as it happened – part one

  • Ricky, thanks for sharing this part of your special day. Looking at Charles in Sybille’s photographs I can’t help but compare him to the DOE, they are so alike.

    Not sure about the choice of brown shoes though 🙂
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Wat Khao Daeng(?????????) Prachuap Khiri Khan =-.

  • Ricky

    Mike – Very well observed! There certainly is a likeness to Prince Philip. As for the brown shoes, I hadn’t noticed them until you pointed them out. I not sure about them either 🙂

  • Hi Ricky,
    Great post about the royal visit yesterday! It was quite an adventure for the whole church and all those who came to see the royal couple. The sermon was wonderful, and really…the whole service was great. I was impressed that the congregation, for the most part, were so cooperative in not taking pictures during the service. I did see that you had to stop one visitor from taking pictures–good for you. That person would have been carted off to a Czech jail for sure!

    I was VERY disappointed to not be able to do my church job yesterday as a welcomer. Unfortunately, I was there in plenty of time, but was held up by the Czech police outside the church for almost 15-20 minutes. I explained to one of the policemen that I was supposed to be a welcomer and had a job to do there, but he said he didn’t understand me (he understood perfectly!). At the urging of my Czech husband I went to talk to the policeman again, and he told me, very sternly, it was impossible to go to the church. I knew if I tried a third time they would probably try to arrest me :0) That’s when I finally ended up calling you on the mobile! I wanted to let you know I had not purposely deserted my post! Thank you for being a good shepherd and coming to the aide of your sheep! There were a few of us who were not being allowed over! It must have made a very curious sight for those watching when we all started jogging across the street, past the Czech police, while you were coming for us with your phone in hand! :0)

    Anyway, it was a very interesting and exciting time for everyone. And it was a job well-done by you and those who were helping!

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)
    .-= Sher´s last blog ..Happy and Successful Expats =-.

  • Ricky

    Hi Sher – Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m hoping to get the second half posted later today.

    You’re not the first to congratulate me on my rather swift grabbing of the camera of the lady who tried to take a photo as the Prince and the Duchess walked up the aisle at the beginning of the service. It was just an instantaneous reaction on my part which fortunately had the desired effect. I was so annoyed having clearly drawn everyone’s attention to notice in the front of the Order of Service less than 10 minutes previously. I’m sure she was Czech and either hadn’t understood, (or more likely, did not want to understand!!), what I’d said.

    Don’t worry about not being able to help Peter & Amanda with welcoming because of the problems you had with the Czech police. I’m just glad I was in the vestry when you rang & so got your call. I think Jirka would have enjoyed listening to the roasting that Gerry Turner gave to the senior policman outside who was the source of the problem.

  • Hi Ricky,

    Very newsworthy post and the pictures are good. No wonder Sybille is accredited photographer.

    I especially liked your mention of Oscar as a live alarm clock.

    How did he know about your planning to get up earlier?

    Cats are mysterious and even smart.

    As for the comment regarding brown shoes they seem a bit odd but if a person likes that color it should be OK for people to wear them.

    Purple hair doesn’t raise any eyebrows either these days.

    .-= Vance@Affectionate Cat Whity´s last blog ..Email List Building, Opt in List, Not Just for Internet Marketer =-.

  • Ricky

    Vance – As you say, ‘Cats are mysterious and smart’. I’m sure Oscar did know something special was happening last Sunday morning.

    I think I now know the explanation for the brown shoes. Directly after the service, Prince Charles was taken on a walking tour of the Old Town to look at all of its architectural delights. I therefore think he wore the brown shoes because they were an old but comfortable pair, suitable for walking the cobbled streets.