LONDON — With Britain's royal wedding around the corner, wannabe princesses gathered Saturday at a posh London hotel for a crash course on how to curtsy, what to say to the queen and how keep pesky crumbs off their lips when eating finger sandwiches.
At first glance, the scene smacked of the 1964 film My Fair Lady, except Audrey Hepburn's working class character had been replaced by a crew of tafetta-wearing pre-teens who gleefully walked with books on their heads and learned how to stir tea without clanging the cutlery.
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"It gives girls the ability to know that they can be in any situation — whether it's with the queen, their parents, their teacher, a friend — and know that they're behaving the right way. And I think that's important, royalty or no royalty," says Jerramy Fine, 33, the American founder of Princess Prep.
Saturday's one-day course will be followed by a series of weeklong summer camps in London for 8- to 11-year-old girls. Costing more than $4,000, the camps teach girls about modern and historic princesses, royal history, phone etiquette, how to take compliments and what to do if you suddenly find food wedged between your teeth. The girls also volunteer at royal charities — all while being waited on by a butler called Jeeves. Fine says she expects to draw more Americans for the longer summer camps.
"Before, I felt shy and like just a normal person — and now I feel like I actually am a princess," said Maude Fisher, 8, whose mother is from Milwaukee.
Wearing a Jackie O-style suit, pearls and perfectly coiffed hair, Fine taught the 12 British and American girls Saturday how to behave in front of the queen — a mother wearing a cardboard mask of the monarch — who sat next to life-sized cardboard cutouts of William and Kate.
Girls were first instructed on how to curtsy: smooth out your dress or skirt, grab its corners and bend your knees. None of the girls wore trousers.
"Good afternoon your majesty," each girl recited, before greeting the one-dimensional soon-to-be royal couple.
The next lesson included a mock tea party, complete with tea, real jam, clotted cream, scones, finger sandwiches and a waiter.
"Take your spoon and stir from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock," Fine said. "I don't want to hear any spoons clanking."
None of the girls will likely get within spitting distance of Westminster Abbey for the wedding. If they do, they most certainly will refrain from spitting.