Bob Patten, Emeritus Professor and expert raconteur, spoke before a group of ARRUF members and friends about his 2012 briefing of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at Westminster Abbey on Dickens’s 200th birthday. Bob was part of a small group of guests—maybe 50 or so—to be received in Buckingham Palace on Valentine’s Day 2012.
Patten is shown here reflecting Dickens's own pose. The image appeared in the 2011 Issue of Humanitas, the magazine of the Rice School of Humanities. (You saw him on Manor of Speaking, the follow-on program after Downton Abbey.) Bob shared slides and stories that revealed how our own misunderstandings about the roles of British royalty lead Americans to make wrong choices when interacting with them. Patten had assumed that the Prince would, like American CEOs, want a briefing book that was, obviously, BRIEF. But the Prince’s staff expected a “brief” to be long by American standards—sixty or more pages to be perused before a short ceremony. Similarly, he assumed that his opening remark when meeting with the Queen should signal to her his identity and reason for being present. Instead, she expected to demonstrate without prompting that SHE had done her homework (perhaps with her own briefing book) and knew very well his roles, his achievements, and his origin. Apparently being well briefed is a key to making the right moves, and one of life’s chief duties as a royal.
Patten recently completed a new edition of one his classic works, Charles Dickens and His Publishers, for Oxford University Press. He is the Lynette S. Autrey Professor Emeritus in Humanities and Emeritus Professor of English at Rice University and Senior Research Scholar, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London (since 2010).