There is an old adage. One should never work with children and animals on stage. I would add the Royal Family to that list. Prince Michael had taken eight consultancy posts in British companies such as Land Rover, BT and the Post Office. How he came to us remained a mystery. However earlier in the year I had been chosen to make a presentation to him in London that described our bank and history and all our overseas offices. We were represented in small islands around the globe that had a particular interest to him. His eyes appeared to be misting over and his fingers hovered over the printed papers accompanying the Power Point.
‘We used to own that,’ he mumbled as the picture of the Cook Islands branch came up. Their white beaches epitomised our off-shore world but the bank had plans for him in the Gulf where the beaches were all owned by their Royal Family!
The other adage is that if Royalty is present at a party people tend to come, especially if the Royal in question looks like the Tzar and George Vth all at once. I had never believed that he would arrive in Bahrain, but it was now confirmed and he was bringing David Shepherd, the wildlife artist with him, as well his personal detective. A director from London was dispatched to be on this trip and help me, and so one evening waited at the airport for the BA flight from London that was due at six. He duly was escorted well away from us to the VIP suite past the general public and was whisked away in a motorcade into the steamy night. We followed behind, my Land Rover barely keeping up and hoping for a salute from the guards along the highway, I sped up as much as I could so not to miss the once in a lifetime chance.
PMOK was put into the Sheraton Hotel, a granite faceless building that seemed tired but was secure. The police had set up a cordon around it and after much inspecting of our IDs we were summoned to meet him in his room. He had already dressed for bed so we were greeted by the Royal Prince in a dressing gown, reminiscent of my prep school days. It was made with thick tartan weave with tassels at the end of the cord, and he wore monogrammed shoes. He handed us each pictures of himself, signed as if we needed to identify him later.
The next day was taken up with business meetings and smooth soaping the usual suspects at a cocktail party at the Embassy. The wine was warm but I am glad to say we made the most of the Government’s largesse. A bit later we had been invited to a dinner at the Bahrain Guest Palace. The Bahrainis keep several of these wonderfully bad taste buildings mothballed in case of visitors. At about midnight, and it had been an alcohol dry event, we were all looking forward to a night cap back at the hotel. We started to make our goodbyes. PMOK then made the fatal error of informing which ever Sheikh was entertaining us that his wife, on her first marriage had lived in Bahrain in a house that he would like to see sometime.
That did it.
Immediately the room was cleared, the motorcade was formed again and we all sped into the night. Police out-riders had raced ahead and found the house in Muharraq. The unsuspecting owners, British as it transpired, had been asleep and woke in alarm to see blue flashing lights and banging on the door. By now it was close to two in the morning and they were informed that Sheikh someone and Prince Michael wanted to see their house.
Whether they were wearing thick tartan weave dressing gowns can not be confirmed.
The rest of trip flashed by culminating in a dinner held to honour PMOK and help the David Shepherd Foundation. A competition was hastily arranged whereby PMOK and David would each draw a picture and they would be auctioned. Using the bank’s petty cash I secured what is likely to be the only picture in private hands by PMOK and a colleague bought the Shepherd picture that was drawn on a napkin. The story ended for that priceless art work later that night when my friend on returning home emptied his pockets. His wife was aghast that he had pilfered a lined napkin from the hotel and so put it into the washing machine!
It was time for the Prince to leave. The Bahrain Government presented him and all those on the tour with Omega gold watches and the bank allowed us to keep them as no inducement to do business was made. We had established some good contacts and as I made my way home having seen the BA flight leave just after midnight, reflected on the poor couple in Muharraq who must have thought that their time was up as the 777 thundered overhead, waking them again as no doubt it always did.