King Charles III’s coronation this weekend brought back memories of a royal encounter for Puzzling World creator Stuart Landsborough, of Wanaka. In his own words Mr Landsborough recalls meeting the then-Prince Charles in Wanaka, nearly 50 years ago.
KING Charles. I don’t think I will ever get used to thinking of him as the King as I have thought of him for so long as the Prince. He was born when I was just a toddler — all my life he has been referred to as the Prince.
Anyhow, I have a little story about when Prince Charles came and stayed in Wanaka in 1974, almost 50 years ago.
Prince Charles came to New Zealand to attend the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch. During his visit, he came to Wanaka for two nights for some time off from official functions and to do some fishing. I say he came, however, he wasn’t alone. He also had amassive entourage with him.
The whole of the THC Wanaka Hotel was reserved and booked out for his party, including significant numbers of police and quite a few Air Force people who were flying the three helicopters at his disposal.
He came to fish and a local Hawea fishing guide was employed to take him fishing somewhere near Hawea.
He caught three fish and somebody worked out that each of those fish cost the New Zealand taxpayer $20,000. Remember, I am quoting 1974 dollars so that would probably be more like $250,000 per fish in today’s terms.
There were three helicopters laid on for the prince’s visit. One helicopter was to fly him to the fishing spot, another in case the first one broke down and I am not sure whether the third was to fly in the security people or was it arescue helicopter in
case the helicopter crashed with him in it?
Another part of this story was that I happened to be working as the head steward at the Wanaka Hotel at the time.
When the prince first arrived at the front doors of the hotel, he got out of his car and walked right past the adoring (or curious) crowd. Just as he was entering through the hotel doors, he must have remembered he had forgotten to do the obligatory chat with afew of the waiting crowd. He pivoted around, walked back to them and thrilled a few people with a chat.
The very young prince (in his mid-20s) stayed in the hotel’s only suite and decided to have his dinners and breakfasts sent up to his room. The hotel dining room was full of police and Air Force people.
Being the head steward of the hotel it was my job to take the food trays to his room. I wasn’t — and am still not — a royalist, but certainly wasn’t anti the young man. Naturally I was curious to see him ensconced in his room. I took up the dinner tray and felt quite sorry for him. He looked so young and insecure, even at 25 years old.
One of the other stewards working in the hotel was young Englishman John Bentley. He was (and is) an ardent royalist, so I decided that as I had seen the young prince once, John could do any other services for the prince’s room. You should have seen the joy on his face when he became the prince’s personal steward.
When the prince’s finished dinner tray was brought down to the steward’s pantry, John put the used glass up on a shelf for him to keep as a souvenir forever. Alas, later, the night porter saw the glass, washed it, and put it away. Souvenir gone.
My wife at the time, Jan, also wanted to be involved in the excitement of the prince’s visit. She came into the hotel and spent the evening sitting on a barstool in the steward’s pantry.
Wanaka Hotel had been a favourite with British royalty. Not too many years before the Queen’s mother had also stayed and I think another royal or two visited Wanaka over the years.
King Charles? He will always be Prince Charles for people of my age.
To me, King Charles was a king in the history books some 400 years ago.
– There were three helicopters laid on for the prince’s visit. One was to fly him to the fishing spot, another in case the first one broke down and I am not sure whether the third was to fly in the security people or was it a rescue helicopter?