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Somewhere in the twilight between the umpteenth hymnal dirge from the Westminster Abbey, Chapel Royal and Monteverdi choirs, and the royal family’s wave from the Buckingham Palace balcony, the television cameras caught young Prince Louis peering out at proceedings.
His expression – a combination of venerable indifference and academic disdain – summed up the mood of a nation. Sore feet, failing raincoat seams and the kind of impatience you can only get after you’ve waited for hours in the rain to but see him passing by, and yet love him till we die. (With thanks to Robert Menzies.)
Debonair part-time super-agent Prince Louis, taking it all in at the coronation.Credit: Getty
While most of the fanfare and pageantry focused on the grownups, in fact, Saturday’s coronation was big day out for the royal next generation. The world’s media were watching the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Harry and other senior royals, but underfoot there was an entirely different narrative playing out.
Prince George, Camilla’s grandkids Gus and Louis Lopes and Freddy Parker Bowles had official duties. Princess Charlotte was a picture of elegant ease, moving through the day like a gentle breeze. But on the sidelines, scene-stealing Prince Louis took it all in with an unimpressed look on his face.
The big gig for the vice-regal under-12s is known as page of honour, typically given to the sons of important people, and particularly senior members of the royal household.
They’re a little like the boy scout equivalent of a lady-in-waiting. A sort of hand-across-the-road for monarchs. And they are booked for much more than once-in-a-generation coronations; mostly they are deployed at the annual state opening of parliament, where at least four of them are needed to manage the sovereign’s cape and train.
Deep in conversation, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte.Credit: Getty
For the coronation, the king and queen had four pages of honour each. The Queen’s four were all from the Parker Bowles family: her three grandsons Gus and Louis Lopes (the sons of her daughter, Laura Lopes) and Freddy Parker Bowles (her son Tom’s youngest son), and her great-nephew Arthur Elliot.
And King Charles’s four were Prince George; Lord Oliver Cholmondeley (the son of the Marquess of Cholmondeley); Ralph Tollemache (son of the King’s godson Edward Tollemache) and Nicholas Barclay (grandson of King Charles’s second cousin/Queen’s companion Sarah Troughton.
Prince Louis, meanwhile, with no official duties – aside from waving, looking disapprovingly at proceedings, and yawning – still managed to steal the show. In the palace’s pre-coronation briefing, it was noted that at some point during the coronation Prince Louis would “retire” from proceedings.
“This is planned,” the briefing noted, lest anyone mistakenly think that Prince Louis had, in fact, left to embark on a secret mission in his capacity as a roving part-time super-agent for Junior MI6. (Which, of course, we all know he did.)
Pages of honour Lord Oliver Cholmondeley, Prince George of Wales, Nicholas Barclay and Ralph Tollemache.Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
In fact, royal children have a colourful history of misbehaving just when their parents need them to stand still. There was the time Prince William pinched his teacher during a tennis lesson while the cameras were watching. Or the time Prince Harry poked his tongue out at the crowd from the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Or the time Princess Beatrice tried to rip her mother’s hat off during a balcony appearance by the royal family in the giddy Diana-and-Fergie heights of the 1980s. Or the time that Princess Anne’s granddaughter Savannah Phillips tried to hush Prince George by clamping her hand over his mouth during the Trooping the Colour.
As traditions go, Louis has it well under control. At Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee last year he waved and danced and covered his ears during the flyover. He also pulled some great faces, did a rocking lion impression and blew a raspberry at his mother.
His exhausted parents said, after the event: “We all had an incredible time … even Louis.”
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