Last night in Toronto, I was invited to an exclusive event to celebrate tomorrow’s wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Located in the Windsor Arms Hotel, a luxury hotel in celebrity-hangout Yorkville, I, along with some other very lucky ladies, was offered the chance to be Princess for a day. Well, technically, I was Princess over High Tea, and I embarrassed myself so many times over the course of a few hours that no Prince would ever be caught dead with me on his arm . . . but at least I got to take my photo with Prince William. Back off Middleton, that Windsor is MINE.
The tea room of the Windsor Arms is famous for catering to the discreet rich, a fact I learned only upon arriving after work in my scuffed and muddy Chuck Taylors. Dammit, rookie mistake. Mental note: next time bring a pair of modest-yet-classic pumps. Upon glancing at me up and down, the hostess remarked that most of the ladies present were wearing hats, as is the custom over high tea, but that if I didn’t have one, I could borrow one from their collection. Ah yes, classic British dress codes for tea. I lived in England for years and should know better, yet already I had two unfortunate wardrobe malfunction strikes against me. Cripes, Chris, use your head.
I picked the frilliest flapper-inspired chapeau off the hat stand, and sat down at a table, where waiters with cummerbunds and napkins effortlessly slung over their forearms offered me a choice of green tea or black tea. I chose green, and was immediately given a look of oddity. The British usually drink black tea, I know, I know. I’m not very refined, I suppose, but it was already 6pm, the caffeine in black tea would keep me awake all night. The waiter returned with a china pot of tea, which I proceeded to pour into my china cup, leaves, mulch and all. It was only then that I realized what those silver sifters were doing on the table. Place it over your cup, Chris, jeeeez. Get with the program. Some Princess you are.
I dunked what was in my cup back in the pot, placed the sifter over the rim and poured. Ah, much better. The goop of leaves collected in the sift. At least I’m learning something, I told myself.
Next, I added a little milk, which of course, sploshed down the side of the cup, and a dash of sugar from the delicate sugar bowl. However, another fancy lady at my table had to inform me that after stirring my cup, it was impolite to leave my spoon just “wherever.” Turns out I had to properly place it to the “north” of the circumference of my saucer after stirring.
Next came the classic British sweets. Crumpets, rolled finger sandwiches (yes, I’m talking actual cucumber sandwiches), scones, chocolate desserts with meringue, little cupcakes, and these Cheesy McWhatchamallit’s that were hot, baked, and flakey. The sweets were offered with soft, warm butter, and two different kinds of jam in little pots. They were arranged delicately on a three-tiered silver tray, and I ravenously began to fill my dish with selections from each tier. It was only after I was joyfully stuffing my gob that the waiter motioned to the sparking silver tongs resting right next to the tray, traditionally used to lift the sweets without getting your fingers sticky.
Welcome to the United Kingdom of Mortification. Population: this gal.
I sat there, amongst all the other gorgeous ladies who were smart enough to wear makeup and Sunday dresses to the event, waiting for it all to be over, until a photographer approached me, asking if I’d like to have my photo taken. Sure why not document my embarrassment with photographic evidence? The lady pointed her Nikon at me and began snapping away. I dutifully smiled. She disappeared for a while, then returned holding a greeting card.
“Here’s yours,” she said.
I opened the card, and inside was the photo she had just taken of me, photoshopped in with Prince Wills and Kate.
Aw, yeeeeeah. Can I get a ‘Her Royal Highness’ up in hurrr? Get up outta my grill, Imma be Princess Christine of Windsor, wut wut!
Finally, things were starting to look more Princess-y. Next, the organizers had a brief trivia contest – all questions about the royal family, and whoever answered correctly, walked away with some pretty sweet swag. First they asked the name of Kate Middleton’s sister. No clue. How many people are invited to the wedding? I dunno, 20? Then they asked what breed of dogs do the royal family owns.
Wait, I know this one! I used to be a huge Star Trek fan (or Trekkie, if you will), and Patrick Stewart aka Captain Picard once gave a speech from Parliament Square to Star Trek fans joking about how much the Queen’s dogs love the show. Oh, what did he call them now? Think, think!
“Corgies!” I shouted.
“Huzzah!!” Oh, that’s not very Princess-y of me. “I mean, uh, splendid.” I walked away with a thick, glossy, coffee table book entitled William & Kate: A Royal Love Story by James Clench and Arthur Heard.
I’m not sure I’ll actually get a chance to read the whole thing before the wedding tomorrow, but it, along with the entire high tea event, will make for a great story the next time I have some people over for tea and crumpets.
Pictures by Becca Lemire