‘About time too!’: Joan Collins curtseys to Prince Charles

Parties, hats and dancing around handbags – everything you need to know about becoming a dame

25 April 2015

9:00 AM

25 April 2015

9:00 AM

The day of my investiture at Buckingham Palace dawned bringing freezing rain and fierce winds, which lashed at the windows as I regarded the outfit I had painstakingly planned — a lightweight, cream wool suit. A little damp didn’t bother me, so I didn’t care if I’d be shivering as Prince Charles pinned the medal on to my cape. No — it was the fate of the hat that worried me most. Designed by milliner Philip Treacy, it was a frothy creation of white grosgrain, chiffon flowers and delicate veiling, and I was concerned about the wind whipping it off. My best friend Judy Bryer said soothingly, ‘Philip has put so much construction inside that even a gale wouldn’t shift it.’

After much primping, my husband Percy, my two oldest children and I drove to the Palace. We averted a potential disaster when, at the gates, Percy confessed to having left his photo ID behind. ‘Will you vouch for this gentleman?’ the helmeted bobby inquired. ‘Well, I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but he is my husband,’ I joked. The policeman smiled politely, stared at me to make sure I was the real McCoy, and ushered our driver into the outer courtyard.

Once inside we were separated, and I was shown into a vast hall. There we were instructed in protocol and the ladies made to practise our curtseys. The future knights weren’t let off, as they had to practise kneeling on a velvet stool and rising again, amid much creaking of joints. Walking through the hallowed passages on the way to the Investiture Hall, I couldn’t help but feel slightly giddy as my moment approached. ‘Walk, stop, walk, stop, turn, curtsey, walk, stop, curtsey, stand, wait, curtsey, walk backward, stop, curtsey, turn, walk,’ I repeated to myself. Suddenly a hand propelled me forward and I was facing Prince Charles. ‘And about time, too!’ he said, flashing a charming smile. My nerves evaporated.

Although I’d already received an OBE, my damehood for services to charity means so much to me. As patron of the Shooting Star/Chase Hospice for children with terminal illnesses, I know how much these families depend on the charity to help them provide the best care for their child. They receive next to no support from the government when their child is sent home, and would be left to cope almost entirely alone if not for the valiant efforts of the hospices.

After the ceremony we repaired for lunch at the Wolseley, where I was greeted by my dearest sister Jackie and my brother Bill and his family, along with several friends. Most of them were a touch hung over because the previous evening my friends Joyce and Simon Reuben had thrown a spectacular soiree at Loulou’s. The club had created a special drink called the Joan Collins — a lavender Tom Collins — as well as scrumptious canapés.

My guests and I had hit the disco like over-ambitious Anton du Bekes and Abbey Clancys. But I was surprised to see a few curious trends on the dance floor. Three or four young ladies placed their handbags on the floor and tripped the light fantastic around them, leaving the hazard for others to trip over. Others showed off tipsy moves while clutching cocktails, occasionally sprinkling liquid around them. Add to this hapless waiters trying to mop up the drink while avoiding those embracing their inner Beyoncé, and it became more like dodgems than a dance‑off.

At home for a well-earned break, I stared at the once-beautiful brocade curtains in my sitting room and realised that it was time for a change. After almost two decades of faithful service, they were so ragged and ripped that I was beginning to feel like Miss Havisham. There was nothing for it but a trip to Chelsea Design Centre to order new ones. I arranged to meet the designer in the great foyer, and as I stood there waiting, a lady slowly approached. She stopped in front of me, raised her head and asked my favourite question: ‘Do you remember me?’ I hemmed and hawed then mumbled: ‘Of course, mmm — now, where was it?’ ‘We were at school together,’ she beamed. ‘You were in my class?’ I asked, embarrassed not to remember. ‘No, I was in Jackie’s class, and I’ll never forget you chiding me at lunch one day for refusing to eat my lumpy custard.’ ‘Why did I do that?’ ‘You were my prefect, and you were quite bossy!’ I’m glad some things haven’t changed.

On the night of my investiture, we hosted a big party at Claridge’s for friends and family. I’d been working on the perfect placement for months, so I was panicking hugely about no-shows. I needn’t have worried. Everyone turned up beautifully dressed and on time, which never happens. The speeches were warm and witty and after many wonderful tributes, Percy stood up wearing a sailor’s hat emblazoned with ‘HMS Dame Joan’ and began singing the opening verse of ‘There is Nothing Like a Dame’. I steeled myself to be thoroughly embarrassed, but I needn’t have worried. Christopher Biggins took the second verse, and then they sat me on a Bergère throne in the middle of the dance floor while Theo Fennell, Charles Delevingne, Billy Differ, Jack Rich and Nickolas Grace took on various parts with gusto. This was without a doubt the best night of my life.

The following day, my sister Jackie gave us a post-mortem lunch, and later our mayoral hopeful Ivan Massow threw a grand kitchen supper. A final lunch on Saturday, then tea at home before everyone flew off, leaving Percy and me to rest.  Waking up the next morning I felt very Jack Lemmon-ish in Some Like It Hot, as I recited: ‘I’m a Dame! I’m a Dame? I’m a Dame!’

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  • john

    Joan Collins is a gruesome example of a British “Lovey”. Ever ready to bow and smarm in front of royalty.

    • ardenjm

      And it has to be said, John, that you sound like an even more gruesome example of the British Chip on Your Shoulder muttering to himself, “I’m as good as them” but convincing no-one – least of all yourself…

      • john

        I note you don’t refute my comment.

        • ardenjm

          Well I’m just wondering what you’d accept as a refutation of your comment:

          Either a) No she isn’t an exemplary Lovey because most of our Lovies are Champagne Socialists – not Tories like Joan who is the exception rather than the example of a British Lovey.
          Or b) No she isn’t gruesome – but rather self-deprecating.
          Or c) No she isn’t ever read to bow and scrape – she’s merely being courteous and respectful.
          Or d) No she isn’t being especially obsequious to the Royal Family because Joan has always been a card-carrying royalist.

          So much for the refutation of the four truth claims in your comment none of which seem to go to the heart of the matter which is what I wanted to “refute” – i.e. the chippy sneer with which you made your remark.
          Because of that tone it’s evident that you’d accept none of my refutations of your claims anyway – and even more evident (since you confirmed it with the same “I’m as good as you” chippiness in your second comment) that you’d not stand correction concerning your attitude, in any case.
          So I fully expect you to come back to me yet again with your best impression of Russell Brand/Liam Gallagher/Frankie Boyle’s gobby self-proclaimed proletarian self-righteousness. Worn out tropes of rehashed Marxist dialectic dressed down in dour humourlessness.

          • john

            a) Irrelevant
            b) By gruesome I mean deferential and toadying in the expectation of public honours. I think you confirm this.
            c) You confirm my point – she’s deferential
            d) Again, you confirm my point – she’s a toady.
            Brits need to get off their knees and act as if we are a democratic, egalitarian country. The lovely Joan is a reasonable B grade actress who should have more self-esteem than simper for Charlie.

          • ardenjm

            a) Not irrelevant at all: you present her as an exemplar of a British Lovey. Most British Lovies are Champagne Socialists. She’s an exception, not the rule and cannot thus be presented as a typical example – which is an integral part of your contention (I won’t call it an argument – it doesn’t reach that level.)
            b)You FIND her toadying. That might say something about Joan. I suggest it says as much, if not more, about you. To the skewed eye the whole world looks awry. Your whole perspective is predicated on an anti-Establishment line. Unsurprisingly, then, you exhibit a perfect example of Confirmation Bias.
            c) Deference need not always be inappropriate. Sometimes, indeed, it is prudent and correct. Again, you find it inappropriate in this context because you dislike the system. Behind your suspicion lies the Hegelian Master-Slave dialectic – that Marx so successfully integrated into his own dialectic. That’s your vision of things. Fine. I think its erroneous. But, like many Lefties who are Puritans without religion, your criticism of Joan’s position is not that it is erroneous but that it is immoral.
            d) You conflate egregious boot-licking with genuine belief in monarchy. In fact, you can’t conceive of the latter only the former. Once again, that reveals more about you and your ideology than it does about Joan and her royalism.

            Lastly, you take refuge in the Marxist idea of false consciousness: and you change your tone with your hypocritical “lovely Joan” – but – as with all secretly totalitarian systems (of whatever point on the political spectrum) paternalism is at work: you know better than Joan what the truth of the matter is and what she should think. The Left’s way of justifying their brand of paternalism is to claim that people like Joan are in a state of false consciousness. Such a vision is patronising and, ultimately, co-ercive. It’s typical of (but admittedly not unique to) the Left and it’s astonishing, nearly 100 years after the Russian Revolution, that we need to expose it again for another generation of people with wilfully short memories.

          • Verbatim

            Can’t argue with a lot of these comments.

          • AnneTeak

            How nice to see those lovely 1960’s academia phrases used again.

            Well done for copying them out.

          • Violin Sonata.

            Oh come on girls stop bitching, at least Joan Collins has had a
            reaction. And do leave her alone at least she has style.

          • john

            You’re right Violin.
            Joan is all about getting a reaction (we might say the same for the monarchy). Style is a bit generous but she does bring back images of the 50s and 60s.

          • Verbatim

            And her face brings back images of a burns victim.

      • Epimenides

        He’s an absolute bitch.

    • Verbatim

      Frankly, I thought she died years ago. The smiling cadaver.

  • Malus Pudor

    Me mate, Dave, told me that, in moments of extreme and vigorous passion, her wig tends to fall off…

    • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

      Another bsld bloody Tory.

      • Verbatim

        Oh no, the Hydra visits all the items!!

  • Richard Eldritch

    Yes, but did the hat make it Joan? Philip will want to know…..

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Jolly good show.

  • BlackArrow

    If the principle of Magna Carta – Britain’s greatest legacy and gift to the world – is followed through, Charles … tragically … cannot be king.

    Lou Coatney