Following her recent trip to London to attend events marking Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, Greenwich resident Natalie Pray, the president of the Greenwich Branch of the English Speaking Union, says the British monarchy is alive and well.
She was accompanied on her trip by three other Greenwich ESU members, along with 19 other members from across the U.S.
Pray, who was born in Australia, says she grew up singing "God Save the Queen" every morning before school.
"There will never be a republic in that kingdom in the Queen's lifetime," she says. "The British love her. They have such affection for her. She is 86. She has an amazing constitution. Her mother lived into her 100s. She enjoys having a purposeful life. She's not going to retire."
And never doubt, Pray predicts, that Prince Charles will be the next King of England. "There's no question that Charles will follow the Queen," she says.
Pray also believes the British public has come to accept Prince Charles' second wife, Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall. "They've gotten over the royal wrinkle in the family," she says. "I met her (the Duchess) in New York City when I was president of the St. George Society. She was very gracious."
Pray spoke of some of the highlights of her trip to London. Her group from Greenwich, which included Lucy and Nat Day and Suzanne Geiss Robbins, had stood in the rain on the British warship, the HMS Belfast, to watch a 1,000-boat flotilla pass. Passing close by them was the Royal Barge, "all red velvet and gold leaf," says Pray, with the stoical royals all smiles in the rain.
"Everyone was happy and cheerful," says Pray. "The British don't complain."
Another highlight for Pray's group was a visit to Prince Charles' country home, Highgrove. The four were led by a guide through the many gardens Prince Charles has shaped over the more than 25 years he has lived there. "Charles is a hands-on gardener," she says. "Everything is very organically grown. There are no chemicals used."
Pray recalls pleasing gardens of pastel colors. "What I liked is his wildflower meadow," she says.
In a specially illustrated booklet on Highgrove, Pray pointed out a garden with a large terracotta pot on its side. "Prince William and Prince Harry used to hide inside it when they were children," she says.
At the end of the two-hour garden tour, the group was served a "magnificent high tea" says Pray, in a separate house called the Orchard Room, which was built for visitors.
"There were tea cakes of all kinds -- three tiers high!" exclaims Pray, "And scones with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam. And champagne!"
Pray also spoke of having attended last year's wedding of the year -- of Prince William and Princess Kate.
"People are so enthralled and in love with William and Kate," she says, "They are so young and vivacious and attractive. And everyone loves Harry. Wouldn't you leave home for Harry?"