To celebrate the upcoming release, the duo have shared an exclusive extract with GLAMOUR, recounting the time they were invited to stay at Prince Charles’ Scottish stately home when filming for an ITV documentary – and of course, it’s hilarious.
The presenting pair have written about some of the biggest highs from the last three decades in their new book, Once Upon A Tyne: Our Story Celebrating 30 Years Together On Telly, published by Sphere, due to be released on September 3, 2020.
DEC: We were asked if we would be interested in making a documentary about Charles creating The Prince’s Trust and being the driving force behind it. Naturally we said yes on the spot.
ANT: We asked Prince Charles if he would like to do I’m a Celebrity in return, but he politely declined. His loss.
ANT: And, over the years, we’ve got slightly less nervous every time we see him, especially when it was happening so frequently, as it did in the year we did the documentary. Slowly but surely, at various functions, we started to have fun with him. He’s got a brilliant sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye. He understands and appreciates the effort people make when they meet him, although he says himself that he can’t indulge everybody and everything. For instance, he’s told us that everywhere he goes, people offer him food to try, but it would be impossible to eat it all, because he’d be the size of a house.
DEC: And when Prince Charles says ‘the size of a house’ you know that’s a big house.
ANT: So, while we were following him, and filming the documentary, I took it upon myself to step in and try any food he was offered, just to help avoid any awkwardness. I could tell him what it was like, it would get him off the hook, plus the host gets their food eaten and I get a free lunch. Everyone’s a winner.
After a few functions I’d put on approximately half a stone and I could see him staring at me as I munched on some delicious Welsh rarebit (we were in Wales, obvs). HRH broke his gaze, slowly turned to Dec and asked, ‘Is there anything he won’t eat?’ Then he turned back to me and regally bestowed a great honour upon me. ‘I’m going to get a big spoon made for you. You can wear it on a chain around your neck. You can be my official taster.’ I’ve never been so proud. Or so full.
DEC: Where is the royal spoon? I’ve never actually seen it.
ANT: Haven’t received it yet. Probably still being made…
After a few months of seeing us semi-regularly (and realising he couldn’t shake us off) he invited us to come and stay at his residence in Scotland, where we would conduct the main interview for the documentary.
ANT: That invite completely blew our minds. No matter who you are or what you do, being invited to stay round at Prince Charles’s should never feel normal. When you start taking a royal sleepover for granted, you’ve completely lost the plot.
DEC: Of course, we never referred to it as a ‘royal sleepover’ in front of HRH. And we never, ever said, ‘I’m dead excited about the royal sleepover!’ to each other in private.
ANT: Definitely didn’t do that.
DEC: But once we’d established it wasn’t a prank, we said yes and of course assumed that he’d put us in a different wing, as far away from him as possible.
ANT: We ventured up to Scotland and headed to Dumfries House in Ayrshire. As we made our way down the drive of this 2,000-acre estate, we looked at each other, unable to contain our excitement. We pulled up outside what was an 18th-century stately home to be met by two butlers who would be looking after us during our stay. That’s right, kids, butlers! They took our luggage and led us through the entrance hall of this great mansion house to show us to our rooms. We climbed the main staircase and found our bedrooms at the top of the stairs at the end of a grand, emerald-green landing, with gold-framed portraits on the walls.
‘Here’s your room, Ant,’ said my butler. ‘Dec, you’re opposite and Prince Charles is next door to you.’
DEC: ‘Sorry? He’s what now?’
ANT: That’s right. The three of us were on the same corridor, Dec next door to Prince Charles and me in the room opposite him.
DEC: And, yes, we’ve pitched it as a sitcom.
ANT: It was one of the most surreal moments of our lives. We must have been staring at this butler like he was speaking a different language. We looked at him, looked at each other and burst out laughing. My next question was obviously: ‘Where is he now?’
‘He’s around,’ replied the butler. ‘He headed out to do a bit of gardening a little while ago.’
Our butlers unpacked our bags (I know!) and we settled into our rooms. We had a couple of hours to relax before we’d be attending a big, posh dinner downstairs that evening. I found a lovely fluffy robe on the back of the bathroom door and decided to slip into that for a bit.
I was lying on my bed trying to make sense of it all and thought, ‘I’ll go over and see how Dec’s getting on in his room.’ I opened my bedroom door to cross the landing and who was coming up the stairs but the main man himself. Yep, HRH, in a body warmer, a flat cap, clutching a pair of secateurs. ‘Oh hello,’ he said. Pause. ‘.. . I’ve just been out front tending to the roses. Always better to do these things oneself, isn’t it?’
Now, considering I’ve never tended to roses in my life and I’m standing there in a robe, in his house in the middle of the day, I decided to respond with, ‘Oh absolutely, Your Royal Highness, these things are always better done oneself.’
Then there was that moment where neither of us knew what the hell to say next and may I remind you. .. I’M STOOD, IN A ROBE, IN HIS HOUSE, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. He smiled, I smiled, and then I did the only thing I could – I slowly backed into my room, closed the door and silently screamed into a pillow, leaving Prince Charles outside with his secateurs.
DEC: The best bit is, he’s a genuinely lovely man, and whenever we do anything for The Prince’s Trust, he sends us a handwritten and usually very self-deprecating thank-you letter; it’s always such a buzz when that one drops on the doormat.
Prince Charles loves writing letters. We spoke to Prince William and Prince Harry about it when we interviewed them, and they told us that he’ll often sit up till late into the evening penning handwritten letters to people. They said that when they were away at school, he would write them letters and, when they read them, they could tell how late he’d stayed up, because the handwriting would gradually end up at more and more of an angle as he fell asleep at his desk.
When I got married in 2015, Ant got in touch with HRH. He politely declined the stag do (again, his loss) but he did send a handwritten letter to Ali and me, as well as a lovely wedding gift – a set of placemats that were all watercolours he’d painted himself.
ANT: You made a fortune with them on eBay, didn’t you?
DEC: He’s joking.