British royal invasion thrills Memphis

British royal invasion thrills Memphis

May 3rd, 2014 by The Commercial Appeal in Local Regional News

Prince Harry steps out of a vehicle to eat at Rendezvous Thursday night in downtown Memphis. Prince Harry and Prince William are visiting Memphis for the Saturday wedding of former Memphian Elizabeth "Lizzy" Wilson and London nightclub owner Guy Pelly.

Prince Harry steps out of a vehicle to...

Photo by The Commercial Appeal /Times Free Press.

"US media treat Princes' wedding trip to Memphis as if Elvis had risen from the dead."

That headline appeared Friday in the online edition of the Daily Mail, one of the British tabloids, American entertainment outlets and international media services covering the visit of Prince Harry and Prince William to Memphis as if - how can we put this? - as if Elvis had risen from the dead.

If such a miracle had happened, the princes - the grandsons of Queen Elizabeth II and sons of the late and beloved Princess Diana - may have been among the first to know: Their Friday itinerary included a tour of Graceland, followed by a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum.

As Mayor A C Wharton suggested, you can't buy this kind of publicity. Or maybe you can, if you're as wealthy as England's royal family.

But would you necessarily want to?

"The helicopter tracking shot was reminiscent of OJ Simpson's car chase down an LA freeway," wrote the Mail, choosing the most sensationalistic language possible to describe the aerial footage of the royal motorcade captured Thursday by WMC-TV's "Action News Chopper 5."

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News favored the trivial over the alarmist. The newspaper reported that Prince Harry "donned a stylish buffalo plaid button down paired with distressed jeans and a watch" when he ate Thursday night at Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, which the publication described as a "dive bar and barbeque joint."

The Daily Mirror was more whimsical. The U.K. newspaper Friday photoshopped the princes' heads onto a pair of jumpsuit-clad Elvis bodies to create an illustration to accompany tis report: "Prince William and Prince Harry visit the real King on trip to Elvis Presley's Graceland Home in Memphis." The visit was confirmed by none other then Priscilla Presley, who tweeted: "So happy Prince William, Prince Harry and the wedding group had a good time on their tour of Graceland."

The gathering outside Graceland included paparazzi as well as local residents and tourists, some of whom were taken by surprise when the Elvis Presley home was closed to the public temporarily to make way for the royal brothers and other wedding guests.

Julie Burd of Lakeland said she brought her 5-year-old daughter, Cate, to Graceland in the hopes of spotting the royals.

"I wanted her to see a real prince, not just on Disney," Burd said. "They do exist."

As most readers probably know, England's "newly single" Prince Harry, 29, and his older brother, the married Prince William, 31, are in Memphis for the Saturday wedding of their "rowdy royal pal" Guy Pelly, 32. to Memphis' Elizabeth "Lizzy" Wilson, the granddaughter of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson. (This is why the tabloids typically affix the term "hotel heiress" to her name.)

Also here for the wedding at the Memphis Hunt Polo Club are such other "royals" as 24-year-old Princess Eugenie of York - daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah, the Duchess of York - and her sister, Princess Beatrice, 25. William's wife, Kate Middleton, apparently remained in England with the couple's infant son, George.

Wilson is a graduate of The Hutchison School and a 2003 queen of Carnival Memphis. She's no stranger to the pages of The Commercial Appeal, but Pelly is a fixture of the British gossip press. A London nightclub owner, he often is characterized as a "blue blood" and "party animal." The Mirror reported he is considered "something of a bad influence" on Harry and William, whose mother, Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales, was killed in a 1997 car crash at age 36.

Harry and William were born while Diana was married to Prince Charles, 65, who is in line to succeed his mother, Elizabeth II, 88, as the British monarch. William, the Duke of Cambridge, is next in line to the throne, while Harry is fourth in succession.

John Vergos, co-owner of The Rendezvous, said about 100 of the 180 guests at Thursday night's two-hour celebration in the restaurant's upstairs "party room" were from London. Many of them, including the princes, had been in Memphis only a few hours before heading Downtown for a buffet meal of ribs, pork shoulder, chicken, brisket, beans and slaw.

He said his father, "Charlie" Vergos, the founder of The Rendezvous, who died in 2010, and the bride's father, Kemmons Wilson, who died in 2003, "go way back," so he had known about the wedding party for "a long time," but "was sworn to secrecy."

A history and politics buff, Vergos said he was able to "chitchat" with Harry, and he complimented the princes on their support of environmental issues and protection for endangered species.

"I think this is a good thing for Memphis because the international publicity is intense."

Reporter Jennifer Pignolet contributed to this story.