Prince William invites former Pinay nanny to his wedding

>> Monday, March 7, 2011

This is such a beautiful article that surprised me and oh so proud of.

The princes' Pinay nanny invited to Royal wedding
By Ricardo F. Lo (The Philippine Star)

LONDON AP) — Keep an eye on the mailbox. Britain’s Prince William and bride-to-be Kate Middleton have posted out invites to their hotly-anticipated royal wedding at the Westminster Abbey on April 29 to around 1,900 guests, officials said yesterday. — News item in The STAR’s World News section, Feb. 21, 2011

The next day, another wire story came out about a 19-year-old high-school student, described as “a Royalty fan,” who was camping outside the British Embassy in Mexico City for nine days hoping to get an invitation to the wedding of the year which is getting the whole world excited the way the wedding of William’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, did in 1981. William is 28 and Kate is 29.

Luckily, the Pinay nanny of William’s brother, Prince Harry, didn’t have to go on a hunger strike to get an invitation. She already did — without even lifting a finger or perhaps without even expecting it. She’s none other than Araceli “Lillie” Piccio, a nurse from Bacolod, who was a member of Lady Di’s household staff for eight years until Lady Di died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Called “Miss Lillie” by Lady Di, Lillie is the sister of my friend Nimfa “Buddai” Piccio who confirmed to me that Lillie, who is still working in London but under another employer, did receive the invitation.

“As usual,” said Buddai (who writes a society column for a Bacolod paper), “the invitation states that’s it’s good for the one invited ‘and one’.”

Knowing Buddai, I’m sure she will fly to London to accompany Lillie to the wedding. I recall Buddai telling me that on one occasion, Lillie brought her to a royal occasion and Buddai said that she almost fainted when she saw Lady Di in person.

I was in London in 1989 to cover Lea Salonga’s first month as Kim in the megahit Cameron Mackintosh musical Miss Saigon when Buddai, who was then also working there, related to me her close encounter with Royalty. We were then touring the Windsor Castle which would fly the British Flag when Queen Elizabeth II was there.

Back to Buddai’s close brush with Lady Di…

“When Princess Diana came near me, greeting everybody along the line, I curtsied,” Buddai had recalled. ”I was so thrilled that I lost my balance. The Princess bent over to help me up pero nabuwal na naman ako habang hawak-hawak ko ang kamay niya. The guards promptly surrounded us but the Princess very politely and, with a smile, waved them away, saying, ‘It’s all right, it’s all right.’ The Princess is so beautiful, she looks like a goddess in person.”

At the Piccio’s apartment that night, over dinner of lugaw and scrambled eggs with tausi (black beans), my favorite recipe, I asked Lillie how it felt to be walking on the same ground and breathing the same air as the Royal Family did. She was then on her fourth year as member of Lady Di’s household staff.

This was what I wrote in Funfare when I came back, dated Dec. 7, 1989:

“They are nice,” said Lillie, “down-to-earth, very humane and exactly the opposite of all the crap the London tabloids are publishing about them. Kami nga, hindi na naniniwala sa mga dyaryo dito when they print stories about the Royal Couple. Panay hindi totoo, e! It’s a good thing if one out of 10 stories they print is true. When we go over those papers, we keep on saying, ‘Oh no, this is not true! That’s not true!’ We know because we are at the Royal Apartment every day (except Sunday when (everything and everybody in London screeches to an abrupt halt, including the theaters).” Lillie is among the 30 Royal household staffers, the only Filipina in the group and the first Filipina ever to have been employed by the Royal Family. Lillie enjoys the job immensely, not so much because of the nice salary (confidential) but because, and especially since, Princess Diana “is very, very nice to all of us.” The Princess and the Prince never forget to give a gift, accompanied by a card with a touching dedication, to each and every member of the Royal Household Staff who spends his/her birthday. The card is always signed: From the Four of Us, Diana and Charles.

Lillie and the other household staff are not stay-in. They report to work very early in the morning and leave early evening. Sometimes, Lady Di would remind Lillie, “Miss Lillie, please wake me up tomorrow morning.” That means that first thing Lillie does when she arrives at Kensington Palace is go straight to Lady Di’s bedroom for the wake-up call.

During important occasions at the Royal Home, such as Christmas, Lillie and company get invitations a month in advance. They gather at a certain place where they are picked up by a bus which brings them to wherever the affair is being held. Each staffer is entitled to bring along one companion.

How did Lillie get into the Royal Household?

She said she was working part-time at ITV-4 when a lady (the one who recruits “candidates” to the Royal Household Staff) approached her and asked her if she wanted to work “with the Royal Family.” Lillie was told that the job would include arranging the Royal Couple’s things (clothes, etc.) and looking after their children. Lillie was hesitant, not wanting to be confined to a nine-to-five job again (she’s a nurse, remember?), but she reconsidered.

“I didn’t know I was going to work with Princess Diana and Prince Charles until the next day when I was brought to the Kensington Palace,” said Lillie, a gracious and graceful lady you’ll fall in love with at first meeting. “The Lord Chamberlain walked with me to an apartment within the Royal Compound. When I looked closely at the sign at the gate, I froze. It says, PRINCE AND PRINCESS OF WALES’ APARTMENT. It was only then that I learned who my master and mistress would be.”

Lillie’s first meeting with Lady Di happened in the morning of her first day at the Royal Household. While taking breakfast with some members of the staff, Lillie could hear sweet laughter of a woman obviously playing hide-and-seek with some kids in the other part of the house. By and by, Lady Di materialized at the dining-room door and Lillie gasped, nearly choking on her food.

“Oh,” Lady Di said with a big smile, “so you’re the new one.”

Then she approached Lillie and extended her hand in warm welcome. Lillie frantically made a gesture to wipe her hand but the Princess stopped her, “That’s all right, that’s all right,” and proceeded to shake Lillie’s hand. The Ilongga was stunned. “At that instant,” Lillie now recalled, “I felt how kind she is, what a beautiful person she is inside and out.”

That warmth exuded by Lady Di, not to mention her breathtaking beauty, is what keeps the staff working at the Royal Household for years and years (some have been there for more than 15 years). The Royal Couple sometimes hosts barbecue parties at the Highgrove House, located a few miles outside of London, for the staffers. There, the Princess and the Prince talk to the butler, the cook, to everybody, in a personal manner that never fails to disarm the staffers.

Lady Di is also generous with gifts. Lillie has accumulated in the apartment (she shares with another sister, Virgie) stuffed toys (given to her by the Princess herself from the teeming cabinet of Princes Harry and William) and flowers of all kinds (also given by the Princess).

“Once you work with them, you’ll never want to leave them,” said Lillie to whose ears Princess Diana’s laughter while playing hide-and-seek with Princes Harry and William in the morning has become sweet music she can’t live without.

Last week, Ronald Constantino and I had lunch with Buddai at Via Mare when she was in Manila for the People Power’s 25th-anniversary celebration. She kept us posted on what else Lillie had experienced while working with Lady Di.

Lillie was the nanny of Prince Harry, and Prince William, too. She told Buddai that as a kid, William, only a toddler when Lillie started working for Lady Di, was hyperactive. He would run around the place while playing hide-and-seek with brother Harry and their mom who was usually barefooted at play. Everytime Lillie got a bunch of pasalubong from the Philippines, she would share some of them with Lady Di whose favorite was preserved mango.

Only a few months after Lady Di died, Lillie resigned from the Royal Household Staff and worked for Bryan Adams for more than a year. She has moved to another employer since then.

“Mabait talaga ang Royal Family,” said Buddai.

The invitation to Lillie proves it. It shows that the Royal Family remember and acknowledge those who work with and for them even if they have moved somewhere else.

When Lillie left the Royal Household Staff, Buddai remembered what Prince William, who was then turning 16, told Lillie, “When I get married, I will take you back.”

(Postscript: I still have the three stuffed toys Lillie had given me during my London visit in 1989. They were among the stuffed toys Lady Di would bring home as pasalubong for Princes William and Harry from her trips abroad, some of them given away to members of the Royal Household Staff. Among Lillie’s souvenirs are autographed photos of Lady Di and Prince Charles but she never had any photo with them. Protocol forbade the household staff from being photographed with the royal couple.)

UPDATE! Lillie attends the wedding - watch interview:


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