BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
As HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex arrived at one of Chicago’s most elegant ballrooms, he was welcomed by 300 marvelously attired guests, with “Rule, Britannia”—chosen by society bandleader Alex Donner—playing in the background.
Making his way to speak with as many guests as possible, several remarked that HRH not only looked so much like his mother, Queen Elizabeth, but shared her impeccable poise as well.
Guest of honor for The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award USA Gala, Prince Edward discussed the 60-year-old project founded by his father to inspire and equip millions of young people to be leaders who step outside their comfort zones, learning new skills, getting physically active, volunteering in their communities, and partaking in adventurous journeys:
“My father wanted young people, aged 14 to 24, to grow and learn new things through these progressive awards, which have been given to over 1.3 million young people. India, Zambia, South Africa, Canada, and many other countries have participated for years, but we are launching tonight a US presence in Chicago.”
Cayla Chico, a local student, movingly described to the audience a trip she made during her Award: “It was really my opportunity to see the stars for the first time.”
Early in the evening, Board President Richard Gulliver shared more about The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award USA, of which Nichelle Carr serves as president elect and Elizabeth Higgins-Beard as CEO:
“We now have 700 students in the United States involved, and we hope the number doubles each year to reach our goal of 430,000 young people by 2027. At the end of the day, the students have learned incredible life lessons. Life continues to throw challenges at us and our young people can’t fail at the first hurdle. We all learn as well that life offers us many opportunities such as this Award program.”
Brian D. White and Desirée Rogers served as chairs of the gala, co-sponsored by the Social Register Association, whose owners Christopher and Lise Honore-Wolf were among the more than 50 out of town guests.
Brian’s phenomenal networking and organizational skills contributed greatly to the evening’s excitement. He remarked afterwards: “It was the greatest honor to serve as co-chair of this special gala for HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, KG GCVO, and I was so happy to have been the connector to bring in The Social Register Association as a proud sponsor of the 2018 Inaugural Gala.”
The evening’s menu featured individual beef Wellingtons and Marc Waters of Bunches provided the décor. Marc shared:
“I had no idea that I would be playing to such a packed house. We were close to putting centerpieces in the chandeliers! My motivation was simply to capture a mid-century British vibe since those were the only two pieces of the puzzle given to me by the planners. The linen was called ‘Spiced Bengaline.’
“Early on, there was some talk about setting the tables with water and wine glasses as well as the coffee cup, not unlike it might have been done in the 1950s, but as things turned out, I’m glad more restraint was the order of the day. I try to do my part with Mother Nature’s presence.”
Following an exciting live auction offering truffle hunting in Tuscany and a visit to Machu Picchu among the donated prizes benefitting the Award, Alex Donner, former music director at New York’s Club El Morocco and Palm Beach’s Colony Hotel, and headliner at the Café Carlyle, knew just the right songs to lead people to the dance floor.
Prince Edward had spent the previous afternoon in equally energetic fashion, playing court tennis—all his stops in the United States had one feature in common: an opportunity to play what is often called “real tennis” on a range of courts around the country that offer the sport. Hampton Court, outside of London, has the oldest court where Henry the Eighth played as early as 1528, when the sport was known as “royal tennis.” Those who played court tennis with the Prince in Chicago noted his courtly presence and skill at the game.
And it is clear, through his work in carrying on his father’s legacy, that this courtliness and skill extend far beyond the racquet.
Photo credit: Jennifer Girard