‘My special Christmas date with the Princess’
Well-known Torbay businessman and impresario Lionel Digby met with the royals this Christmas and remembered the Queen and his late wife.
Lionel, 87, had tea with the Princess of Wales at Windsor Castle, followed by a VIP invitation to the Royal Family’s annual Carol Service at Westminster Abbey, where a wedding picture of him and Yvonne, who died in September after 63 years of marriage, was to see. was placed on the abbey’s Christmas tree during the special service.
‘Legend’ Lionel has lived a colorful life, having worked in the hotel industry, the rock ‘n’ roll industry and running a costume shop on Market Street, among other things. He is also a renowned historian, collector of military memorabilia and has participated in many historical re-enactments. He also made a name for himself as a leading costume designer, providing costumes for several famous films, television series and world famous actors and actresses.
He also does a great deal of charity work and is a staunch member and flag bearer of the Royal British Legion at Torquay, having served in the Household Cavalry Regiment between 1953 and 1956
It was his military background, his links to charities and the fact that he will be spending Christmas without his beloved Yvonne for the first time in more than three decades that particularly interested the royals, particularly the Princess of Wales, as she is celebrating Christmas for the first time without celebrated Queen after her death in September.
The Christmas dates with the royals came as Lionel was filming a documentary with ITV about auctions and the time he was auctioning off a Sex Pistols poster!
Lionel says, “I worked with the show’s producer in the film industry and got along well with her. She then moved to the BBC and worked in the Carol Service for the Princess of Wales
“This year is the year of mourning because of the death of the Queen. They wanted someone on the show who had recently suffered a bereavement and who would be alone at Christmas.”
The princess was shown a video of a ‘Zoom’ meeting involving the producers and Lionel and liked what she saw.
Soon he, a midwife from Liverpool who has been working every Christmas Day for the past 23 years, and a man who spends Christmas every year looking after families in need, were on their way to Windsor Castle for a very special tea party with the Princess .
Lionel was able to tell her that he once provided costumes for her future husband William and her brother Harry when they were students at Eaton College and were playing a part in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. They also shared family photos.
He added: “She was amazing. It was like I had known her for years. She was lovely and very comforting.”
Lionel then went to the abbey service with granddaughter Rebecca Fetherlin and met Prince Eugen. He lit a candle for Yvonne and was able to commemorate her with the wedding photo on the convent tree.
He has attended two royal garden parties and carried the Queen Mother’s standard on her 100th birthday.
‘Cameos’ from Tea with the Princess will be part of the Christmas Concert service when it is shown on BBC 1 at 7pm on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, Lionel will help serve Christmas lunch to dozens of people at the Acorn Center in Torquay on Christmas Day.