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Behind the scenes of a royal visit

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On 3 October, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex came to visit the Royal Pavilion. As one of the most famous newly-wed couples in the world, images of Harry and Meghan at the Pavilion were shared internationally.

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But what work goes on behind the scenes to make such a high profile visit run smoothly? Our Media & Press Officer, Caroline Sutton, tells all.

Photo of Royal Pavilion shrouded in early morning darkness

Royal Pavilion at 6am

It’s 6am and the Royal Pavilion looks beautiful bathed in lights against the dark sky. It’s not the usual time I start work as the Press & Media Officer for the Royal Pavilion & Museums but today is a Very Special Day.

In case anyone actually missed it, the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, otherwise known as Prince Harry and his new wife Meghan, came to visit their new dukedom last month.

Photo of TV presenter speaking to camera

Carol Kirkwood at the Pavilion

Despite the hour the Royal Pavilion and the garden are bustling with activity. BBC Breakfast’s Carol Kirkwood looks as fresh as a daisy as she presents the weather from the East Lawns. Outside my office the streets are being swept, scrubbed and cleaned by council staff.

As the sun rises, I take one of my many trips that day through the garden to liaise with the press, RPM and council staff. I can’t nip through the stunning Royal Pavilion as usual – it’s on total lockdown in preparation for the Royal visitors.

Woman and man speaking with man holding the dog by a lead

Sniffer dog in the Royal Pavilion grounds

I stop to chat with the police sniffer dog team. The dogs are also excited about the day, barking to get going and have a good sniff around the grounds. Gardener Robert is primping the garden which looks glorious in the sunshine.

Later that morning I attend my second security briefing. The safety of the Royal couple and the crowds coming to see them were paramount and everything had been planned in fine detail by the Sussex Police and our in-house teams.

Back in the office, the crowds start to form outside the office window. Street furniture is removed, fencing put up and the temperature is rising. It’s going to be a sunny day. Phew!

Behind the scenes, senior council staff, Royal Pavilion management and the police have regular briefings on security, traffic and crowd control as the Royal couple travel closer. Everyone is in a great mood but there is a lot of activity going on behind the scenes and some people getting quite frazzled. I’m gasping for a cuppa but not got time to stop.

While the Royal couple are setting off for their first stop in Chichester, I’m with BBC South East as they interview the Keeper of the Royal Pavilion David Beevers.

Then it’s back to the office to take more calls, help organise some posters for the press ‘pen’ which will hold the many journalists who will report on the visit. A welcome cup of tea while discussing the wrapping of the beautiful silk scarf inspired by the Saloon carpet, we’ll be presenting to Meghan and a catch-up with the team who are watching the proceedings from our office which has a fantastic view.

Finally lipstick and heels go and it’s time to take position inside the Royal Pavilion. As press officer, my role is to escort a select number of press and media following the Royal couple on their visit.

Waiting nervously in the Royal Pavilion are the members of staff who are meeting Meghan and Harry including the director of the RPM Janita Bagshawe, Royal Pavilion site lead Abigail Thomas, the Keeper of the Royal Pavilion David Beevers and curator Alexandra Loske. With us are the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field, the Mayor Cllr Dee Simson and the High Sheriff Major General J D Moore-Bick CBE DL, wearing a fetching pair of velvet britches, who all seem much more relaxed.

As we peep out the windows of the Pavilion looking at the crowds a huge roar goes up and we know they’ve arrived. Duty manager Graham swings open the door for them and they sweep in to be greeted by the welcoming party.

Photo with cameramen gathered on right waiting arrival of royal couple

Press waiting for royal couple in Music Room

The press are ushered through the Pavilion rushing along carrying heavy equipment so I’m keeping an eye on them and making sure they don’t knock over any priceless items in the state rooms. Harry and Meghan walk along with Janita and the Lord Lieutenant looking interested, calm and engaged despite all the shuffling, clicking and whirring going on just feet away by the press and photographers.

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They both stare in amazement at the amazing dragon chandelier in the Banqueting Room and their faces light up when they reach the newly renovated Saloon with its vibrant colours. They meet Alexandra, Abigail and David who tell them about the history of each room.

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Group of people gathred in front of the entrance to the Royal Pavilion

Relieved staff after the visit

All too quickly the party are heading out the door. Staff member Sarah quickly hands Janita the Saloon scarf which she presents to Meghan who said it was beautiful. Meghan looks over at me and my colleague Jemma and says thank you to us and we both give her huge grins back. They are whisked out of the door and everyone in the room breathes a huge sigh of relief and starts chattering about who said what to whom.

The press immediately ask for interviews with everyone the Royal couple spoke to and without delay I set up some interviews with our staff. The media requests carry on through the afternoon with the local news channels all finishing the evening live broadcasts from the Royal Pavilion Gardens. They’ve changed teams but I’m still here, so I head off home to put my aching feet up. My evening viewing is spent watching the many news reports showing the lovely Harry and Meghan when they visited our palace.

Caroline Sutton, Media & Press Officer

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