- I was invited to a royal engagement with Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton in Scotland.
- The couple were at the University of Glasgow to speak to students about mental health.
- The experience showed me that royal events are not always glamorous.
It’s extremely difficult to get access to the British royal family.
Most royal events are covered by a group of journalists who are members of the royal rotaan exclusive press pool that was established more than 40 years ago and is only open to a small handful of traditional British print publications.
As a senior reporter at the digital publication Insider, I’m not eligible to join the rota. And yet, I was one of the few journalists to gain access to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s appearance in Glasgow, Scotland, on Wednesday.
—Mikhaila Friel (@MikhailaFriel) May 11, 2022
The couple were at the University of Glasgow to speak to students and alumni about mental health. And while the event itself was only open to a couple of rota members, I – along with a handful of photographers – was invited to cover their appearance on the campus grounds afterwards, where they spoke to the public who had waited outside to meet them.
Here’s what it was like to be a reporter on the ground.
Behind the scenes, royal events are not as glamorous as they seem
When I arrived at the building, a large crowd had already formed across from the double doors where the couple were due to exit their engagement. A security guard escorted me to the press area, which was cordoned off by a barrier to the right of where the public stood.
A small handful of photographers who I hadn’t met before were already there. As far as I could tell, I was the only non-rota reporter. I attempted to chat with a couple of them, but I got the impression that they were not interested in small talk as they set up their equipment and tested out different camera angles.
I followed their lead and claimed a space for myself at the front. Some photographers stood beside me on stools, and others were jammed so close behind me that at one point, I felt my hair caught in someone’s camera.
The future king and queen charmed the crowd
A cheer erupted from the crowd, followed by a dozen camera clicks as William and Middleton finally left the building and approached them.
It did not seem like the average meet and greet due to the generous amount of time they spent chatting with each person, and William in particular made the effort to shake as many hands as he could.
Having a front-row seat meant I got to witness candid moments that do not always make it to the headlines, such as the little girl who curtsied to Middleton after being reminded by her mother to do so, or William crouching down to shake the hand of a young child.
Just a few seconds after the couple were escorted away by a staff member, the duchess caught the eye of a girl in the crowd who she hadn’t had a chance to speak to and was holding out flowers.
She rushed back to accept the flowers and spent a couple of seconds speaking with the girl.
The future king and queen certainly know how to work a crowd, which is not particularly surprising given their recent charm offensive. As Insider’s Anneta Konstantinides previously reported, the royal family updated its PR strategy in the wake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview last year.
Before the pandemic, the couple rarely posted videos on their official Instagram page, and when they did post the captions were formal and often signed by a spokesperson.
In an Instagram post published after the couple’s appearance on Wednesday, the caption was written in first person and with casual language.
“It was so lovely to see so many people at the University today – it was buzzing!” part of the caption reads.
The royal family has faced its fair share of criticism over the years, including calls for the monarchy to be abolished. But this would be difficult to imagine happening anytime soon after witnessing the fanfare and the press interest that followed William and Middleton on Wednesday.