In princes William and Harry, Filipina nanny sees enduring humility

Lillie and friend Bernie, a Clarence House butler, after the wedding. Photo: Visayan Daily Star

By Ludy A. Ongkeko, Ph.D.

She made it a point to physically witness the wedding of a real-life prince and his bride although she no longer continues to reside in the United Kingdom which was home to her for 14 years.

She doesn’t belong to the crème de la crème. But as far as her most-beloved Diana, was concerned, there was no way she would miss history where one of her former charges, Prince William would marry Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011.

The Royal Guest List testifies that one of Philippine ancestry, Araceli Piccio, fondly called “Lillie,” by Princess Diana’s precious two, was on the royal staff, with two other royal nannies who served Prince William and Prince Harry for more than a decade, from 1985-1999.

It was not just bruited about. Members of the royal staff had such a distinct awareness that the Filipina nanny was one of the closest to the Princess of Wales until that tragedy of tragedies whiffed the life of that fabulous royal so dearly loved not only by those who knew of her, but everyone who learned about her compassion for the unfortunate section of humanity the world over.

Unlike some who were not invited to the April 29 grand event, Lillie’s name appeared on the official guest list reportedly one that became an important document which required intense ‘Check, Check and Double-check.’ That was a virtual sign that the lady from Southern Philippines’ Bacolod City was held in unforgettable esteem by the groom himself.

Prince William, it was learned, thanked Lillie on two occasions that day: One, for coming to the wedding, the other, when he saw her at the Clarence House reception where he kissed her and he fittingly introduced Lillie to his bride.

Lillie described in published accounts how, she had “breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner at Clarence House on the day of the wedding.” When Prince William and his bride arrived at the same Clarence House venue from the Buckingham Palace reception, Lillie, along with the rest of the staff, lined up in the courtyard; and as protocol dictates, they were briefed to curtsy when the royals arrived.

Lillie's boys

William and Harry with their mother. It was the Princess of Wales who invited Lillie to join the royal staff.

“All of a sudden, I heard Prince William call out, ‘Hi Lillie,’ and he approached me to hug and kiss me. I was dumbfounded. I was unable to say anything. He told me he was so happy I came to the wedding and asked how I was faring. He also ‘liked my dress,’” she continued to say.

Kate, it was reported, also kissed the 65-year-old Lillie and inquired how she knew Prince William. It was the prince who informed Kate about Lillie’s ties to the family. When she could recover from sheer joy, Lillie told Kate how she had been working for the royal family since William was a baby.

In describing how the newlyweds stopped to converse with her, Lillie humbly narrated how “everyone viewed the entire scene because of the many moments they had stopped to chat.”

Prince Charles likewise approached Lillie and inquired further, where she was working. Lillie informed him that she had “retired.”

While enjoying some snacks, Lillie recalled how someone tapped her on the shoulder.

“When I looked up, it was Prince Harry. I tried to get up to curtsy but he told me to sit and he kissed me,” she said. The day after the reception, Lillie expressed her “surprise,” when Bernie, the Clarence House butler informed her that Prince William instructed him to “make sure to call and thank me for attending the wedding and that he was ‘so happy’ that I was there.”

Admittedly, Lillie recalled it wasn’t all jubilation for her. There was the tinge of sadness accompanied by tears. Recollections came. Remarkably, she stated how she remembered Princess Diana whom she did not hesitate to describe as “incomparable.” Fondly, Lillie remembered how the princess reared her sons. What stood out as a lasting impression: She taught them to be “humble.”

Lillie, a nurse by profession, remembered the last time she had seen Prince William and Prince Harry before the April 29 wedding. She said she saw them in 2002 during the funeral of Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II.

Speaking of those of Filipino origin who are in the UK, the latest figure comes from the ranks of 45,000 from the nursing profession, and a good number from ‘other professionals,’ while domestics also have contributed to the Filipino presence.

Modestly, Lillie recalled how ‘save-the-date’ notices were sent long ago to invitees, followed by gold-embossed invitations. Word spread around at top speed how monarchs all over the European continent responded: Romania, Spain, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium personified punctuality when their replies arrived.

Still on the subject of those good as gold invitations, Prince William, it was reported, ‘reached out’ to his mother’s family, the Spencers, identified for a good while as “coolly distant from the Palace” since their loss of Diana. Because it was loudly cheered, fans of Prince and Kate joined in that meaningful applause when the British media zeroed in on the media’s information which was one of anticipation, that their much-loved Diana was likewise remembered.

Owing to the fact that the Palace did limit the number of invitations sent, Prince William was reported to have ‘redeemed’ what he could. “All 27 members of his unit at the Welsh Air Base received the golden envelope,” it was announced.

As if to echo the internationally-known compassionate Princess Diana, it was likewise reported how, one formerly homeless woman who had been on the receiving end of Prince William’s charities, was also the recipient of that golden invitation coming from rarified air.

Kate too, it was learned, did remember those who knew her when: Invitations were sent to the butcher, mailman, innkeeper, cocktail lounge barkeep, among her folksy home village community. Another recipient described as “thrilled to be invited,” was the grocer who was reputed to “always keep Wills’s favorite ice cream dessert in stock.”

It was a day to remember, and will be long remembered: The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, close to the last day of the fourth month of 2011. When the story of their courtship commenced against the backdrop of a distinctive ladder, characterized by education, breeding, family values, and as Kate herself underscored, when interviewed on television as soon as the official engagement surfaced: “Family is very important to me. We see a lot of each other. They’re very, very dear to me.”

Prince William and his bride (she did provide what is considered ‘singular’ in the annals of British History, born and bred a ‘commoner,’) but a princess of grace she is, as proven to the world that she was raised comfortably, sans pomp and splendor, thanks to the loving environment of her parents who rose from modest beginnings to self-made millionaires, well-deserved unembellished titles all their own.

Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D. is a product of two educational systems: the University of the Philippines (public) where she earned her bachelor degrees (science and arts) as a college scholar and the University of Southern California’s Graduate School (private). Her professional career in journalism started at the Manila Bulletin in her native Philippines. “Forty Years of Writing in America” published in 2009 is a compendium of her life in the U.S. as a writer, teacher and mentor.



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