Reaction Weekend

Diary: CNN, coronation chicken and life on the Royal wedding frontline

BY Sophia Money-Coutts   /  25 May 2018

To Windsor to cover the Royal wedding for CNN. I’d rubbed my hands when the email came through booking me, dollar signs in my eyes. Loadsa loot, right? Wrong. No fee. Oh. And could I go down on the Thursday, the Friday and the Saturday? My car would come at 4am on Friday and 3am on Saturday, if that was alright? Well, course it was alright. I was thrilled to get the chance to go down there, to be in the thick of it. At least there can’t be a gender pay gap if the blanket policy is no pay, right?

Still, there was excellent free food because the CNN hub was in a pub just off Eton High Street called The Waterman’s Arms. When I arrived on the Thursday, lunch had been laid out on several side tables. Egg sandwiches, chips, salad and a big bowl of Coronation chicken. Two American staffers were frowning suspiciously at the latter. ‘What is it?’ one asked. ‘Chicken with raisins,’ his colleague replied. ‘Weird.’

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It’s not big, Windsor, so when I was off-air I wandered into town. Everyone on the main drag was either a journalist or a Royal superfan draped in Union Jacks. Plus, there was a Sir Elton John impressionist who I liked very much. He didn’t look much like the real one, but he was wearing an impressive pair of sparkly heels. ‘Sir Elton, can we talk to you live on air?’ shouted a young BBC reporter, through the throng of people that surrounded him. Fake Elton nodded. ‘Sure mate,’ he said, ‘but I’m just about to go live to Italy. And then I’m doing Spain. Can I do you afterwards?’ Bonkers.

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During one of my live interviews on Friday morning, I was asked by an American anchor what likely title Prince Harry and his bride would be given. I said I suspected it would be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which had been rumoured for several months.

‘What’s the importance of the title?’ came the next question.

So, although it was 5.34am in Windsor and I was still dozy, I decided to embark on a little lesson about the aristocracy for all those watching CNN abroad – ‘in terms of the British aristocracy, the duke is the top of the tree,’ I said, ‘then you get earls and viscounts and lords all underneath that.’ Rats, I thought afterwards, I forgot to mention marquesses, who fall between dukes and earls. It’s particularly remiss since the swaggering hero of my new novel is called Jasper, the Marquess of Milton. I’m also now worried that there are corn farmers in Ohio who are going round telling all their friends they know the hierarchy of British titles and yet I’ve misinformed them. Oh well. Quite strange, the knowledge that I’ve picked up from five years of working at Tatler.

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I’m off to a very different wedding this weekend in a wood in South Wales. It’s the wedding of my schoolfriend Arabella to her girlfriend, a terrific burlesque dancer called Carli. Until four years ago, this wouldn’t have been allowed. How topsy-turvy Britain can seem. We still have an ancient hereditary title system in place and millions bawled their eyes out on Saturday at the wedding of a prince, and yet until fairly recently two women who are madly in love and want to commit to one another would have been prevented from doing so. I expect I will cry more at Carli and Bellsy’s wedding than that of any of my other friends. Must take tissues. I normally forget and my nose drips into my lap.

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In a fit of vanity, I’ve started personal training in my local park. A friend told me about an app called Trube, the Uber of personal training, which means you can book someone relatively inexpensively to come and train you wherever you like. So now a chap called Kwame meets me in Ravenscourt Park two or three times a week and works me so hard I feel sick at the end of it. Boxing, burpees, push-ups, planks, all set to whatever music I want him to play on his portable speakers. “What’s your goal?’ Kwame asked me at the beginning of our first session. ‘I want arms like Meghan Markle,’ I said, only half joking. See? We’ve all fallen for the fairy tale. Truly, we’ve all gone mad.