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A Royal meeting
Turlockers shake hands with King Charles during overseas visit
Turlockers meet King Charles 1
Turlock resident Geoff Ashcroft shakes hands with King Charles III during a recent visit to Covent Garden, a shopping and entertainment hub in London’s West End (Photo contributed).

Turlock residents Geoff Ashcroft and Katy Cummings were never quite able to get a decent view of King Charles III while in England to watch the coronation festivities earlier this month.

Eleven days later, they got more than a decent view of the British monarch.

Ashcroft, a native of Croxley Green, England (about 25 miles northwest of London), and American-born Cummings stood face to face with the newly crowned King Charles and Queen Camilla, shook their hands and exchanged small talk, thanks to a chance meeting on the last full day of their sojourn.

Turlockers meet King Charles 2
Turlock residents Geoff Ashcroft and Katy Cummings were disappointed when their plans to attend King Charles’ coronation were ruined. They had no idea they would run into the monarch at the marketplace a few days later (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

“Never in a million years did I ever think I’d be close to one of the royals,” said Ashcroft, a resident of the U.S. for just over 40 years. “He asked where we were staying, and we said we were staying at a local hotel, and he said, ‘There are some beautiful hotels around here.’ And then Camilla came up.”

“She just said hello, but we shook her hand, too,” added Cummings. “It was very exciting.”

Their Majesties were making their first joint royal engagement since being crowned May 6 at Westminster Abbey, visiting the bustling Covent Garden, a shopping and entertainment hub in London’s West End. They kicked off their day with a visit to St. Paul’s Church, meeting local schoolchildren and members of the Royal Ballet, as well as sampling some sugary comestibles at the iconic Apple Market.

“It’s a memory that will last forever, that’s for sure,” said Ashcroft.

King Charles ascended to the throne on Sept. 8, 2022, when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died at the age of 96. Her 70-year reign was the longest in British history.

Ashcroft and Cummings plan a trip to the U.K. every other year to visit friends and family. They arrived in Britain on May 5 — a trip that was planned before the royals announced the coronation itinerary. Once they realized they’d be in Blighty during the coronation, they knew they had to attend.

“We’d been working with our friends because we really wanted to actually be there in person and get a glimpse of the procession,” said Ashcroft. “We wanted to go to Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, or anywhere on the procession route. We wanted to see the gold coach or something.”

Turlockers meet King Charles 3
When the Turlock couple tried to make their way along the coronation procession route on May 6, massive crowds prevented them from obtaining a spot. They eventually made their way to Hyde Park to watch the ceremony on a big screen until the rain drove them to a local restaurant to watch the festivities 'on the telly' (Photo contributed).

When the Turlock couple emerged from London’s Underground on Coronation Day, it was raining, and massive crowds prevented them from making it to their intended destination.

They spent nearly two hours walking, trying to stake out a vantage point from which they could view the procession.

“There were thousands of people and they guided everybody to either Hyde Park or St. James Park,” said Ashcroft. “We ended up going to Hyde Park to watch on big screens.”

Once there, they discovered that even the big screens were too far away. So, they left Hyde Park and made their way to a restaurant in Knightsbridge and watched the festivities there.

“Even though we didn’t get to see the procession, the spirit of the event was electric,” said Cummings, a Southern California native.

“We ended up sitting in there for an hour, an hour and a half, had a few pints and watched the whole crowning of the king in there,” said Ashcroft. “Then we left and went on our way to travel: Oxford, Christchurch, Brighton …”

“The family and friends tour,” Cummings added.

Their plan was to return to the capital for the last three days and two nights of their trip.

“So, we went to London, and we always go to Covent Garden because Katy loves Covent Garden. There are antique stores and different vendors. It’s a fun environment to be in.”

But Ashcroft noticed Secret Service-type agents among the crowd. Soon, he noticed people waiting in a roped-off area. He asked one of the people in the queue what they were waiting for and was told, “King Charles is going to be here in 20 minutes.”

The couple found an open space near the front and waited patiently for about 90 minutes.

“It wasn’t 20,” said Cummings.

When the king and queen finally emerged from St. Paul’s Church — Charles resplendent in a navy blue suit and Camilla shining in a robin’s egg-blue coat-dress, a style popular with today’s working royals — they began greeting spectators.

Soon, the king and queen of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms were inches from Ashcroft and Cummings.

“When (Charles) shook my hand, I said, ‘We’re visiting from America,’ and he said, ‘Oh, you’re American?’” Cummings detailed. “And then I think he asked (Geoff) where we were staying.”

“So, I said, ‘Your Majesty,’ because we were coached on what to say, and I kind of bowed my head,” said Ashcroft. “Then he said, ‘So, where are you staying?’ And I said, ‘We’re at the St. Giles Hotel.’ And he said, ‘Oh, there are some beautiful hotels around here.’

“It was just amazing.”

For Ashcroft, meeting a royal is a lifelong dream come true.

“Especially after we went to the coronation and couldn’t get close,” he said. “That was a dream of mine to see him, or see the coach, or see anything. But to end up shaking his hand and having a conversation with him … oh, my God.”

Cummings, a devoted Anglophile who jokes that she knows more about England than her British husband, explains the nation’s fascination with the royals.

“I just think it is so entrenched in the fiber of English society and English history,” Cummings said. “They’re figureheads, but important ones, and it’s just so deeply entrenched in their tradition.”