I can’t remember when exactly I first became enchanted by all things English, but my obsession had to have started when I was pretty young.
By the time I reached my early teens, I was a bigger fan of the Beatles and England’s royal family than I was of any American entertainer I could name.
In 1969 I was 14 years old, and it seemed to me the most natural thing in the world to follow all the news that year about the royal family’s plans to celebrate Prince Charles’ 21st birthday.
I knew all about the preparations—that Prince Charles admired Mozart, so violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin was engaged to play Mozart’s masterpieces at his party. And that Charles was an amateur cellist, so Maurice Gendron—the world’s premier cellist at the time—would also play. To me, it all sounded elegant and lovely and veddy, veddy British.
So I did what any royalty-obsessed 14 year old American girl would do. I sent Prince Charles a birthday card. And I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done.
At 14 I didn’t know anything about postage costs, and I’m pretty certain I dropped the card in a mailbox with only a single U.S. postage stamp affixed to the envelope. Kudos to our postal system at the time (and to the U.K.’s as well) because my card arrived at Buckingham Palace (probably with postage due) in time for Prince Charles’ birthday on November 14, 1969.
How do I know it arrived? Because I received a reply.
A month after Prince Charles’ birthday shindig, I came home from school to find this waiting for me:
At first I didn’t know what it was, so I was a little rough when I tore open the envelope. But when I saw the letter inside, I was first surprised, then astonished.
Never in my wildest fourteen-year-old dreams did I expect to receive a reply to the birthday card I sent!
I showed the letter to my mother when she got home from work, and she promptly carried the letter up and down the street to show all the neighbors.
Heaven only knows if Prince Charles ever actually saw the card I sent, or if my card went directly into the rubbish bin once his secretary made a note of its receipt; but the important thing for me was that I received a reply. The whole experience had such an impact on me, I’ve kept the letter all these years with just a few other treasured mementos from childhood.
That’s the story of how December 11 became something of a special anniversary for me (since that was the postmark date on the envelope). But more important, it’s the date that marks the end a two-month long, two-item pen-pal correspondence I had with Prince Charles that made me feel special, and earned me thirty minutes of fame in my neighborhood.