Whilst the Earl of Wessex may not be the greatest of public speakers, what he lacks in confident delivery, he certainly makes up for in charm, humour and a certain "aura" that marks his lecture on the 'Fire at Windsor Castle' as totally fascinating.
When he talks of the Duke of York fortunately being present at the Castle when the fire started, and being able to co-ordinate and organise a rescue effort for the treasures threatened by the fire, the Earl is talking of his brother. When he talks of the various rooms in the Castle that were damaged or destroyed by the fire, he mentions, almost in passing, that as a child he played there with his brothers. He mentions the Queen, without mentioning that she was his mother, and when describing the formation of a Restoration Committee, he speaks of the Duke of Edinburgh, not of his father.
We know the relationship of each of these to the Earl of Wessex, yet never once does he mention it. So, for the audience at the Theatre Royal today, at lunchtime, we were treated to a view of the restoration of Windsor Castle that could not have been delivered with quite the same authority, or so sympathetically, or indeed with quite such insight, by anyone else, except perhaps by another member of his family.
I, for one, relished the talk, an indisputable insiders view. Perhaps it is necessary to read a little between the lines for politics or protocol may have precluded an all-out attack on the potential red tape and bureaucracy that threatened to delay restoration, the only hint was that "Protected Buildings Regulations" required everything in triplicate. The implication was that the Duke of Edinburgh was beginning to lose patience and so convened a committee to make a start on the restoration, which, by his position, could not easily be stopped. With the involvement of 'top dogs' from English Heritage, and other interested parties, plus some of the most brilliant architects of the day, bureaucracy could breathe a sigh of relief that the official procedures had been a circumvented, relieving them of the responsibility.
Perhaps I over state the case, but as I say, it was a special pleasure to hear the Earl of Wessex describing the work that was undertaken from such a peculiar and personal viewpoint.
The actual restoration has been covered in great detail in print and so there was little that was new in the Earl's talk, but with the Castle walls just a few feet away, and the Earl's special position in its restoration, the talk was a delight.
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