What convinced her that she should come to Prague?
We had the advantage that we were a new country and sought to join NATO and the European Union. The historical relationship with Great Britain is clear, and above all, Václav Havel was the president. However, it was difficult to meet the deadline. However, it was possible to combine a visit to the Czech Republic and Poland.
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Was it difficult to deal with royal protocol?
The rules for navigating the court and interacting with the Queen vary depending on whether you are in Britain and whether or not you are a British citizen, or whether you are abroad. Therefore, their strictness in Prague was not as great as that of a British citizen in London. I think we managed to keep them. People from her protocol said they appreciate it when someone goes above and beyond to be polite, but let’s not try too hard. Sometimes it may backfire, so let someone who doesn’t know what is common to ladies in Britain during formal occasions, it’s best not to try it.
So what did you have to forgive yourself for?
Accessories such as hats and gloves are common there, and bucklers are made. But the Queen will know without error who is wearing a hat for the first time in his life, and therefore does not look good on him. Or those who can’t play tricks have to forgive themselves. They told us, “In many countries, we have seen countless incidents like this where a woman tried to do a push-up and almost fell.”
So there was nothing wrong with Prague?
Vaclav Havel used to show the way to visiting statesmen by pulling up their sleeves or pushing them. So they asked us to tell him in such a way that he would not be offended, and no one should touch the Queen. under any circumstances. It worked, Václav Havel did not consider it an insult and laughed at it. And when they learned that after the state dinner she had invited the statesmen for a beer, not only the presidents, but even the King of Spain, Juan Carlos, they explained to us that this was out of the question for the Queen. At last, however, on the day of the visit, when the ceremonial reception had already taken place and the chief was seated with the queen in the lounge, they told me it would be appropriate for the chief to invite the queen to beer during the day after all. She will be happy, but she will refuse. So he invited her, and she kindly refused, and everything went according to protocol as it should.
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How was the Queen personally?
I don’t want it to sound corny, but she was so cute and sweet, she could even smile. Of course, you can see in her that she already has the distance that someone learns, and no one doubts that. I met her for three days, and she asked me a classic question in English, What’s the weather like tomorrow, we talked about the program. I’ve seen a lot of politicians in my career, but she’s been putting them in her pocket the way she’s been professional.
As you met the future King Charles III, how did he affect you?
He’s been in the Czech Republic a total of five times, I was on his official visit in 2000. That’s three years after Princess Diana’s death, when he wasn’t exactly a fan favorite in Britain. However, he was also very human and kind. Since Dagmar Havlova, like the future king, was interested in flowers, we also invited British expert Malcolm Stewart of Botanicus to Ostré. After the official dinner there was a very nice discussion on the topic of botany. The foundation of the current king also sponsored the restoration of the palace gardens under Prague Castle, a large part of which went directly from his money.
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In terms of ceremonies, what fundamentally changed his stance on Thursday night?
Just by being the crown prince, he took on much of the role of the queen. She also agreed with him that he would take over all her duties towards the Commonwealth, so he and his wife Camilla had already done a lot of duties. That is why I would say that the change will be mostly from the outside, and that his subjects will have more respect for him. Perhaps they will not talk to him much about his hobbies, for example about botany.
The late Queen was very popular with the British. Does her successor have a chance to be just as popular?
The Queen clearly has extraordinary power. I have to say that based on the way she’s talked about her successor last term and also how Charles has acted, I think the worst of times with the British public is behind him. The queen ruled for 70 years, which is unique not only in British history, but in the world after Louis XIV. The second longest reign in human history. Therefore, when the crown prince, even the oldest in the history of Britain, takes the throne, he cannot be on the same level immediately. But I think it could be just as popular over time.
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