I should have not had the chance to shake Prince Harry’s hand on his last day in New Zealand. But I did. And I’ll share with you how it happened:
I knew Harry was in town. The website I’m contracted to work on, other news websites, the local news, Kiwi magazines, all were tracking Harry’s week-long trip through New Zealand.
Saturday was my day off, so I planned to have leisurely Saturday: Walk into town, grab free coffee at a panel at the Auckland Writer’s Festival, go to Spanish class, maybe go buy some lunch on Queen Street, then take the bus home.
My phone, a crappy smartphone burner I’m using until I feel the need to replace my old iPhone, was on maybe 25 percent battery. But that was OK. I just wanted to listen to the radio on my walk to town and check emails.
A close friend from DC, a fan of the royals, forwarded me this tweet from Kensington Palace:
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 15, 2015
I knew that 9ish am Auckland meant I could probably still catch friend via Whatsapp while she was at work or happy hour. So we started going back and forth on where Harry was vs. where I was – a five to ten minute walk away.
I listened to the first half of the Auckland Writer’s Festival panel discussing that day’s front page news, then had to be off for my weekly hour-long Spanish class. After I got out of class, I Googled to find Harry’s schedule – I knew he was nearby but wasn’t exactly sure where. It turned out he was a block away from where my class was held.
I found that he was supposed to come out to meet the public at 11:15. So with what little cellphone battery I had left, I texted my husband to let him know I wasn’t coming home right away because maybe Harry.
The driveway to where Harry was, the Cloud, had less security that I would have thought there would be. There were police on motorbikes and on foot, and lots of barricades. But you could still walk up and nab a spot behind a barricade. No metal detectors, no bag checks of the sort.
I stood along the driveway for about 45 minutes, wondering if I should really stay. I’ve worked on a number of think tank events with well-known public figures, and I figured if this event was planned like other events I worked on — he’s probably gonna be on a tight schedule, his press and public availability would be limited… Is this event worth waiting for?
Plus: my phone was about to die. When the battery gets to about 15 percent battery, it’s basically as good as useless. I silently hoped no one would call or text, so I can preserve battery to get at least one picture.
Harry exited the Cloud and met the people and journalists immediately outside the Cloud’s doors.
It wasn’t guaranteed that Harry would go to the far side of the crowd to say hi. He then walked out to his car and started to approach the crowd on the far side, so I ran down to see if I could get close.
I’m kinda surprised I wasn’t pushed out, but I made my way in. I started taking as many pics as my lame phone would allow me.
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 16, 2015
There was lots of handshakes between spectators and the prince; some people gave him books and he took the time to listen to the descriptions of the gifts. He was very cordial and gracious to the two I saw who gave him a gift.
Maybe a minute or two later, I was maybe one person back from the barricade, and able to stick out my hand as Harry passed by. Harry shook the two hands on each side of me, chatted to someone two or so people over on my left, then shook my hand.
He had a very good handshake. Any Fortune 500 CEO or Greek life rush chair would be proud.
It took me a second to realize: Holy s**t, I just shook Prince Harry’s hand. No one is going to believe this.
I took a few more pictures of Harry greeting the crowd, then ran away because I felt like I had my royal experience. It was time to let others meet him.
Then: I Whatsapp’d my Anglophile friend to tell her I shook hands with Harry. She might have died [in the Rachel Zoe "that just blew my mind" sort of way].
Then, my phone’s battery did die. Great.
As I was walking out, I heard a mum tell another spectator that her little girl got to meet Prince Harry. I asked the mum if she got a pic, and she said no. But you can imagine that the meeting of the little girl and Harry will be someone the family passes down as oral history for years.
I came home quite buzzed up because it’s not every day you shake hands with a prince. I was very surprised at how accessible Prince Harry was yesterday in Auckland.
Maybe this will be a story I tell our kids one day, when I’m old: I shook hands with Prince Harry. I was walking out of Spanish class, and an hour later, saw the prince.
The Prince left New Zealand last night. He has said in interviews that he hopes to come back again. Maybe the next time he comes, we can have him over for a beer and a pie. Handshakes cement bonds, right?