Along with three or four thousand residents of Richmond, North Yorkshire, I am standing in the town square awaiting the arrival of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who are spending one of their typical working days helping the town celebrate the 850th anniversary of its first market charter. It’s a bright mid-September afternoon, the slate-roofed shops around the square sport window boxes bursting with pink and white geraniums, and a special farmers’ market has been set up in the square itself, with stands selling everything from fresh-killed partridge to handcrafted organic soap. Trash bins have been sealed in heavy-duty plastic, and the local police are out in force, as well as Beefeaters armed with automatic rifles.
Their Royal Highnesses made the 250-mile trip up from London on the Royal Train, which has eight deep-purple coaches adorned with the crest of the House of Windsor and interiors decorated in dark-green velvet; they spent the night on a siding outside the train station in Darlington, the largest nearby city. A half-dozen pho-tographers from the Royal Rota (or press rotation) greeted them as their train pulled in this morning, as did Lord Crathorne, the lord-lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Her Majesty’s representative for the county, erect and spiffy in his full-dress black uniform, complete with epaulets, medals, and sword. (“Brilliantly! Brilliantly!” he bellowed when I asked how he thought the Duchess was taking to her new royal duties.)