Real Life

A couple’s passionate royal tribute

One Thames couple is on a mission to display the perfect royal tribute.

Regulars at the Corogate Café in Thames are used to getting a shot of royalty with their morning coffees. The café is decked top-to-bottom in more than 3000 pieces of royal family memorabilia, and owner Angela Thompson isn’t averse to bursting into song with some of her Proms favourites when the occasion calls for it.

This year, the excitement has ramped up another notch. Angela says the newest royal addition is a milestone for the Commonwealth, and should be celebrated in style.

“This baby is the future King or Queen. It’s a new era.”

Angela has been waiting for a royal baby for a long time. Her cousin lives near Kate Middleton and Prince William in Anglesey and, before the pregnancy was announced, Angela was hoping to be among the first to hear about a royal baby bump.

“I told my cousin that when her boy takes the dog out for a walk and runs into William, he should gear him up for any information, but they don’t let anything go!”

The royal family has been a lifelong passion for Angela. Her mother, who would have been 99 this year, was a devoted royalist.

“I started following them because she did. We have a marvellous picture of my brother and myself when we were two and four. If you didn’t know it wasn’t the royal family, you’d think he was Prince Charles.”

British-born Angela and husband Bill converted their café from a service station 11 years ago and have worked together to amass a huge collection of everything from jewellery to cutlery, souvenirs to clothing.

“Not many people have a passion and a business and are able to combine the two,” Angela says.

As soon as the baby news was out, Angela and Bill decided they needed to do something extra special with their café.

They travelled the length of the country, preparing a display of royal nursery-themed memorabilia, right down to the perfect rocking horse

and just the right pram.

The café is currently holding daily royal baby showers during afternoon tea. Everyone must dress as if they were about to meet the Queen, and bring a baby doll. In September, photos will be judged and the person with the best doll will win a prize.

One corner of the café has been decked out in the style of a 1950s nursery, with an identical pram to the one used for Prince Charles, and a nanny in clothes that match those worn by Mabel Anderson. The display tracks royal babies through time to 2013, which is represented by a rocking horse and a mannequin of Kate in her engagement dress, holding a baby in a christening gown.

It took Angela and Bill five months to locate items that were identical to those used in the royal household. They had to travel to Whangarei to find Charles’ pram, and to Wellington for a 1950s-style high chair.

The rocking horse was found in Mt Wellington and cost $4000.

“It’s absolutely magnificent. When you know what you want, you find it. It has taken a lot of time and money but it’s what it represents.”

Angela says bookings have been flowing.

“Customers started ringing in May to find out what we’d be doing… people come from overseas and just stand and look.”

One of the most striking pieces in the café is a mannequin dressed as Queen Elizabeth. Angela says the monarch has always been an inspiration to her, from the time she first took the throne.

“On day one, when she became queen… it was like she was making a huge vow, like getting married, but not just to one man, to the whole world.”

The way the Queen has dealt with private sadness while in the public eye has been aspirational for Angela, who experienced some tough relationship break-ups before finding her perfect match in husband Bill 12 years ago.

“For someone to perform so well, with all that sadness, and be in the public eye all the time, I admire her very much.”

Fortunately, Bill was already interested in the royals when he and Angela met. But while Angela could spend hours poring over royal baby photos, Bill would rather stick to the facts.

Angela says: “He knows more about England than I do. His mother’s English and the same age as the Queen. It’s become a lovely partnership, with his knowledge of all the dates.”

And he doesn’t mind adding to her collection with a few royalty-inspired jewellery pieces of his own. Angela says,

“I’ve got some beautiful jewellery here, Bill buys it. A collection isn’t a collection if you can’t share it with someone.”

Susan Edmunds

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