The other day I received a letter from Buckingham Palace, inviting me to have dinner with the Duke of York (Prince Andrew) on Thursday at Windsor Castle.
I was curious to see the castle from the inside: it is a medieval style fortress, filled with military memorabilia (guns, swords, lances, armors…), banners and crests. It was more Game of Thrones than Harry Potter.
The reception was held at the Grand Reception Room. Then the delicious dinner was impeccably served at Waterloo Chamber. One thing I noticed is that all serving staff was a member of a minority, yet none of the guests except two, were.
After dinner, tea (and delicious bonbons) was served at St. George’s Hall, where I had a chance to chat with the Duke.
Honestly, I was surprised. I guess many of us have seen his picture, when married to Sarah Ferguson. They seemed like quite a lively and smily couple. He seemed so human and fun. Yet the man I spoke to the other day was a stern, strict, strong man. One that transmitted “statesmanship”. Is it because Brexit? Because the Queen is 90? Talking about the Queen, he mentioned an amusing anecdote about this very particular woman: just the day before she wanted to try a new water nebulizer for the toilet bathroom, so she headed to the first one (nevermind it was the gents’) with her entourage. As she was wearing gloves, instead of removing her gloves, she asked her staff to wash their hands using the new nebulizer, and to tell her what they thought 0_0
When I pointed out the anachronism of the monarchy in XXI century Europe, the duque talked, in no uncertain terms, about leadership. He said (if I remember the quote correctly):
“No. 10 [UK’s Prime Minister Cabinet] is good at following. We [Did he mean the UK Royal Family? Did he mean him and me? Did he mean his guests?] are good at leading. That’s what we have to do”.
I will not comment on that quote, as I am not absolutely sure I interpreted it correctly, and I do not even want to start a “royal-political-especulation” post, particularly in post-Brexit UK.
One thing I will comment, though, is that it was a true pleasure to be able to meet and chat with the rest of the technology-focused guests:
- Tim Berners-Lee, Director, World Wide Web Consortium
- Andrew Eland, Engineering Director, Google Deep Mind
- Christopher Bishop, Director, Microsoft Research Cambridge
- Corinna Zarek, Deputy US Chief Technology Office, The White House
- Natalie Black, Deputy Director No. 10 Policy Unit, UK Prime Minister’s Office
- David Cleevely, Chairman, Raspberry Pi Foundation
- Liam Maxwell, National Technology Adviser, Her Majesty’s Government
- John Simmons, Minister Counselor, US Embassy
Then again, this kind of concentration of power and behind-the-door petit-comitee gathering is something I have often decried as a toxic byproduct of a system (be it representative democracy, monarchy, or consumerist capitalism) that we desperately need to change.