For the third consecutive year, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall presided over a day of Centre Court action.
Not in the umpire’s seat, of course, but in the Royal Box where other guests of the All England Club today included the Rt Honourable Harriet Harman (Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister), the writer and historian Sir Max Hastings, veteran broadcaster Steve Rider, comedians Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson, former American player Chanda Rubin and leading international interior designer Joanna Wood.
The Duchess, wearing a regal equivalent of the predominantly-white player dress code in an understated tailored cream jacket and hand-painted skirt by Anna Valentine, arrived at 11.45am and was met by by Philip Brook, Chairman of the All England Club, and committee member Nick Basing. In the midst of normal Players’ Lawn scenarios – players scurrying through to the locker room with racket bags and Louis Vuitton wheelie suitcases, coaches queueing for sandwiches and sushi at the deli, family and friends relaxing under sun umbrellas – the Duchess shook hands with a line-up of Armed Forces personnel, who are acting as Stewards for the Championships, and ball boys and girls on the Players’ Lawn.
A member of the Royal Household confirmed the Duchess very much enjoys her tennis, and that knowledgeable interest was reflected in the animated chats she had with Richard Gasquet (in tennis whites), Tom Gullikson (in coach’s black tracksuit), Vijay Amritraj (resplendent in a jazzy apricot checked blazer and green trousers) as well as some teasing banter with the BBC commentary trio of Virginia Wade, John McEnroe and Tim Henman. “Do you still play tennis?” a grinning Camilla asked Tiger Tim. “A little bit, maybe once or twice a year,” came the sheepish response from Britain’s former Wimbledon princeling.
Last year the Duchess was with the Prince of Wales, who had not enjoyed a visit to SW19 since 1970, but today she was accompanied by her sister Mrs Annabel Elliot. Before Juan Martin Del Potro emerged to take on Jesse Levine in their second-round singles encounter, the royal party enjoyed ‘luncheon’ in the Royal Room.
The menu started with a tortilla amuse-bouche served with a shot of gazpacho, followed by a selection of hot choices (grilled Brixham lemon sole with crushed baby potatoes, French beans and cherry tomatoes with parsley butter; roast Lancashire fillet of beef with rosti potato, confit of butternut squash and sage and a red wine jus; or pan-fried pea and mint ravioli with a rich tomato sauce and basil pesto).
Cold options included lobster with a roasted tomato Hollandaise sauce and English summer salad and celeriac slaw (sourced from the Marine Stewardship Council who regulate and certify sustainable seafood); breast of Shropshire chicken coronation with coconut and apricot curried rice salad; or char-grilled Vale of Evesham asparagus mimosa with grated free range egg, baby capers and tarragon – all served with buttered Lincolnshire baby pearl potatoes.
Next was the requisite bowl of Kentish Jubilee strawberries with Cornish clotted cream or a plate of British cheese – Oxford Isis, Isle of Mull Mature Cheddar, Farleigh Wallop, Dunsyre Blue with smashed apple chutney and cheese biscuits.