Charlie and the Princess

Seemingly from no where Carl and I were asked if we would like to help out at an event, The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Dinner Dance that would be held on October 31, 1996 – a little while ago!  We weren’t exactly told what we would be doing but we did hear loud and clear that we wouldn’t be paid.  We weren’t the only ones asked to volunteer but  a few turned down the offer to work for nothing.  Carl and I thought it was a cause worth supporting so we agreed to help.

And we’re very glad we did.

Because the guest speaker was Princess Diana who was recently divorced and had just had ‘HRH’ removed from her title.  Princesses are a very rare breed and we don’t have any in this country so to have one on our shores and to be present in their company was an incredible honour.

Adding to the excitement of the event was the fact that one of the Princess’s favourite artists would be in Sydney at the same time performing a series of concerts at The State Theatre.  As a surprise to all guests, he would appear on stage and sing a couple of the Princess’s favourite songs.  And what’s not to love about Sting!

The event was held at the Entertainment Centre that is typically a venue for concerts but on this night the rows of seats were being hidden behind long black curtains and the floor area was turned into a dazzling ballroom.  On the day we had to attend a rehearsal.  I found out my role was to check the attendees with a surname starting with ‘W’, into the venue at the beginning of the event and later be on security inside the venue.  Carl was to do backstage help and be Sting’s minder, ‘This way to your dressing room sir’, and ‘Follow me to the stage, sir’ –  that kind of thing.

At the rehearsal we were standing at the back of the ballroom and being given our instructions.  I was watching the tables being set when suddenly Sting appeared on the stage with his band and began rehearsing the songs he would sing later that night.  For some reason we all found the need to gravitate to the front of the stage and just loiter, pretending to be inspecting table cloths for dust, that sort of thing, while really, just staring up in awe at an incredible performer.

If only the iPhone had been invented in 1996; I would have had a phone full of images to share with you but alas, these were the days when one mobile phone (that didn’t have any ability to take photos) per household was considered living extravagantly.

We rushed home from the rehearsal, fed the toddlers, collected the babysitter, took off the Levi 501’s and slipped into a Morrissey Edmiston slinky black frock and popped into a taxi.

My Access Pass and my Morrissey Edmiston Slinky Black Dress

There was a huge crowd in front of the venue.  I stood outside and did my job of checking in the ‘W’ people including Sydney identities such as Neville Wran and Mike Willesee and then the Princess arrived.  She had an incredible impact on people and some burst into tears upon seeing her and others audibly gasped.

She had chosen to wear a stunning electric blue over-the-shoulder dress as she had become known for wearing this style while in Australia.  She was given some flowers and was then whisked away into the ballroom.  After the last ‘W’ had arrived I entered the ballroom and did my job on security in theory but really I spent a lot of time gazing at all the beautiful people who’d paid $1,000 to be there that night.

Princess Diana with Neville Wran on the dance floor

At the beginning of the night Sting performed with his band and sang ‘Every Breath you Take’ and ‘Fields of Gold’.  He then apologised for having to leave but his audience at The State Theatre was waiting for him.  As Carl was leading the band back to their dressing rooms he told the guitarist how incredible and awesome their performance was.  He gave Carl a look of being incredibly relieved and said in the broadest of cockney accents, ‘Oh cheers mate, I’ve never played for royalty before so I was so f…ing nervous’.

After the meal that I think was tuna the Princess went on stage to deliver her speech.  I didn’t record it!  But I do remember it was heartfelt, personal and witty.  At the beginning she said something like, ‘It’s twelve years since I’ve been here and I’m surprised and delighted you still recognise and remember me’.

At some point in the evening I wandered off and was heading back into the venue when I heard the ‘swish swish’ sound of someone walking in beautiful fabric and I turned my head and there, walking beside me was the Princess.  Right next to me!  She was taller than I expected, a lot taller than me and I’m considered tall.  She had the most beautiful blue eyes and she was so perfectly groomed I felt rather shabby by comparison.  The fabric on her shoes matched the fabric on her dress that matched the handbag on her wrist, and I remember thinking, ‘That is a look I have never yet achieved’.  And on her nails she was wearing the palest of blue nail polishes.  I’ve looked for a colour like it ever since and have never found it.

I let her step in front of me and followed behind thinking all the time what a privilege it was to be in her presence but no one there that night could have ever believed not only would she never visit us again but that she had less than a year to live.  At this event she had just celebrated her 36th birthday.

When I look back on that night I realise that working for nothing doesn’t necessarily mean nothing will be gained.

Have you ever had an encounter with a princess?

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  1. Wow, what a story! Such a great privilege to be in the same room as her…I had goosebumps reading it, and I could picture the evening, even without photos 🙂

  2. What a great story, Charlie. Although I personally have never been a Royalty buff I do appreciate the overwhelming grace that beautiful lady had.
    I can only imagine how beautiful that evening was; two incredible celebrities! Lucky you.

    PS you have 1996 and 1986 not sure if it’s intentional.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks Eva for letting me know – doesn’t seem to matter how often I proof-read and edit, I seem to always miss something! xx

  3. Oh my god that is AMAZING!! It’s definitely such a good thing that you said yes to helping out! I distinctly remember the day that Princess Di died…such a tragedy and loss of an amazing person.

  4. My opinion is that when we volunteer, we always seem to get more than we give, although that is never the intention of volunteering.

    The word “princess” has always been endearing to me as my aunt, Dorothy, has called me her “Little Princess,” since I was a child and to this day. And I certainly am not at all connected to royalty. I believe the title can apply to anyone when given in love.

  5. Simply wow. I’ve encountered a variety of notables, but nothing at this level – let alone TWO as you have here. What a memory to keep!

  6. Hi,
    What a fantastic experience you had, certainly a night to always remember, Princess Di always struck me as a very stunning and beautiful person, and then to be able to see and listen to Sting as well, just incredible.

  7. The only princesses I have ever met live in my house with me, and there is no blue in their blood. What a life you live, Charlie! What a memory!

  8. What a great story and experience!

  9. What a fun memory and experience! That’s just incredible. 🙂

  10. This is great story, dear Charlie. I live with a Princess 🙂 She is my Princess, with black and white fur…. Thank you, with my love, nia

  11. What an incredible evening. I don’t think of myself as someone who is overly impressed by celebrity, but maybe that’s because I’m never around them! I think anyone would be in awe of Princess Diana. She was so regal and lovely.

    I’m sure if you had spent as much on your outfit as she did, though, you could have given her a run for her money.

  12. OMG, Charlie … I’m one of the biggest Princess Di fans in the world and I’m practically in tears (from excitement) thinking about how you got to be in the same room with her. I feel like I’m at a Beatles concert, just thinking about it. I probably need to just fly over and touch you so I can have some Princess Di vibe … What a story!

  13. Oh I love this Charlie! Love it! What a great memory to have and what a valuable lesson in giving, really! Had you said “no” you’d have missed a moment in history that wouldn’t be again. I just pinned you to my “all things royal” Pinterest topic. I love a good princess story! Debra

  14. What a great memory and great story. I agree with the earlier comment that when we volunteer to help, we almost always receive so much more than we give. And thought Princess Di looked stunning, as always, I think a ME slinky black frock without matching everything sounds better!

  15. I’ve meant plenty of people who THINK they’re princesses… 😉

  16. Wow, such a nice post Charlie…and thank you so much for sharing such precious memories.
    Hope you are having a wonderful week 🙂

  17. I don’t think I have ever met a princess. You must really have been happy that night!

  18. I always love you stories but this one is really special for you and your husband. Can you imagine how bad the people felt that turned down the chance to volunteer. They really missed a wonderful opportunity to not only help but be part of such a memorable event.

  19. This story had me wide eyed with excitement – seeing Sting, Princess Diana – it is like a fairytale come true 🙂
    Thanks for sharing my friend, it was fabulous!

    Choc Chip Uru

  20. My Charlie, how do you put up with us mere morals? 🙂 I’ve never met a princess, but my mum did take me to see Diana walk past when she visited Brisbane early on. I had thought that was pretty exciting- until you topped me!
    When I was an apprentice I was one of two specially chosen to help with the opening of New Parliament House, the Queen attended that, so I guess I could claim her second-hand, couldn’t I?

  21. An amazing appearance. I know doing a good deed is its own reward but the bonus(es) were nice as well. 🙂

  22. Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. How does one ever top an experience like that? Princess Di AND Sting? Lucky it was Carl being the minder, you might have swooned..(I would have)… 😉

  23. I think I’m a princess. My husband isn’t convinced.

  24. What a thrill that must have been! I have gained so much more from volunteering than any paying job I’ve ever held. Thanks for sharing your remarkable evening with us~

  25. What an incredible evening & experience, Charlie! It is almost surreal when one meets one of these “larger than life” individuals. Time both freezes and flies and one’s mind becomes a video camera, recording the slightest of details. It’s truly remarkable.

  26. You write the most wonderful posts. This one made me shiver at the end.

  27. What a great post – and story. I suspect your friends who didn’t elect to volunteer wished they had! How sad, too, to think of her so gracious and beautiful and so close to her ultimate death. She is a princess that had a lot hanging over her for a lot of her life – it’s rather nice you got to see her on a night that she seemed calm and welcomed on her own terms.

  28. what an honour to meet the princess in person 🙂 she looks gorgeous in the satin dress

    Latest: More than BIG Breakfast

  29. A special story and experience and nicely treated Charlie………Congrats.

  30. Brilliant story! What a great experience! And yes – the benefits of volunteering far outweigh the sacrifices. I met my ‘boy’ while volunteering at a charity overseas.

  31. What a great story. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Wow, just no words, what a great history, such a great privilege to be in this event, thanks to share, 🙂

  33. Congrats my friend, I have awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award today 😀
    You deserve it!
    Check it out here:

    Choc Chip Uru

  34. What a touching story. Your good deeds were rewarded a hundredfold. Diana looks gorgeous in that blue dress. What style.

  35. Wow Charlie, you kept this super awesome story until now! Wow… what an honor indeed. I know, if iPhone was invented back then, your post will be all pictures. But no worries. I enjoyed your writing even more imagining every scene. I’m turning 36…Making me think about life…

  36. OK this might make you chuckle but I have a black Morrissey Edmiston dress that looked very similar! I think I could still wear it in terms of trend but I’m not sure in terms of size:P

  37. This sounds like an incredible experience! Funny enough, we actually bought our place in London from Princess Diana’s parents (before she was a princess).

  38. Philippa says:

    Oh wow, such a story. For all the criticism of Diana she was an amazing woman and I cried buckets when she died! A lovely memory and worth the volunteering for sure!

  39. Fantastic story and what a great memory to share with us! My closest brush with “almost royalty” was working at a polo match to which a Major Feguson has been invited. he apologised to me for his wife´s absence as she wasn´t so well and wanted to be better for the weekend. “What´s happening at the weekend?” I asked. “Well, my daughter Sarah is marrying Prince Andrew” he replied laughing his head off….oh the embarrassment!

  40. I saw the spanish princess Leticia once in a cinema near my town with the prince but just for a brief second but to tell you the truth they’re not that much appreciated in Spain. Your story is way, way way more interesting!!

  41. Oh wow, what a night! Sting and Lady Di!

    So jelly!

  42. oh lucky u! thats quite a story im sure everyone in the family will be talking for ages 🙂

  43. OMG Charlie you honestly have the best stories 🙂 You actually met Princess Diana wow! I really like her and have read so many books about her! But i feel really sorry for her that she was kind of forced to Marry a prince that didn’t love her and had to suffer and died at such a young age 🙁 I would have been SO SO SO starstruck!

  44. You have lived the most amazing life hun. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy reading your stories. You are seriously one of the Most interesting people I have yet to meet lol if you know what I mean 🙂 xxx

  45. Justasmidgen says:

    Oh, this is just unbelievable.. you have just had the most amazing experiences.. I can’t imagine meeting a princess.. and Sting.. I’m swooning now!!! xo Smidge

  46. Justasmidgen says:

    ps… the system gave me lots of “glitches” trying to post my response tonight.. not sure, because it was easy on your other post??


  1. […] case you’re wondering if I have done any more volunteering since the Princess Diana Dinner/Dance Ball on October 31, 1996, the answer is yes!  And as the countdown to the London Olympics moves swiftly towards the Opening […]

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