30 Days of Royalty

Name: Jemma Peucker

Occupation: Executive PA

How we met: I’ve known Jemma since I was born. She’s my big sister. Well, she’s actually a smaller, petit version of me but lets not go into that (!!!) Jem’s known for her champagne taste and love of all things celebrity. Her ability to shop for hours on end makes her the best gift buyer (and wrapper) going around, and I’m pretty sure magazine sales the world over are dependent on whether she has time to pop to the newsagent on her lunch break! 🙂   

Meet Jemma:

Around 2001 I picked up a copy of the hit book and movie Bridget Jones’s Diary.  I was 23.  In it there were many scenes, quotes and moments in Bridget’s story that now, as a thirty-something single, I can either relate to, have experienced or made a ‘moment’ happen.

In the book, Bridget asks a potential, somewhat younger suitor “Were you there?”, referring to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, after she reminisced about sitting on a wall outside St Paul’s on that day in 1981.  His answer left her embarrassed after he claimed he was only six at the time.  On reading this I thought, I must have a ‘Royal moment’ of my own.

I moved to London in 2002 and spent my two years there embracing everything Royal; Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor and all things London, with the hope of seeing just one them.

In the two years I was there, precisely July 2002 to July 2004, I managed to miss every significant royal event of the early noughties (2000s) – the death of Princess Margaret, February 2002, the death of the Queen Mother, March 2002, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, June 2002, the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, April 2005 (not that this was high on my agenda) and finally missing the Queen by a nanosecond at Bank after she opened a building there.

My point being I never got to experience much of the pageantry that I wanted to see, other that the obvious Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace whenever friends or family from home came to visit and we did the tourist trail around London.  I made my way home in 2004 a little disappointed but overall pleased with my time in the UK.

Luckily for me, however, I knew that Prince William had started to date Kate Middleton in 2003, so I pinned my hopes on that union resulting in a Royal Wedding.

In November 2010 my wish came true with the announcement of the engagement and the date set for April 29, 2011.  My flights were booked by January 2011 and I called my friend Anna in London and said: “WE ARE GOING!”

Luckily, Anna was “well keen” and just as excited as me. Yay, someone to share it with.  I did my due diligence before I got on the plane and studied the procession route.  Did I want to be at Westminster Abbey, The Mall or Buckingham Palace? I decided on Buckingham Palace because I wanted to get the ultimate money shot – the balcony kiss!

One week out from the wedding, Anna and I booked a side trip to Prague.  Over  beers in Prague’s Old Town we started planning our attack.  Do we camp out? Do we risk rocking up on the day? There will be so many people. Ahhh it’s all too hard!  Added to that was the TV in the hotel, which had full coverage of the lead up to the big day.  A lone man had already set up camp outside the Abbey four days out, I thought, well that’s it then, there will be no spots left, given we were arriving back in London 48 hours before the event.  Surely all the spots would be gone.

On arriving back in London we were still undecided, do we or don’t we?  I woke up the next morning said to myself, “No, I have come this far, and after years of telling family and friends that I am going to William and Kate’s wedding, I am not going to watch it on TV in the comfort of Anna’s Shebu (Shepherd’s Bush) flat!”.

That morning Anna had some errands to run, so I headed to Primark dressed in my wedding-and-ready-to-camp-out finest, to grab a couple of blankets and cushions for the night ahead. I also picked up some wedding regalia for the big day as well and then set off for Buckingham Palace.  Anna followed later in the day with me keeping her updated on my progress.

I arrived at Buckingham Palace around 11am and wandered around amongst the thousands of tourists and stopped for a moment to consider the location I was in.  Looking around there were a few people setting up camp and I thought OK, that’s cool and the realised there were an older couple next to me who were seemingly doing the same thing.  We struck up a conversation. They had wandered down from their hotel to scope out a position for the following day but soon realised that if they left, their spot would not be there when they got back.  I quickly realised too and said to myself “This is it, pole position!”

Anna made her way down with well executed extra supplies for the long night ahead – food, Pimms and Vodka for warmth.  There were loads of British, Aussies, Americans and Canadians around us and we made fast friends with three sisters, two gays guys and the older couple, Billy and Joan from Durham.

Billy and Joan were not equipped for the freezing night ahead but never-the-less they had their eye on the ball and were not going to give up their spot to witness history. We played tag team during the night, sharing blankets, chairs, coffee runs and lots of celeb spotting as the US TV networks and Channel Seven’s Sunrise set up camp behind us for their live broadcasts.

However nothing could have prepare us for the cold, and at 3am I seriously considered throwing in the towel. It was to the bone COLD, but all the while I kept thinking if Billy and Joan can do it, I can too.  To this day I do not know how they survived the night.

Rugged up

Morning came and The Mall was cleared of the thousands of people who partied, or slept through the night.  Security were getting into place and things were starting to happen.  Excitement was building as Channel Seven did a sweep of the crowd for their live cross and a quick phone call home confirmed we’d been spotted in the background.

10am came and the Royal family started making their way to the Abbey, and then, of course Kate. Wow! What a moment. The atmosphere was beyond amazing.  Even though she passed through in the car with a veil over her face, her beauty was like no other. Simply stunning.

Then came an unexpected lull… no big screens has been set up at Buckingham Palace so we had to sit through an agonising hour while the ceremony took place.  However, we could hear the ‘I do’s’ through a PA system – much to the delight and roar of the crowd.

William and Kate were on their way back down The Mall and what hit us as they came towards the Queen Victoria Monument, no words can describe.  The pageantry that I had so wanted to see was right in front of me.  Then trickled closely behind were Harry and Pippa, Charles and Camilla, the Middletons and The Queen.  Wow!

Then another lull.  Scotland Yard and the Queen’s Guards prepared for the next onslaught… the people coming down The Mall for the all important balcony appearance, and they were heading right for us.  We had to brace ourselves and what we thought was the perfect balcony shot, was now obscured by a sea of people.  I still got my balcony shot but it was a case of point and shoot and hope for the best.

An announcement came over the PA system not long after saying there would be no further appearances by the Royal family. In other words: ‘You can all go home now’.  So that’s what we did, we packed up and called it a day, tired, dirty and faced with the mission of getting through a crowd of a million people.

I had exchanged email addresses with one of the three sisters we had met and as I was packing up my two weeks worth of shopping a couple of days later, I received an email from ‘Jenny’.

I opened it and all I read was ‘Hello! Magazine’ and ‘page 156’.  “OMG Anna!” I screamed and off we ran to the Off Licence to grab our copy.  The universe has aligned, we were in Hello! Magazine.  What a great end to an amazing experience.

Sitting here today, as a thirty-something single and like Bridget herself, slightly obsessed with Royalty, I realise I did get my Bridget Jones moment… and all of it from the front row.

Thank you William and Kate. Diana would have been proud!

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