Oxford students were thrilled to present His Royal Highness Prince Philip with an honorary Ball ticket at Buckingham Palace in London this week.
As Patron of St Catherine’s College, the Duke of Edinburgh accepted the ticket, which included a plus-one, from the three Co-Chairs of the College’s Ball Committee in the Palace’s library room on Wednesday.
The Master of St Catherine’s, Professor Roger Ainsworth, who was also present, thought it was ‘very sporting’ of the Prince to meet with them and receive the complementary ticket. ‘The Duke is always very generous with the time he gives to college in his role as College Visitor. He always seems at ease with the student age-group.’
After exchanging pleasantries, the Prince spoke with the students for around ten minutes before attending to other royal duties for the day.
Francis Athill, Ball President and a third year at St Catherine’s, described the meeting as an ‘absolute honour,’ and that the whole experience was ‘very surreal.’
Nathan Jones, Ball Treasurer, added, ‘The Prince impressed us all with his interest in our plans and advice.’ Charlotte Abrahams, Ball Vice-President, was also present at the occasion.
During the meeting the Prince was particularly insistent that the Ball’s guests should be kept warm, with the event planned for February, but wished everyone going a fabulous evening.
Although emphasising that the Queen would be the ‘obvious choice’ for the Prince’s plus one, Athill said, ‘I’d be pleased to welcome the soon to be Catherine Windsor – or Cheryl Cole, I doubt she would turn him down.’
Athill also thought the Prince would love The Correspondents, who are playing at the Ball. ‘But I can imagine him being drawn away by a few Mission burritos and a massage in the Valentines’ Love nest,’ he said.
Commenting on the occasion, Tom Larkin, a second year at St Catherine’s, said he would love to see the Prince experience the Oxonian tradition of ‘pennying’ at the Ball. ‘It would take on a whole new level of peer pressure when the he sees his wife’s copper face at the bottom of a beer.’ He added, ‘fingers crossed he doesn’t bring Camilla as the plus-one, she might not appreciate the irony in the Poke the Princess fairground stall.’
The meeting went ahead despite the attack on a Royal car containing Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla last week as a wave of student protest swept through central London.
However, Prince Philip and his aides did not seem concerned by the presence of Oxford undergraduates in the heart of Buckingham Palace for the presentation of the ticket, and there did not appear to be any additional security measures in place.
Meanwhile, in a bid to upstage St Catherine’s Ball, Keble Ball Committee representative, Sam Wilton, revealed to Cherwell that he planned to contact the Queen with regards to presenting a complementary Ball ticket.
He added, ‘We are also attempting to secure Keble Ball 2011 as the official after party for Will and Kate’s wedding.’