By Royal Appointment; He's Been the Royal Family's Right-Hand Man in the Capital for 18 Years as Lord Lieutenant for South Glamorgan. Matt Thomas Talks Shop with Sir Norman Lloyd-Edwards as He Steps Down from Service
Byline: Matt Thomas
CAPTAIN Sir Norman Lloyd-Edwards KCVO OstJ RD JP RNR is leafing through his personal visitors' book. He is looking for a specific pair of signatures, just to double check the date of a trip to Cardiff made by Princes William and Harry.
As he turns the pages, he counts off a clutch of other Royal signatures.
"So if Prince Edward arrived then..." says the out-going Lord Lieutenant for South Glamorgan in his precise tones, almost under his breath.
Then it's: "Oh... Prince Andrew... Ah, 1993. October," he adds, still looking for the date "the boys" - in this case William and Harry - came to the city for a day out.
And then he finds it. And lots of other important entries along with it.
Because for the last 18 years - "actually two months short of 18" - Sir Norman has been "the eyes and ears of the Palace in South Glamorgan".
But next Friday he retires from the post.
During his stint as liaison officer for the Palace, the responsibility fell on him to advise the Royal Family on the nature of the invitations they received for visits to the former South Glamorgan.
"I would be contacted by the Palace and told that one of the Royals has been asked to attend an opening," says the 74-year-old, who stands down on the day of his 75th birthday, a long-held tradition.
"It was my job to advise them on the suitability of the appointment and arrange others to add value to the journey.
"For example, I arranged for the Queen to spend two full days in Cardiff, when she came to open the new wing of the museum. As far as I'm aware that is the only time she has done this."
He talks quite freely of his time in the role - his replacement has yet to be announced - except when he feels he is being, perhaps, indiscreet.
This happens disappointingly rarely.
And when it does, the indiscretions are not headline-grabbing revelations - he's way too careful and respectful for that.
For example: "I can't really recall an occasion when anything went disastrously wrong during a Royal visit," he says.
"Although," he continues, his voice warming into a smile, "once, and thank God this didn't happen in my county, the police took a wrong turn off a roundabout while driving the Queen and ended up running out of road.
"They had to turn completely around.
Imagine trying to explain that to the Queen."
He says his time shepherding the Royals around Cardiff and the surrounding areas has been relatively serene - except when Princess Anne is involved.
"Well, with the Princess Royal you never know where she's going to be.
"She might start the day in London, arrive in Cardiff in the morning, be in Nottingham during lunchtime, Scotland in the afternoon and back in London for dinner.
"It's all thanks to the helicopter of course. People always complain about the environment, and footprints or whatever they're called, but how else are we to get around? It's vital for the Royals to be able to travel to do their job."
Thankfully, doing his job doesn't require a helicopter. You do need, he says, a certain degree of knowledge of the various characters of the various Royals. But once again, he is very particular about his indiscretions.
"Some are very punctilious about time, others will spend hours chatting. I think Prince Charles has really been instrumental in making them a lot more approachable."
But he will admit to there being one branch of the family with which he feels a strong affinity.
"I first met Princess Diana and the boys on St David's Day, 1991. They were attending a ceremony at Llandaff Cathedral," he remembers.
"Then when they were older, Diana wanted to bring them for a day out in Cardiff. William had been before, but Harry had never seen the city."
This is the story that sends him to the room next door, to find his visitors' book to pinpoint the date, two years later. …