A STATE VISIT MAY 2011

Dear Rowley,

Isn’t The Queen on a roll? HM triumphed at the Royal Wedding, rocked it out in Ireland and showed President Obama how it’s done at the State Dinner last night. It is heaven to see the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara – ‘acquired’ by Queen Mary from the Grand Duchess after the revolution. Last night it was set with magnificent pearl teardrops. The Queen also owns a collection of perfectly matched emerald teardrops that can be set into the Vladimir should one wish. Princess Margaret said The Queen is the only person she knew who could walk down a flight of stairs and set a tiara with one hand.

I also thought the Duchess of Cornwall looked terribly grand in her diamond fender. I didn’t quite know what to make of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge popping in to see the Obamas for a few brief minutes before crying off the lunch and State Dinner citing prior engagements. While one sympathises that the young royals wish to maintain a private life, one can’t help feeling they should have been on show that evening as a courtesy to the President and as a statement of intent that duty comes before privacy.

I’m just listening to a reading from Celia Waldren’s memoir about the late ‘thirsty’ George Best on Radio 4. She’s just got to the final year of Best’s life when he was holed-up at the Forest Mere health farm. Better half and I happened to be there one weekend and came across Best drinking his way through a second liver wearing a fluffy towelling robe and looking utterly destroyed. I don’t really think it is appropriate to write a book about Best’s desperate years…or anybody else’s come to think of it. As Kay Thompson said to Liza of her friend Judy Garland’s death, ‘Liza, she had the most marvellous life and she did everything she ever wanted to do’. Perhaps the same could be said of George Best.

Well, you’ll not be surprised to hear the pre-Royal Ascot dreams are kicking-in apropos I have lost my top hat/inhibitions/trousers and The Queen’s carriage is seconds away from the Golden Gates. No matter how much I look forward to a week with the BBC at Royal Ascot, I still get the jitters. Still, things are shaping-up. Suzi and I had fittings last night at her hotel with the teams from Westwood, Rachel Trevor-Morgan, Stephen Jones and William Vintage. Anthony Price arrived with the toile for Suzi’s Ladies’ Day outfit completed and ready to pin. I tell you Miss Perry is going to look magnificent this year.

We’re also arranging a filming date with Deirdre Murphy, one of the curators for the Royal Dress Collection at Kensington Palace, to look at equestrian pieces with royal provenance such as Queen Victoria’s black silk James Lock & Co riding top hat, a gown worn by Queen Alexandra to the races and Ascot titfers worn by the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and The Queen. The dress collection is housed in Princess Margaret’s old apartments and is pure magic. It should look like a dream on camera.

The first bound copies of Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style arrived at Thames & Hudson yesterday so I’ve taken a snap of the little beauty against a fabric I’m considering for the sash chord window at Bloomsbury Towers. What do you think? Too chintzy? Actually, it would make a cracking Ascot frock if Suzi feels like a Scarlett O’Hara moment. Or is that idea a load of old Maria von Trapp?

I had a very jolly lunch with Keith, the head of Ceremonial Tailoring at Henry Poole & Co, who was putting the finishing touches to the first of a new batch of Walking Groom State livery for the Diamond Jubilee next year. I couldn’t resist trying it on because, let’s face it, opportunities such as this come once in a lifetime. When I was a lad, I wanted to work for the royal household. That dream didn’t come true but it is rather lovely to have the opportunity to write about the royal family and see The Queen every year at Ascot.

Now Miss Ps outfits are ticking along nicely, it’s about time I went to Ede & Ravenscroft and freshened-up my morning tails with some new shirts, ties and waistcoats. It is always a joy working with the chaps on the shop floor in the Chancery Lane branch putting together perfectly mis-matched Ascot rig. Did you See James Middleton at the Royal Wedding? That immaculate outfit was courtesy of E&R and boy did it show. Best dressed chap in the Abbey out of uniform.

Well my darling, onward and upward. I’ve got to pop into town to see Stephen Jones and hopefully get Suzi’s hat trim matched to her Amanda Wakeley electric blue dress. That’s another outfit that is going to pop. Until next time…